A Little Bit of Truth About Hiking

Katie Ross

Thanks to my dog’s extreme irritation with bicyclists, I’ve spent the last four months in the woods exploring all the bike-free hiking options my area has to offer. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have started hiking at a wee age at Mt. Rainier here in Washington state. When I’m getting out frequently and am in relatively good shape, I consider myself to be a pretty decent hiker. Thusly, I’m here to offer my fellow Betties a few tips/anecdotal funnies, in no particular order, about the (mis)adventures of a daily hiker.

Choose your water source wisely.
No matter how long or short your hike is going to be, having access to water while on the trail is crucial. Experiment with different types of water bottles and packs until you decide what works best for you. I used to carry a big water bottle in a 1990’s drawstring gym bag (don’t judge me) until I realized a hydration pack was much more comfortable and held a lot of water. I’m particularly partial to mine because it has a net pocket to put things in, such as the bowl for my dog to drink out of, and because I can trail run with it, which makes me feel like a badass hardcore hiker.

You can fit more than you think in a hydro pack pocket.

Bring your best friend!
Hiking alone can be amazing; the clarity and healing provided by nature is a wondrous thing. But so is discovering the great outdoors with a pal or two! I’m lucky to have a constant companion in all my outdoor adventures: my psycho border collie, Angel (mountain bikers, deer, and small rodents beware). But, in her absence on a recent trip to Nelson, B.C., my sister made a pretty good stand-in hiking buddy.

My two favorite hiking buds!


Know where you’re going BEFORE you go there.
Don’t misunderstand me on this one: I’m a pretty laid-back navigator and if finding the trailhead takes some creativity, so be it. That being said, nothing is a bigger bummer than getting lost in the wilderness the not-good way. The “oh-shit-where-am-I” way. It behooves any outdoor maven to know how to read a map or atlas, and to do at least a bit of prep work before driving our or hitting the trail. On our recent trip to Nelson, my sister and I experienced a bit of uncertainty when our directions led us down an unmaintained road to Hades. However, we were confident in our navigation, having planned it out the night before, and eventually made it to the somewhat-marked trailhead.

No kidding.

Don’t bug me—about bug spray.
Alright, listen. I’ve tried both natural, plant-based bug sprays and the typical deet-ridden chemical spraybath. I have my opinions about which works best. Whichever you decide is your cup of tea, stock up on that stuff and USE IT. Especially if you want to hike in or around Nelson or the Kokanee Glacier park. The mosquitos there do NOT play. They will eat you alive like a small, itchy, buzzing army. They’re like a mosquito mafia; once you’re in, you can’t get out. Also, don’t forget about your pets! Your dog (or cat, I don’t know your life) would probably also enjoy some protection from those biting a-holes. As a bonus, I’m pretty sure my dog’s flea/tick/mosquito/biting fly stuff keeps them away from me as well. I hike every night with her, and I have yet to get a single bite. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in Nelson with us, so my sister and I made a great lunch for the mosquito population of Six Mile Lakes. You’re welcome, jerks.

Standing water. Standing water everywhere…

Don’t get tunnel vision—side trips are what life’s all about!
Planning a really cool hiking trip can be really exciting. You meticulously map out your route and schedule your time. But don’t be afraid to say, “screw it,” and change up your plans if things don’t go the way you’d like. On our Nelson trip, the resident mosquito population, the heat, and the remoteness (read: bears) of the hikes we chose made my sister and I cut it short. However, we ended up having the time of our lives when we decided to make a pit stop in the small town of Kaslo and try stand-up paddleboarding for the first time. It was amazing, and fun, and funny, and we got to meet the nicest (and most Canadian) dude I’ve ever met. If you’re ever in the area, hit up Kaslo Kayaking and say hi to Dean. Although our dreams of completing some difficult, remote hikes were soured by dastardly insects and my sister’s (somewhat justified) nervousness over a steaming pile of bear scat, we simply altered our course a little, and there’s nothing I would change about that day.

An amazing day for some SUP!

Check out your local area for day hikes—it doesn’t have to be a road trip!
I have def learned the meaning of the phrase “blessing in disguise” throughout my journey with my bike-hating pup. If it weren’t for her ludicrously strong chase drive, I never would have discovered an amazing (and no-bikes-allowed) nature conservancy area right in the middle of my own city. I’ve had a great time exploring Dishman Hills; it also inspired me to learn more about my region and find other hikes for us to do in North Idaho and Central Washington. Wherever you live, there is probably good hiking there—you’ve just got to find it!

My pack pup on the trail.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to unpack (see what I did there?) with hiking and backpacking tips and tricks. Check out online resources such as REI, Backcountry, and other outfitters for packing lists, gear reviews, and much more. If you’re a Washingtonian, check out the Washington Trails Association—it’s been the Robin to my Batman when it comes to finding hikes in my area.

Happy trails, Betties!

Posted by Katie Ross on 07/13/14

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