If you need a reason to enjoy the great outdoors, why not take a hike? With more than 60,000 miles of trails in the National Trail System across the 50 states, there is no lack of opportunity to go for a walk. The benefits of walking are well documented: eases stress, great for cardio/vascular and joint health, improves mental function and helps maintain or even lose weight. There are even locations that are open for hiking year round.
To find a hiking trail close to home or in an area you plan to visit, enter the zip code at www.Trails.com. It list locations and the length of each trail.
To set off on the right foot, the Wilderness Society offers 10 tips, among them:
- Keep it simple. Select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous. If you are introducing children to hiking, pick a trail that has an interesting feature, like a lake, stream or waterfall, to give them something to look forward to.
- Plan for frequent energy stops because hiking requires a lot of energy.
- Leave no trace. Take a ziplock plastic bag large enough to hold all the trash you are likely to generate.
For the full list, visit http://wilderness.org/blog/take-your-kids-hiking-10-tips-make-adventure-fun-whole-family
Be prepared. Take the 10 Essentials including:
- water and electrolytes
- food and salty snacks
- flashlight or headlamp
- first aid kit
- rain jacket
- spray bottle
- good attitude
Learn what makes each item essential, at the National Parks Service website https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/photosmultimedia/hike_smart-02.htm
What you wear depends on whether you are hiking around town or someplace more ambitious. Basic apparel includes sneakers or boots, socks that aren’t going to cause blisters, long pants to avoid scratches and poison ivy, and a light weight, long-sleeved shirt that will wick away perspiration.
Among the books that will introduce children to hiking:
The Book on Hiking by Andy Dragt. This is a basic introduction to hiking for youngsters 10 to 18 years old. The focus is hiking in the Canadian Rockies and the preparation, gear, and knowledge required to do so. Also included are wildlife, survival techniques and the benefits of hiking with a club.
Walk on the Wild Side, written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland, is for children 3 to 7 years old. One day, a bear, a moose and a beaver go for a walk in the mountains. To make the hike more exciting, they decide to race to the top. But soon the friends fall into deep trouble and one of them must find a way to save the day.
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.