Updated: Apr 10, 2021
A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO MOUNTAIN HIKING
I went on my first hiking expedition when I was very young, I was probably 7 when my mum took me and my siblings hiking at a rainforest in Cameroon, I can still remember how scary and awe inspiring it was for me. It was the first time I saw an ebony tree, and unbeknownst to me, it was probably my first communion with the Earth Goddess, Ani.
My first mountain hiking trip however, as a teenager, was in high school, somewhere in the outskirts of Accra, Ghana. It was supposed to be somewhat of a final bonding activity with my graduating class, so it was bitter-sweet. I’m not sure whether or not I cried, but I remember it being a cathartic experience.
The hiking trips I took as a minor shaped me socially and academically, I learned about nature, fauna, the lifestyle of some mountain communities, and the power of team spirit. However, I learned everything I know about the art and science of hiking from the trips I’ve taken as an adult, the first being my trip to Mt. Cardigan.
Several hiking trips after, here’s everything I've learned about starting your first mountain hiking trip.
Starter Pack: A gallon of water, a watch, a trail map, a pair of sunglasses, insect repellent, hiking boots or sneakers, a first aid kit, a sweater and light change of clothing, get a flashlight, a lighter, a few powerful power banks, a telephone, fruits or light food, a face rag and a whistle.
Your Rod and Staff, They Will Comfort You: You will quickly learn that this is not an option, you might end up crawling on all fours if you choose to hike without a rod or staff. It helps with your posture, spreads the weight and keeps the pressure off your arms and legs. Without a hiking stick, your hiking time could be significantly longer, if you want to go faster, with less pain, your hiking staff is not an option.
Check the Weather and Start Early: You want to be very intentional about your hiking process, do not leave anything to chance. You must check the weather a week and a day in advance, you must have a full 8 hour rest, the night before, and of course you must plan to start early. It’ll be penny wise and pound foolish to go on your first hiking trip when the sun is going down, or when the weather is highly unfavorable.
Tell at least five people where you will be: At the end of the day, if you’re black like me, you know hiking is not a staple activity of ours especially because it is a bit too risky, getting lost HAPPENS! Tell at least five close family and friends where you will be. Text them the address, and let them know when you get there. While hiking, there will be many instances when you will have NO RECEPTION, but when you can, Whatsapp pin your location and share with your group of five. Safety is important so let your people know where you are and let them know what time you should be done with your hike. That way, they know to send a search party of you get terribly lost.
Go with a Seasoned Pro: If you’re a hiking newbie, do not take any chances, the only safe way to go hike safely and enjoyably is to find yourself a seasoned pro, someone who has hiked that trail a few times. I have gotten lost a few times, but survived because I was in a larger group, and we had two pros on our team, so we whistled, texted and hollered for the other group and they gave us directions and tips to get back on trail track.
So how do you find a seasoned pro? You can visit the trail office site by contacting the state park . You can also join a meetup or Facebook group of hikers. Hiking in a group of 3 or more is also much safer than hiking alone or with one partner.
Now that you’ve got your starter guide, you have no excuse, so get out there and get your hike on. Getting to the top will give you all the feels, not only will it be one of the most thrilling and rewarding activities you’ll ever engage in, but your newly tightened ass and physique will be a generous reward. -)