James is an Epidemiologist at the Department of Public Health
Going for a walk is always nice, but I tend to get bored looking at paved sidewalks. That’s why I love hiking: It's Walking 2.0 with a whole lot of adventure.
Hiking is an easy, fun way to get outside and explore your surroundings with friends or family. And with the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, it’s the perfect time to lace up your boots, strap on your back pack and explore some trails! Here are a few pointers to get you on your way and keep you going back for more.
Choose the right hike.
You don’t have to travel to Big Sur, California or the jungles of Eastern Ecuador (although I recommend both if you get the chance). Sometimes the best hiking trails are right in your own community! When I was a kid I used to really enjoy hiking in Pine Banks Park, a small forested park shared by Melrose and Malden, or Breakhart Reservation, a hardwood forest shared by Saugus and Wakefield. You can find more local trails at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Healthy Heart Trails webpage.
Remember that trails can often be hilly or uneven, so start on a short trail to get used to new terrain. Keep a pace that's comfortable to you. Take breaks to rest and enjoy your surroundings. If you have any medical conditions or chronic injuries, check with your doctor before you hit the trails.
Choose the right companion.
Hiking with a friend or family member can be fun and it’s always safer to hike in pairs or groups. You can also find great hiking clubs and meet up events here.
Choose the right gear.
Once you’ve found your trail and your hiking buddy, the next step is to pack.
Shoes. Always wear comfortable shoes or boots that support your ankles. For longer hikes, you may want special hiking shoes or boots with cushioned support and tough rubber or leather soles (if you have ankle problems, think about something more advanced).
Clothes. When choosing a base layer, try to avoid cotton. Synthetic fabrics like polyester or microfiber will breathe better. Wear long pants when hiking in a wooded area. Pack a warm layer such as a fleece jacket or wool sweater, and a windproof/waterproof windbreaker in case it rains. Also, be sure to wear thick, well-cushioned hiking socks for comfort and pack an extra pair to keep your feet dry!
Supplies. Always be prepared! Bring a backpack, and inside of it pack a cell phone for emergencies, water, some healthy snacks, a first aid kit, sun screen, sunglasses and insect repellant!
And lastly, “leave only footprints, take only pictures.”
Be a good guest and remember to practice proper hiking etiquette. Stay on the trails unless you’re with a knowledgeable and trustworthy guide. Always be aware of your surroundings and if you're in a wooded area, keep noise levels to a minimum if you want to see some local wildlife. If you run into any fellow hikers, be sure to say hello, but also give each other space (especially on trails with small paths).
Most importantly, get out there and HAVE FUN! Happy trails!