Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hiking the Appalachian Trail - Following a Dream

Hiking - the stress reliever

Hiking is a natural stress reliever in so many ways. The very word "hiking" infers heading out to a mountainous terrain or a thickly wooded river valley. Not only does going for a hike give you abundant physical exercise, but it also provides the psyche with a much needed escape into a more peaceful setting where one's senses are inundated by the soft scents, sights and sounds of nature.

Hiking is more than just going out for a walk or a jog. It entails strenuous trail trekking over hill and dell where the entire body is utilized in the activity. Serious hiking challenges the heart and the muscles more readily because of the constant change in land grade and the continuous maneuvering over, under and around obstacles. Getting away for a country hike is can be much more enjoyable than a fast-paced walk or a jog in the city for one very simple reason. Getting out to the country means filling your lungs and cells with fresher air and purer oxygen.

The family unit can also benefit a great deal by heading out for a hike together as long as your hike doesn't include dangerous terrain. It's a great activity that involves everyone, gets the kids out to use pent up energy and it provides the enjoyment of seeing a variety of birds, animals, plants and trees. These experiences can then be taken back home and talked about for days, weeks and years to come.

When planning a hiking trip it is essential to wear the proper clothing and carry the proper gear. Temperature and climate changes can and do occur so you will want to wear clothing that can be taken off when exertion produces sweat and then reapplied when you or the environment begins to cool down. Wearing zip off trousers are ideal for hiking as the legs can be removed when hot and put back on when things cool down. Also, carrying a light jacket in a lightweight backpack or fanny pack is a good idea.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Choosing the right hiking boots

What to wear - Hiking boots

If you adore walking, hiking and exploring the great outdoors then chances are that you'll have a pretty smart pair of walking shoes or hiking boots. The type of uneven landscape that you'll be trekking across will depend upon the pair of shoes or boots that you choose to invest in.

Hiking Boots and Walking Shoe Factors

When buying waterproof footwear there are a number of factors that you should consider. The specification and qualities of hiking boots and walking shoes is endless. I'll break down the barriers for you and explain you the facts!

Hiking Boots

If you're an eager hiker and enjoy long walks and climbs then it would be wise to invest in a boot with a higher cut. If choosing a high cut boot then it would be worthwile to check whether the boot has been designed with a Bellows tongue. The Bellows tongue acts as an supplementary aid to waterproofing with the tongue of the boot being stitched all the way to the top of the boot instead of the stitching stopping where the laces start. Another waterproof aid on a hiking boot is water resistance. The seams on the shoe or boot need to have taped seams to prevent water getting through.

Comfortable walking shoes

The soles of walking shoes and hiking boots vary widely. A Phylon midsole aids cushioning, comfort and flexibility when walking or running. A rubber midsole is very hard and sturdy and will provide you with an unbelievably durable piece of footwear, however it may not be the most comfortable when out walking and hiking for hours! A boot with a rubber midsole is ideal for use when working on construction sites. A moulded footbed is also popular as this will curve with the natural line of your foot providing cushioning and comfort.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Scariest hiking trail in world

Hiking & Walking in Newfoundland and Labrador

If the Europeans have the best hiking & walking tours, why do they keep coming here?

Hiking & Walking
Hiking & Walking in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Hiking VideoPerhaps it’s the millions of seabirds, thousands of humpbacks, and freshly carved icebergs that tend to pop up around our 29,000 kilometres of coastline. Or the mere wonder of walking on the middle of the earth thanks to a tectonic upheaval half a billion years ago. Or maybe it’s the abundance of fresh sea air, enough, certainly, for a complete purge of mind, body, and soul. Whatever it is, around here, it’s not hard to gain some serious perspective. And perhaps, recover a little sanity.

