The list of items one prefers to take trekking is endless. With so many variables involved (distance, terrain, climate), what you should have with you is arguably subjective. However, the bigger reason that most hikers are out there in the first place is to achieve value fulfillment. Put aside all of the physical gear you might take with you when you enter the wilderness, and for a few minutes spend some time asking yourself whether or not you truly take the following things with you each time you go. Or, if you truly ever have?
First, a clear mind. Many of us find nature in order to unwind or decompress from a busy week. While we certainly achieve that through the physical and emotional stimulation of a hike, we’re using most of the hike to clear the week’s adversities instead of using the majority of the hike to fully absorb the serenity around us. Take time to clear your mind before you start hiking, and imagine how much more powerful your senses will become!
Some may have difficulty understanding how one can accomplish this, but it can be simple. You have to recognize your values in order to honor them.
Defining one’s values can be difficult. For most we think of the immediate answers, “Family,” for example. “Family” by itself is not a value, it’s the place you find value. The root value is more likely love, loyalty, or safety, for example. Perhaps the easiest way to recognize your values is to ask yourself what drives you crazy. What you value is almost always going to be the opposite of what makes you anxious. For example, maybe you have a particular aversion to individuals who fail to use a turn signal when they drive. This might suggest that you value self-awareness; how your actions affect others. Honor that value. Find a way to be self-aware in a way that positively affects someone else. Honor your values and clear the adversity before you even step onto the trail. Not only does this free-up your senses, but it also keeps you focused and more alert, thus safer on your trek.
Second, the ability to dance in the moment. I’m not suggesting that you break into the “moon walk” on a hike (I may have just dated myself), but rather that you take in everything you’re seeing. Stop and appreciate the sights and sounds around you.
Most of us find this a natural part of taking a break along the trek, but how often do you randomly stop while in full stride just to look around? You might be amazed at what you see, hear, or smell. Fulfill the senses. Especially with an ecosystem that is constantly in some form of change or evolution, what you’re seeing today may not be the same a few years or even a few months from now.
While you’re at rest with what’s around you, it offers another opportunity to recognize how it ties to your values and how you can honor them. This becomes much easier to do if you’re already of clear mind. It validates your purpose for being outdoors to being with. Allow yourself time to dance in those moments.
Third, champion yourself. Before you walk off of the trail at the end of your hike, take a few minutes to recognize what you accomplished. Be proud of the miles you crossed, the hill you climbed, or the milestone you reached. Most importantly, be inspired by the time you spent respecting yourself and honoring your own values. Be happy with what you saw, smelled, or heard. Realize that you spent time that day with nothing more than what makes you who you are, your core values. Treat yourself like a champion and you’ll feel like one.
None of the three things I have offered are tangible items needed for a hike. More importantly, they are the intangible necessities. The psychology of our individual purpose and motivation. If you’re able to enter a hike with your mind already clear, endure that hike with your mind tuned-in to your values, and complete the hike by rewarding those values, I can promise you that you will have experienced an entirely new level of trekking, and being outdoors in general. You will have truly experienced your values. You will have achieved self-fulfillment.
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For those of us who take the outdoors just as serious as we go to them for fun and adventure, some of the most frustrating and heartbreaking stories to read are the articles each year of people becoming lost, stranded, and ultimately a casualty of our great outdoors. Most often this is due to a lack of preparedness or an unrealistic grasp of one’s limitations. The second of those two becomes harder to fault when most adventurers continue to set more aggressive goals for themselves. This makes preparedness the true gatekeeper for a successful trek, particularly where the elements are challenging or extreme.
Being adequately prepared for the outdoors comes with experience. Most of us who frequent the wilderness have read many articles or books that have been extremely useful resources, but until you take that printed knowledge and turn it into practical application, it’s nothing more than unapplied data.Survival instincts are rooted in muscle memory, which comes from practicing and applying the techniques you read about or may otherwise have been trained in. Although sometimes great entertainment value, I don’t put much credence into many of the survival shows on television, as their tendency to script for climactic moments to woo an audience often leave viewers with tips that are very unrealistic or impractical for the typical weekend trekker who might find themselves in adverse circumstances.
