Hiking Tips for Beginners
Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) sees a large number of hikers and visitors throughout the year, roughly 25,000 people total in 2018. People from all across the country have visited here, and it’s easy to see why. A brand new visitor can essentially pick and choose what kind of experience they’d like to have here. Want a short but intense hike? Go for Fossil Trail. Have young children? Give Two Ponds a try. Here for the waterfalls? Venture down Tumbling Waters then. Believe it or not; however, the majority of hikers who visit here are relatively new to the outdoors experience. There’s nothing wrong with being a beginner; PEEC is a fantastic place to learn after all. Unfortunately, even at PEEC there is the occasional group of hikers who come across trouble that could have been avoided. It’s nothing to be ashamed about; I’ve gotten myself into some tricky situations too, but here are some general tips that every hiker should be aware of before starting a new adventure.
~ Do Your Research - Whenever you are hoping to explore someplace new, it’s always important to put as much time and effort into researching the trail or park as possible. The more that you can research, the more you can prepare. Most parks have a website with a trail map and short descriptions of each of their trails. While the descriptions may not describe every turn and hill in the trail, they do offer a general snapshot about what to expect with the notable features. At PEEC, visitors can also check in and ask additional questions at our main office which is open every day from 8:30am-4:30pm. Our staff is very knowledgeable and extremely familiar with our trails and will be able to make the best recommendations for new explorers.
~ Check The Forecast - Weather can be unpredictable, just go ask any meteorologist. A bright and sunny morning can quickly turn into a miserable and cloudy afternoon. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about hikers who have gotten caught in snowstorms or heavy downpours. Sometimes it is a freak incident that couldn’t have been avoided, but most times a simple weather check before starting out can do wonders. Additionally, always check up on what time sunset occurs. During the winter, it can get very dark very quickly and catch an unsuspecting hiker in the dark if they are unprepared. There’s nothing worse than having to rush towards your vehicle in the fading light.
~ Know your limits - This topic goes hand and hand with doing your research. However, there’s only so much research one can do. At some point, you have to just go out and experience the trail in order to really know it. All of the trail descriptions are purposely written rather vaguely since a trail that might be easy for one person may be difficult for another. It’s at that point that knowing and understanding your own personal limits can help. While you’re hiking, only you can understand how your body feels. If you need water, then take a sip. Getting a little winded walking up a hill, then take a small break to catch your breath. You are the best judge of your own physical condition and not listening to your own body can lead to disastrous results.
~ Come Prepared - There are always certain items that any and all hikers should have on them regardless of how far their intended hike is. In general, there are 10 essentials that every hiker ought to carry: navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first aid kit, knife, fire, shelter, extra layers, food, and water. Having items on your person that can fulfill these 10 roles can potentially come in real handy if the need ever arises. 99% of the time you’ll never need them, but it’s that 1% when you do that they show their real worth. There’s nothing worse than coming across a situation and not having the right tool for the job, especially when that job involves your own well-being. On the flip-side, there is such a thing as being over-prepared, such as hauling a week’s worth of food for a 2 hour hike.
~ Communication - This little advice is something that most people tend to forget about since the advent of cellphones. Everyone has a mobile device and so generally most people can be reached at a moment’s notice. However, that is only if you happen to have service. The average person wouldn’t believe this, but our main building is notorious for having poor cell service. A good portion of our property has fairly poor service. If an emergency were to happen on the trail, then there’s a fairly decent chance that you wouldn’t be able to make a phone call for help. So before going anywhere, it’s incredibly important to notify friends/family members of where you’ll be, what your route is, and how long you plan to be out. That way, if something does happen and you miss your check-in time, then they’ll be able to reach out for help in a timely manner.