Trails and Terrain
In a land as unpopulated and geographically ancient as Newfoundland and Labrador, the hiking and walking opportunities are both endless and breathtaking. Our province offers access to trails often undiscovered by the average traveller, with some of the most extensive, rugged, yet surprisingly traversable paths in all of Canada. We have trails to suit a brief, lazy meander along the coast, refreshing routes that will leave the blood pumping, and challenging treks that you can explore for hours, days and even weeks.

Our Parks
In Gros Morne National Park, one of our province’s most extensive trails systems, millions of years of tectonic plate movement has yielded an otherworldly landscape of varied rock formations and diverse vegetation. You can wander over the earth’s mantle, see fjords unlike anything else this side of Norway, and encounter flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

Terra Nova National Park possesses its own charm of pathways and challenging trails. The astounding views are unmatched. Depending on where you stand, you may even spy a whale or an eagle.

The Ultimate Trek
For the ultimate in wilderness hiking, there is unspoiled trekking in Labrador. One of the last unspoiled wilderness areas on earth, a secret not yet revealed, awaiting an adventurer. After the hard climbs inland, you may discover old networks of cart roads and paths connecting coastal towns that will pique your interest. Here, you can climb inland peaks to hidden places known only to the moose, caribou, and arctic hare.

Leisurely Urban Strolls
In St. John’s lies the Grand Concourse, a system of walking trails that wind throughout the city. It’s a route that reveals our capital’s many ponds, lakes, historic architecture, and many other places of interest.

The Local Experience
Our friendly adventure tour operators know this place inside and out. So if you’re looking for a family hiking vacation, a walking tour along the coastline or a getaway weekend let Newfoundland and Labrador’s adventure companies assist you to find out about some of the world's best kept secrets. For more tour information about hiking and walking packages, visit the Guide to Adventures website

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Ramble up the Mountains in Irelend

10 things to know about walking boots

Buy the best you can afford. This may seem obvious, but this is not an area on which to be tight-fisted. When walking, your boots are the only thing that you will certainly wear l day long - and you get what you pay for. Having said this, don't let price sway you. Fit and comfort are the most important things - and a less expensive boot may be just right!
Two-season boots are suitable for general country walking in Summer and Autumn, probably the most popular time for most people. They are usually lightweight and more flexible than you'd imagine. In fact, some of them are just like wearing a pair of shoes but they do give essential ankle support. If the shop you're using doesn't know what a two-season boot is - shop elsewhere.
Three-season boots can be used generally all year round for country walking and for high fell walking. They can also be used for mountain walking during late Spring, Summer and early Autumn but are perhaps not durable enough for Winter mountain work.
Leather boots, which up to a few years ago were the only real choice for hikers, are probably more durable than boots made from fabric, although heavier, and good fabric boots are reinforced anyway. Many fabric boots are made of heavy Cordura nylon and have leather patches at wear points. Some (my own included) are also further strengthened with Kevlar. Believe me, durability of fabric boots today is not a problem! Too, many boots are now lined with waterproof membranes such as Gore-Tex, so soggy feet are a thing of the past.
I would recommend a pair of lining socks next to the skin. These are thin, usually made of soft cotton or cotton/wool mix, have flat seams and very comfortable. Many people today think them unnecessary but I disagree - and I never get blisters! Then a good bet is loop pile socks over the top of these - they will cushion the feet and are supremely comfortable. Some also have reinforced and padded heel and instep sections that your feet will thank you for. Don't forget to wear them when trying boots on - it may seem obvious, but the obvious is sometimes overlooked!
As to fit, boots must be wide enough so as not to feel tight, especially around the base of the toes. It's no use thinking that the boot will stretch to fit eventually - maybe it will but, by then, not only will its durability be affected but you will have had more blisters than you ever had in your life!
When the boot is laced correctly, the toes should not press into the front of the boot when the foot is pushed forward, as it is when going downhill. This might not be a problem on a very slope but, if you're descending a mountain slope for three hours you will be virtually crippled by the finish. Of all the things to check on boot fit, this is probably the most important.
The soles of the boot should also be considered. They must be flexible enough to accommodate some bending of the foot when walking, but not so flexible that they don't give your foot the support it needs. Three-season boots - the type I use all the time - can feel strange when first used as the sole has generally little 'bend' in it and has a curve that gives a 'rolling' action to your step. Believe me, once you become accustomed to this it saves a lot of effort.
Always clean your boots after a walk - don't toss them into a closet and forget about them! Leather boots especially will repay a little care by giving you years of use. It's especially important to clean leather boots if you have been walking in areas containing peat - the acid present in the peat can rot leather very quickly. Wash them off, let them dry naturally and treat them with a special walking boot conditioner - not shoe polish. If they do get really soaked never dry them in front of a fire or on a heater! The leather may well crack and your boots will be ruined! Instead, stuff them with old newspaper and leave them to dry somewhere well-ventilated. When they're dry, treat them with conditioner before use.
Fabric boots are easier to care for. Clean off any mud or soil and leave them to dry naturally, as you would with leather. Apart from this, treat them with a water-repellent spray now and again - if they are membrane-lined it won't make any difference as to your feet getting wet (they won't) but it saves the material from being always waterlogged and will extend the life of the boot. The above tips and pointers are based on my own experience of walking and hiking in the UK but should be applicable anywhere in the World.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Snowdon Tours for Walking

