Hiking vs. Snowshoeing


The weather in Northern Nevada limits hiking as it does in other parts of the United States, so one alternative that is closest to hiking is snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is similar to hiking in that you get to enjoy the outdoors while getting a great workout. The differences are that you need snowshoes and possibly other gear that you do not need for hiking and you need additional layers of clothing. Snowshoeing is a great alternative to hiking when you want to get out but the snow is too deep for hiking.

Snowshoeing burns more calories than hiking; depending upon how vigorous you snowshoe it is 50% or more calories burned. You will also be 1.5 to 2 times slower snowshoeing than you will hiking. A good reason that you burn more calories besides the difficulty of snowshoeing is the cold temperatures. Your body fights to keep you warm while in the cold and snow. The correct layering of clothing can offset some of this body heat loss.  For all of these reasons snowshoeing is a good way to burn extra calories and stay in hiking shape in the winter. Care for your body is more important during snowshoeing, as the elements are more severe than normal hiking conditions.

Additional gear is required for snowshoeing with the obvious being the snowshoes. You might also consider different special shoes to wear with the snowshoes instead of your regular hiking boots. Trekking poles can be used for some hikes but are more likely used with snowshoes and help with balance. Cold weather gear such as gloves, parkas and snow pants are some other additions to your normal hiking gear. Adding these few items to your hiking gear provides the opportunity to ‘hike’ year-round.

Safety is a key aspect to take into account when deciding whether to hike on the trails or snowshoe off the trails. If the trails are well groomed with packed snow you can use hiking boots with spike grips, think chains for your boots. If there is more than a few inches of powder consider snowshoes, so you do not ‘posthole’. Post holing could hurt you by twisting or straining body parts and irritates other snowshoers by messing up the trail with big postholes. Being safe with the weather is also more of a consideration during snowshoe season as cold and snow are more prevalent. Safety is always important when exploring the outdoors but snowshoeing adds elements.

Try out snowshoeing it is a great addition to your hiking experience.  

Hiking with teens

Getting teens outside to enjoy a hike is just as important to them as it is to anyone else. The benefits of the great outdoors to teens include getting fresh air, exercise and learning about their surroundings to name a few. Even though it is important, it is not always easy especially since they enjoy the creature comforts of home like electronics. There are ways to get teens out on a hike and utilizing the ones that work for your teen are the best way to get them to participate.

Capitalizing on a teen’s interests are the best way to convince them to go hiking. One of the most important things to do is include their friends; they will be much more interested if they can bring a friend. Have them decide where to go on the hike or make the plan of when to go and how to get there. Another strategy is to connect hiking to something they are interested in like animals, photography, art or other exercise. If teens get interested about the hike in one of these ways, it will help sell the idea.

There are other things to prepare for once you get teens out hiking. Keep them comfortable is task number one; keeping them warm or cool and comfortable with the proper clothing and shoes is imperative. Feeding them is also necessary and not just what you like find out what kind of snack they want and bring it. Let them have the cool gear or at least gear that makes them feel the part. Keep the hike short if that is what is they want do not try to overdo it the first time out. Lastly, make it fun the more fun teens have the more likely they are to want to go again.

Technology is the last thing to discuss in regards to teens and hiking. There are arguments to get them away from the phones and other hand held devices and hiking is a good way to do that. The other side of that argument is to let them have their phone to use it for things like navigation or social media posts while hiking. As long as the phone can be used in connection with the hike, I could be convinced it is ok as long as it is necessary for them to be interested. A better idea is to utilize a map and compass or GPS to have the connection to a device but it breaks the phone dependency. Technology teens and hiking is best left to those involved in the hike and is negotiable.

Take a teen on a hike share your enjoyment of the outdoors with them.

https://www.nps.gov/mabi/learn/kidsyouth/teens.htm Mountains & Rivers Forever Campers & Leaders on the Appalachian Trail NPS Photo

Hiking and conversations

There are many articles on hiking conversations; some of the topics are hiking related, some are funny and others are more serious. When hiking with another person or group, which is a good idea there will be time for conversation. The topic of the conversation will differ based on the person or group hiking with you. Conversation is an important part of our everyday lives and that is not different when hiking. Normally when I hike with someone the conversation is mostly focused on the hike and the beautiful surroundings, but there is time for other topics as well.