Keep it simple, and stay calm. It really is that easy to stay alive. Practicing very basic survival skills can be a great way to enhance a hike with your child while also growing their confidence with the outdoors. It’s usually panic that leads to the downfall of stranded hikers. Coaching your children to develop a respect for the outdoors, but also the confidence to utilize
the outdoors to their advantage can help ensure that they become responsible (and safe) adult hikers. Furthermore, it’s a confidence boost that allows them to spend more time with the calming serenity of the outdoors and less time with the anxious worry of what surrounds them.
There are many ways to incorporate a variety of skills into hikes with your children, but one of the most basic skills is the ability to tell direction and time of day. In most instances, highways run east-west and north-south, and where there are highways there is help. Being able to establish direction and aiming points will often lead you to safety. Being able to understand the time of day can help you understand how much daylight you’re dealing with, so that you don’t pass up the availability of a viable spot to set up hasty camp if you need to find shelter for the evening.
About once each year, I review shadow tip navigation with my daughter. Shadow tip navigation uses the sun to determine direction and time of day. The origins of shadow clocks date back prior to the ancient Egyptians, and are a very reliable way to determine one’s bearing. Shadows typically fall north (in the Northern Hemisphere). You can use anything to locate the tip of a shadow, even a fully-grown tree if you have nothing else. Last winter while snowshoeing, I taught my daughter to do this while using trekking poles. Place a pole (or stick) directly into the ground and immediately mark the tip of the shadow. This will become the west point of your shadow compass. While keeping the pole in the ground, wait about 15 to 20 minutes for the sun to move an adequate distance across the sky, and then mark the tip again. This second mark becomes the east point of your shadow compass. You can now lay another trekking pole across those two points to make your east-west line.
Next, take another trekking pole and place it perpendicular at the intersection of the east-west pole. This obviously becomes your north-south line. You now have a basic shadow compass, which is remarkably accurate just about anywhere south of 60-degrees north latitude anywhere in North America. Give your child a standard lensatic compass after they have completed making the shadow compass so they can see that the cardinal directions are in fact very accurate. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she realized how simple and accurate this was. It’s now become almost ritualistic for us to practice, particular on winter hikes.
As for telling time, consider the west point of the shadow compass to be roughly 6am, and the east point to be roughly 6 pm. While keeping a pole in the ground at the intersecting point of the east-west and north-south lines, again take note of the shadow. It is most accurate at noon, or the north point of the shadow compass. At all other hours of the day, it will give you a general but reliable idea of the hour of the day (it does not account for minutes). For example, if the shadow is just to the right of the north and of the compass, the time of day is somewhere around 1pm. You can verify this with a watch, just like the lensatic compass verified the directions.
Practicing applications like this not only promote survival confidence, but they are projects with instant results that can keep kids interested in the outdoors. It nurtures their independence and keeps the wilderness a relaxing place to spend the afternoon. They are a great way to break up hike time in the outdoors, and a great opportunity to bond. Most of all, they cost nothing but can save everything, including a life.
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We at Hiking Forward are pleased to announce our second Hiking Forward Correspondent. Not only are we thrilled with the project to fill the cadre of correspondents is moving "forward" but we are extremely honored to have another proud dad aboard the crew and a veteran. Our first veteran and a Marine, is now part of the Hiking Forward Correspondents crew... Semper Fi!
Tom, resides in Wisconsin just like our first Hiking Forward Correspondent Peter Dargatz. Just like Peter, Tom has a lot of experience on the Ice Age Trail and the great north woods of Wisconsin.
Tom and his young daughter along with a small yet close group of friend are frequent visitors to the wild of Wisconsin and places as far away as Colorado. I anticipate Tom will bring a unique fatherly and adventurous voice to Hiking Forward from his regular adventures.
Just like most of us, the city life can be taxing, too fast and too close for some. Tom just like those of you who read this blog needs the outdoors, to unwind, relax and connect with those he enjoys spending time with. I think if this sounds like you, what Tom provides via Hiking Forward will be very familiar and quite enjoyable.
Stay tuned for more from our newest member of the Hiking Forward Family.
In the meantime check out Tom's Hiking Correspondent Profile here on Hiking Forward as well as his other social links and blogs.
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