Health and Safety Rambling

Even if you're only out for a short day hike, it's a good idea to think of your personal safety. It just takes a little thought and planning . . .

Here's a cautionary tale. The countryside in my part of the UK can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be called wild. Most of this part of the World is like a big park. Yet you can still get into trouble. This is how I nearly did just that.

Some years ago I was out walking alone on a hill not ten miles from where I live. It was a nice day, good weather and pleasantly warm. The walk was about 12 miles and I'd set out a bit late, so the finish would be around 8 p.m. - not yet dark in the UK in May. As I climbed a stile (a kind of small gate in a hedge) I missed my footing and fell.

I was lucky - my dignity (and backside) were about the only thing hurt. As I picked myself up a thought hit me - what if I'd fallen badly? Broken my ankle? It struck me then that, although I was only a couple of miles from the nearest habitation, I hadn't seen anyone for about two hours. At this time of day most hikers would be heading home. Ever tried to walk two miles with a broken ankle?

I was lucky. Had I sustained an injury, the evening was warm and, even if I did have to spend a night in the open, it would have been uncomfortable rather than life-threatening - and someone would have come along eventually.

The point is this: say instead I'd been in the remote Highlands of Scotland, or the Sierra Nevada, or any real wilderness area? I'd have been in real trouble. What I'd done on my little local hill was stupid but not dangerous. If I'd been in a remote area it would have been dangerously stupid.

So - some basic points for exploring the great outdoors. They're easy to remember and I do not exaggerate when I say they might, one day, save your life.

1. Never go hiking alone. In wilderness areas this is simply begging for trouble.

2. Always let someone know where you're going and, more importantly, when you expect to be back.

3. If for any reason you have to change your plans, let your 'anchor' person - the one you told your original plans to - know what's going on. It's common courtesy and could save a lot of people a lot of trouble.

4. If venturing into remote areas - especially for a few days - make sure you have the correct clothing, sufficient food and water - and a survival bag. These are, simply, large, robust plastic bags you can crawl inside to protect you from the elements. They are usually a virulent shade of orange so they can be seen easily. They fold up to next to nothing but, if you're hurt and outdoors in the Grampian Mountains in January, they could mean everything. Always carry one.

5. Don't go into wilderness areas alone. I know I said this already but it's rather important.

Don't get me wrong. I'm the last person who would want to dissuade anyone from exploring and enjoying the great outdoors. It's a fantastic place. I would only ask you to take simple precautions such as the ones above. Just remember that nature might be gentle - but she takes no prisoners!

Steve Dempster is actively involved in running several websites and spends part of his working day creating short, informative articles such as the one above. Get more info on walking in the UK at the Countrywalkers website!

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