There are loads of websites detailing each hike in the area. As applicable, I will share related or helpful links. Consider the posts in this blog the “Cliff’s Notes” for the inexperienced, out-of-shape hiker. These notes can help you determine if you are actually ready for a hike, and if so, if there is anything notable that an Out-of-Shaper should know before they go. So read through these posts and decide if the hike is for you. Then, do your research regarding how to get there, specific trail guidelines, etc.
In each post, I will try to give you some key pointers about trail heads, what to expect on the trail, attire, Easter Eggs, and level of difficulty. Keep in mind that I am an Out-of-Shaper myself, so I may not have completed the whole trail and will note that in my comments.
I will also be adding a few general hiking posts for all out-of-area Out-of-Shapers. Hiking can be as simple or complex as you make it. Book reviews, great gear, geo-caching, tips for hiking with kids, and hiking with Fido (or in my case, Peanut!) are all part of the fun and warrant a post or two.
Trailhead Features: Trailhead Features will let you know what the park or trailhead has to offer beyond the trail itself. Bathrooms, parking lots, and picnic areas are just some of the features that you may want to know about before hitting the trail.
The Trail: This section outlines the trail itself in a very brief fashion. Here you will find the trail distance, specific notes, multi-use options, etc
Attire: Appropriate attire is paramount when hiking. Always advisable would be a comfortable and pre-worn set of hiking boots, long pants to protect from scrapes, scratches, brush or poison oak, layered tops, and a wide-brimmed hat. That said, there are times when sneakers would suffice or waterproof shoes would be more appropriate.
Easter Eggs: This is a term I recently heard from my kids. Basically, these are the surprising/fun little extras that we happen upon when on the trail. Animals, streams, geo-caches, and even hidden fishing spots would all be Easter Eggs in my books! Look for your own “Easter Eggs” on every hike. These are what make each hike memorable.
Difficulty: After reading the hiking guides, there is one thing I found clear: their ideas regarding the level of difficulty did not necessarily align with this Out-of-Shape mom’s! I noted this particularly when the book said “moderately strenuous” and I would probably have rated it closer to “get out the AED, I am DYING here!”. Thus, my ratings will be geared to the Out-of-Shape Hiker rather than those fit outdoorsy types who could climb mountains backwards with their eyes closed! As you progress in your hiking abilities, you will outgrow this rating system. Of course, you can still use it as it may be a bit of an ego booster. Kind of like being a size 12, but finding one brand out there in which you are a size 10! It may not be totally accurate, but it still feels good!
For the sake of keeping it simple, following is my Out-of-Shape Rating Scale. Please note that the distance of a hike is not necessarily a factor in a hike’s rating as you can ALWAYS decide when to call it quits. If 12 mile hike is flat, well marked, not technical, and well groomed, it will be considered “easy.” It is up to you to decide how far you would like to go on each hike.
Walk in the Park – These “hikes” are the easiest out there. Actually, they will be less like “hikes” and more like, well…a walk in the park. But hey, we have to start somewhere…and sometimes calling it a “hike” will be inspiration enough to take it to the next level in the future. Paved or groomed paths, completely or nearly completely flat, variable durations, and suitable for everyone from an ambitious grandma to the younger kiddos.
Walk in the Woods – The first step up from a Walk in the Park, these hikes are suitable for nearly everyone. These hikes will be mostly flat with very few inclines or technical spots (i.e. Switchbacks, water crossings, boulder hoppings, etc.). They will likely be groomed paths or fire roads. No boots necessary unless you just want to look cool. Of course, as Out-of-Shapers, you may still feel a bit of a burn, but no worries…that is all part of getting stronger and it means you are earning your stars for the next hike!
A Workout With A View – Lace up the boots as these hikes are a little more intense. Still suitable for an Out-of-Shaper, but getting more challenging. These hikes may have a few short inclines, may have technical areas, and will be sure to get the heart pumping if you are an Out-of-Shaper. At the end of these hikes, you will feel like you exercised, but will still be able to function afterward.
Holy Doodles, This One’s a Doozy!– These are challenging hikes best done after you have successfully managed a few moderate hikes. Steep inclines that continue for longer stretches and several technical areas are all part of the game in these hikes. Get ready for a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing, need-to-recuperate-for-a-day-or-so kind of hike. Keep in mind that other, more experienced, hikers may still be pushing past you with grace and ease while you are clawing your way to the top on your hands and knees begging to know, “Are we there yet?” After all, these are Out-of-Shaper ratings. But no worries…that will be you in just a few months! Just keep clawing and push yourself just a little more each time you trek out.
Get the AED, I am DYING here! – Steep, strenuous and often quite technical. These hikes will get your heart pumping, sweat gushing, muscles aching, and will make you wonder why you decided to go hiking in the first place! These trails feature furious climbs, long-distance inclines, and maybe even a few back-to-the-rock switchbacks. These hikes are best left to when you have numerous hikes under your belt, you have all the right gear, and are ready for the next step.
I hope you enjoy this Out-of-Shapers guide to hiking. It is my goal to help inspire Out-of-Shapers like myself to stretch out of their comfort zone, don their dusty boots and hit the trails…no matter their current physical level. Hiking can be everyone’s hobby. It is no-cost to low-cost, it gets us back in touch with nature, and it allows us reclaim our physical, mental and emotional health, one step at a time. It inspires in us the weekend-warrior that has been lost inside. Just crack a hiking book and suddenly you can enjoy the anticipation of each upcoming adventure. So, what are you waiting for?