Hiking with a significant other is a great time to catch up everything that is going on in your lives. We are mostly too busy to take time to really talk and listen to each other in this busy world. Hiking allows anywhere from an hour to several hours to have great conversation. This is probably not the time to bring up any super serious topics where you are face to face having an in-depth conversation. Topics to discuss with your significant other during a hike should include all the things that you would discuss on date night or around the dinner table after a long day. Other topics to discuss include plans for vacations or other hikes to plan or other activities you enjoy together. Hiking with your significant other provide great opportunities to connect through conversation.  

Children are also great hiking partners and taking the time to spend with them provides a great opportunity for conversations. Having uninterrupted time with children in the outdoors is scarce so use the time wisely and listen to what they have to say. Let them explore the outdoors with you and they will ask questions about the outdoors and life. This opening of time with children will provide paths for them to tell you about what is going on in their lives and allow them to ask questions in an unencumbered setting.

Conversations with friends during hikes probably takes place more than any other group probably because that is whom we hike with the most. This group is where the conversations can be the most diverse and the most silly or the most serious. When hiking with your friend the conversation might be about the hike or the hike you did last week or something completely off subject. You might get into a conversation about who the best football team is or how horrible that latest show on Netflix is. Conversations with your good friend while hiking might also open the door to a serious topic such as addiction or depression. Just as the serious topic with the significant other might be better across the table, hiking might be the best place to have a serious conversation with a friend.

Get outdoors with any of these great people and have wonderful conversation.

Hiking and nutrition

Staying hydrated and keep your body fueled is important when hiking just like any other exercise. The length of your hike is a determining factor in what types of hydration and nutrition you need. Water is the key to hydration and might be the only thing necessary on a short hike. When hiking more than an hour or embarking on a strenuous hike, adding electrolytes and or food is smart.

There are many drinks on the market with a variety of ingredients to satisfy the hydration. Researching the nutritional value of those drinks to satisfy your needs is the important thing. Many sports drinks contain electrolytes, which are important to replace the depleted electrolytes from vigorous activity. Some other ingredients in drinks are caffeine, carbohydrates and protein. These are the ingredients to pay attention to if you do not want too much of one of them because of the way your body digests it make that decision. Calories are another important category to pay attention to, the heavier calorie recovery type drinks should be consumed after a hike to promote repair of the body and not be used during the hike causing sluggishness.

Energy bars or energy gels are also important if you are hiking for any length of time. They also have many different ingredients and nutritional value to consider. Calories are the main thing to consider since you will be burning approximately 200-300 per hour depending on the intensity of your hike. Carbohydrates are an energy source that you burn while hiking keep in mind that your body can only process about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hours so add the bar or energy gel to your drinks from above. Protein is building block for the body that is most necessary after a hike but may be used during long hikes. Sodium, potassium, vitamins and minerals are all in energy bars and gels as well and will help with replacing those components that have been depleted. Sweeteners are also used in energy supplements and come in a variety of forms from sugar to honey, agave, or stevia. All of these nutritional values are important to your energy source but you have to decide what the right balance for your body and the specific hike.

Timing of consuming these items is almost as important as what you are consuming. There is a time to take in carbohydrates keeping in mind that your body can only process so much. Hydration before during and after the hike is imperative and adding electrolytes during and after is key too. During the hike, you want to think light things that digest easy and provide energy and hydration. Proteins are important for the repairing phase so after the hike is normally the best time for them. Figuring out what types of hydration, energy and nutritional values are best for your body combined with the timing is key to successfully fueling your body for the hike.

Save the cocktails for when you get back from the hike.

Hiking emergency kits

Emergency kits of some style or function are necessary for most hikes. If you are just going for the neighborhood hike, it might just be a bottle of water. For longer hikes on groomed safe trails, you may just need to add a snack. The longer and more arduous the hike the more involved your emergency kit should be. There are many different types of kits to purchase or you can make your own. Your hike determines the complexity of your kit.

Emergency kits can include everything from water and snacks to flares and tourniquets. These kits can cost anywhere from twenty to hundreds of dollars. The kits can be purchased all-inclusive with the carrying pack or items purchased individually and put together into a pack. The all-inclusive packs are nice if you want compact all together type convenience; but you pay for convenience and like variety packs of anything, you might not like everything in it. If you choose to build your own you can pick how much of each item you want and pick the carrying case, but it might not be as nicely packed.   

