Nothing beats a hiking date with Mother Nature — make sure to keep it safe as well as challenging with these helpful tips…
As a novice (at best) hiker, I was a little excited and a lot more nervous about taking on the Tanbark Trail in Big Sur, CA. My hiking partner, who bore many more trailblazing notches in her belt, coaxed me into spending the last morning of 2016 on a beautiful journey to a camouflaged apex. Her confidence served as my guide.
At our start, I was overwhelmed — in the best way — by every single thing. Dwarfed by the towering oaks all around. Julia Pfeiffer Park was beautiful. Magical. The smell of earth and life was so rich around us. But our journey soon proved really, really difficult, as my eyes grazed up the hillside and I realized wait, I have to get THERE, to go up THERE?? At about our halfway point, we came across a fallen wooden giant that crossed the entire path, and then some. (I imagine this is always part of the territory and perhaps part of its thrill.) There was no choice but to climb over it. It was massive. And I was so nervous that with one small slip, I could get hurt very badly. TIP #1: Wear the right shoes for the right hike. But with time, and coaching, and deep breaths and calculated steps, I eventually made it over and reunited with my friend. At that point, I became invincible. Almost running at times on the flatter stretches of trail, in full anticipation of hitting our “end.” When we reached the top of the mountain — overlooking the beyond-majestic Pacific, the PCH, literally flying with the birds — I was bursting with happiness, coupled with relief. And I distinctly remember turning to my friend at that point and saying, “Why isn’t there a welcoming committee up here?! That was inSANE…someone should be high-fiving us…I want to high-five everybody up here!!”
Some of that exhilaration, in hindsight, may also have come from dehydration. We didn’t account for any obstacles — that tree crawl expended a LOT of extra energy, generating a LOT of extra thirst. TIP #2: Bring the right amount of water for your trip! Approximately 1 liter of water per hour of hiking is recommended for most day hikes.
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And, with that, TIP #3: A pack containing but not limited to snacks, a first aid kit, flashlight, and layering clothes will only better your cause. As we began our descent down the peak, we quickly realized that we were in a race to literally beat the sun’s slumber. We had already devoured what rations we had, and wore only lightweight jackets around our waists. Luckily, there was an alternate route through the forest that we were able to take, bypassing the aforementioned obstacle course and shaving a good 30 minutes off our original time.
TIP #4: Study your trail map beforehand and plan accordingly. Thanks to our handy trail guide, we were able to determine, albeit a bit late, that there was INDEED that second (and maybe even third) path to take us back down the mountain. Though of course the map couldn’t tell us if there were any more hurdles to overcome, as we got a late start to our hike, it provided the best assurance for us to make it back to Deetjen’s before dark.
As early as that evening, the muscles in my thighs slowly began to burn. I was lightheaded, ravenous, but I felt good. So good. So triumphant. I carry that first glimpse of the dazzling ocean below me as though I saw it a week ago. TIP #5: Something can be said for both hiking in solitude and in the company of others; for me, a beginner, having a hiking buddy made all the difference. Wrangle one up and share in some of Mother Nature’s bounty together.
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