There are some necessities of a good emergency pack and you can decide which apply to your situation. Water with a reusable container and a filter or something to make water pure is non-negotiable unless you are going for a very short hike. Snacks ranging from nuts and fruit to protein bars or ready to eat meals might be necessary if you are going on a hike of long duration but might be more necessary if your hike is extended beyond your control. Navigation devices are a good idea if you are going somewhere you are not familiar with. A first aid kit is important and can be scalable depending upon your hike duration and location. Sunblock or other sun protection and rain gear or cold weather gear might be necessary to protect you from the elements. Fire starting tools and lighting devices are important as just in case items.

The longer and more involved your hike is will determine if you want to have the nice to have items. If you are going, on a hike that definitely involves an overnight stay or you could be delayed longer than expected a shelter would be nice. Cooking items like heat tabs and cooking utensils are not necessary for a day hike but sure are nice for that meal after a long hike. Extravagant medical supplies are only necessary if you are doing some vigorous hiking.

The first thing to consider for your emergency kit are where you are going and how long you are going to be gone. Next, determine how much weight and how cumbersome you want your pack to be. Then determine the amount of each of the necessities and nice to have items you want to pack. Once you determine all these things you can either purchase a pre-made pack or build your own from scratch.

Think about your hike before you head out and decide what you are going to bring.


Hiking navigation

If you are going out into the great outdoors, it is a good idea to have a sense of direction. Having a little basic information about land navigation will keep you safe and others from having to find you. There are many tools that can be used and in-depth courses on land navigation but having an understanding of basic skills is important in case those tools fail. Hand held GPS devices and the compass on your phone are great high-tech tools but if they fail, you can use other low-tech tools like compasses and maps. The easiest thing to do is hike on marked trails and follow them exactly, but if you are adventurous, these skills will help.

Global Positioning System (GPS) have advantages and disadvantages. It is extremely easy to navigate with GPS as it tells you where you are and where you are going with almost pinpoint accuracy. They updated regularly so there if there is a change in the area the GPS will be accurate. GPS is used worldwide so no matter where you hike you can effectively use them. The first disadvantage is they use batteries so if the battery runs out and you do not have a source to charge it you are out of luck. They can be inaccurate with certain structures blocking them like trees. In the odd event that a satellite is compromised or an atmospheric event like a geomagnetic storm happens the GPS will not work.

The trusty compass on your phone is another source of navigation that could be used however; you have to know how to use a compass. The same issues with the GPS could cause issues with your phone such as battery life and satellites. The benefit to the phone is you already have one and should have it with you for an emergency. You also want to track all your amazing steps and distance; this makes the compass on your phone the most readily available tool.

Photo of compass on I-phone

Map and hand-held old fashion compass is the most reliable if you know how to use them. These tools are also the most fail proof, as they do not need satellites or batteries to use them. Learning to use the map and compass is the hard part of utilizing them but with a little practice, you can successfully navigate your hike. The main thing to understand about maps are terrain features. If you can see two mountains in front of you with a river at the base and you can find that on the map you an orient your location to the map. Understanding azimuths is the most important aspect of reading a compass. Knowing that you hiked out at an east south east direction or 120 degrees and that to get back you have to hike back at a west north west direction at 300 degrees is important information. These are just a couple of main points of handling low-tech reliable tools to navigate your hike.

Be adventurous and explore some new areas but be prepared with one or more of these tools.


Hiking and bug safety

There are literally hundreds of bugs in Nevada and the only way to avoid all of them is to stay inside your fumigated house. Since you like to be outside if you are reading this; there are a few bugs I will discuss and what to do to avoid them, protect yourself or take care of yourself if you contact them. The first bug to worry about is the tick; wood tick, dog tick whatever it is a nasty little critter that digs into your skin and sucks your blood. Next is the flying insects like mosquitoes, bees, wasps or hornets any little flying bug that stings you. Spiders like black widows, brown recluse or tarantulas to name a few can also ruin your hike. Red ants can also be very annoying if you happen to sit on their ant pile. The main thing to think about on your hike is you want to avoid these bugs so your hike is enjoyable.

Protection against these bugs is the main thing to do to keep your hike enjoyable. One thing to do is where the proper clothing, including long pants, socks, long sleeve shirts and hats. I learned while doing research that wearing light colored clothing is a good idea so you can see ticks or other bugs on the clothing. Wearing bug spray on that clothing containing DEET repellent to help fend off ticks and mosquitoes. Avoiding tall grass and shaded wooded areas are a good way to avoid the ticks and mosquitoes. Watch where you put your hands and just pay attention to your area to avoid the hornets wasps and bees. Look before you sit down or walk to avoid those ant colonies to avoid the red ants. With a little preparation and common sense, you can protect yourself against many bug encounters.

There are things to do and not do if you have an encounter with one of these annoying bugs. Let us start with ticks; use rubbing alcohol around the area where the tick has inserted and then gently remove the tick with tweezers. Do your best to remove all of the tick and not leave any part in your skin and then thoroughly clan the area of removal. If you are worried about Lyme disease, you can put the tick in a small container or between a sticky substance like tape to preserve for testing at your local health department. If you get stung by a mosquito it is mostly annoying but do not itch the area and pay attention for signs of the west Nile virus other than that some calamine lotion will help with the itchiness. Bee, hornet or wasp stings should be treated with soap, water, and ice to control swelling. Same thing with ant bites just make sure to clean the area well and then ice if necessary.

Other things to consider with any of these bugs is allergic reactions and your furry friend. If you or anyone hiking with you has allergies to bee stings make sure to get them medical attention quickly. If you or anyone you are hiking with are bit by a spider rapid medical attention might be necessary as well. If you are hiking with your four-legged friend pay attention to ticks as they are much more susceptible to gathering up those little critters. Long-term effects of Lyme disease can be very debilitating so paying attention to any tick bites and getting them tested is important fortunately, there is a promising study on a vaccine against Lyme disease.

Enjoy your hike but lookout for bugs that could make the day miserable.

photo taken by the author on a hike in Montana

Hiking with human’s best friend

Going hiking with friends is always a good idea; sometimes that friend could be your dog. Having your four-legged friend along on a hike is a good safety measure when you cannot have a human friend with you. My earlier article about rattlesnakes discussed how rattlesnake avoidance training for your dog would help you avoid a rattlesnake. Another consideration having your dog along is if you have a medical emergency, a dog might instinctively look for help for you. Think of all the videos that you have seen where Fido runs to another human and brings them back to save their human. Years ago; my grandmother fell on the icy ground and her dog laid next to her and kept her warm which also alerted the mailman that the dog did not greet him, that most definitely saved my grandmother’s life. A dog might also keep wild animals other than snakes away from you on the trail. All of these examples are good safety reasons to take your dog with you on a hike.

Healthy exercise for your dog is another reason to bring them with you on the hike. A dog has much less impact on their body when they are able to control the pace that they are moving. I have heard from veterinarians that running with dogs is not necessarily good for dogs because the repetitive same pace motion is bad for their bodies. The other exercise I see people doing with dogs is riding a bike alongside their dog while the dog is on a leash. I can only imagine all the bad things that could go wrong with this situation. Dogs get their best exercise when they can control what they are doing such as hiking, swimming or playing fetch.

 One important thing to consider when hiking with your dog is keeping Earth clean. As I discussed in a previous article hauling out what you bring in is important to leaving no trace behind, this applies to your dog too. When your dog has a bowel movement either pick it up and take it out or bury it following the same rules discussed in the previous article. If you bring food for your dog do not leave any of those remnants behind either. Follow the same rules of keeping Earth clean with your dog as you do with yourself.

Be considerate of other hikers when you are out on the trail, this includes when you have your dog with you. Some trails will have rules that you have to keep your dog on a leash, if so follow the rules. If dogs are allowed off leash, then use common sense around other people; if your dog is not well-behaved keep them close and make them behave. Pay attention to other people with dogs just in case they do not follow the common sense above. Some people do not like dogs and may not appreciate you having your dog on your hike the best way to keep the peace is to be considerate to others and then they will not have any valid complaints.

Take your dog on a hike it is good for both of you and remember to be considerate to Earth and others.


Hiking and rattlesnakes


The weather is warming up which is great for hiking but it means that rattlesnakes can be out too. Rattlesnakes need temperatures to be above 65 degrees Fahrenheit to come out of their brumation or hibernation dens. The most common time for rattlesnakes to be out is mid-morning to early afternoon when the sun is the warmest. They can be anywhere on the trail, just off the trail or on rocks wherever they get some sun. The nicest time during the day to be out hiking is also the most likely time to run across a rattlesnake.

Rattlesnakes live in many different habitats throughout the United States. They can live in rocky cliff areas or sandy deserts. They are also found in wooded areas and the grasslands. They can survive at any elevation between sea level and 11000 feet. Basically rattlesnakes live any many different areas including all over Nevada. If you are hiking in Nevada there is a good chance you are hiking in a rattlesnake’s neighborhood.

Avoiding rattlesnakes is the best thing to stay safe when hiking. For the most part snakes do not want to encounter humans they will do their best to avoid you. The best thing to do is leave them alone, if you encounter a snake back off and they will leave. Stay on trails and avoid tall grass or other areas off the trail. Look for snakes before you pick anything up like rocks or wood and before you reach up onto a rock face. Whenever possible hike with someone else in case there is an emergency with a snake. Finally, where good boots above the ankle and long pants to lessen the chance of the snake getting to your skin. These are a few things that you can do while hiking to avoid snakes in their environment.

If you are hiking with your dog it is important to get them snake trained to save them but will also help you avoid snakes. Trainers teach dogs to avoid snakes all together by positive reinforcement to stay away from snakes. These trainers are able to teach dogs to avoid snakes through smell, sight, movement and sound. If you are dog is trained and he should be, there is a great chance you will not encounter a snake because your partner will let you know before you even get to the snake. Having your canine companion trained will pay benefits for both of you when in the rattlesnake’s backyard.

Unfortunately, if a rattlesnake bites your dog it will probably be deadly and at least very expensive. If a rattlesnake bites you or someone in your party get to the hospital immediately. Do not try to suck the venom out, put ice or a tourniquet near the bite. Do not run and keep the bite area below the heart. Get medical attention immediately and if possible get a picture of the snake to show to the medical staff. This is why it is so important to hike with someone especially if you are in snake country.

Enjoy the weather as it warms up but watch out for those slippery-shouldered fellas.

Hiking situational awareness

Situational awareness is important wherever you go and for whatever you are doing; hiking trails are not any different. My article yesterday discussed checking the weather before you go out for your hike, having situational awareness about the weather is just one of those steps. There are other things to consider when developing your situational awareness. Things that you will want to consider include difficulty of the hike, safety issues, and any crime in the area. Situational awareness is not only preparation it has to be maintained while on the hike.

The first thing to consider when planning your hike is determining the difficulty of the hike. Is the hike within your physical and psychological abilities at this time? There are sites available that rate different hikes, but you could also ask other hikers if there is not a rating. If it is not an established trail but you just want to hike it take some time to assess the difficulty before you set out. Difficulty of the hike is important to consider as it could make a difference in having an enjoyable experience or being miserable.

The next thing to take into consideration for your hike is the safety issues that are present on a hike. Are there any areas where you could fall or slip? Are there know animal attacks in the area? Is it fire season and a storm is moving in? Is there a possibility of snow or lightening? All of these things should be taken into consideration as possible safety issues to plan for ahead of your hike.

 Unfortunately, crime is on the rise everywhere including hiking trails. There are more homeless camps all over Northern Nevada as well as other areas in the U.S. including near trails and other outdoor areas. Not all homeless camps bring an element of crime but some do and if you are not prepared for what you may encounter it can be a problem. There is other criminal activity to be concerned about when heading out for a hike especially if you are alone. Most hikes probably will not involve any confrontation with crime but with the increase of crime in your area, there is a chance that will be spill over into your hiking area.

Situational awareness is not only a preparatory action; you must constantly assess your surroundings pre-hike and during. Pay attention to what is going on around you; is the weather changing? did a fire start? is there some people present that don’t make you feel comfortable? Are there changes on the trail that you did not notice before or were not aware of? The best way to remain attentive to your surroundings is to have all of your senses; yes that means leave your earbuds at home. Come on you should be enjoying the outdoors anyways. Continually assess the area around you while you are on your hike to keep your situational awareness keen. Pay attention when you are out on your hike so you can keep it enjoyable. Feel free to ask a question or leave a comment about staying aware.

photo from https://www.prairielivelihood.com/ioss