Nobody Hikes in LA is Southern California's premiere hiking blog. It is the most comprehensive resource for hiking trails in Southern California. Its mission is to promote hiking as a recreational activity in southern California and to provide information about hiking trails and conditions.
Ever wanted to get into making a great video about the outdoors? Wonder about the behind the scenes process? In this interview, we visit with Alex Wong and Matt Pawlik of Weekend Sherpa, two creators known for their engaging video content.
How did you get interested in doing hiking videos?
We love hiking and we love sharing. In our busy Los Angeles lives, we can all feel overwhelmed and cooped up. Hiking is an escape from the urban jungle and from the everyday stress and struggles of life. We want to encourage our fellow Tinseltowners to realize just how many options there are for local adventures. With the growth of social media, we hope even those who may not share our same yearnings will watch our videos (and others’ work) and find their own personal inspirations to explore the natural diversity we have surrounding us.
Do you have a specific audience you are targeting?
Everyone. Locals, visitors, nature-lovers, couch potatoes – the works! In particular, as we mentioned above, we truly hope we can connect to the audience who normally doesn’t have a specific desire to hit the trails. In the current age of social media, there often exists a stronger bond with our screens than our backyard. We hope to catch the attention of those that normally just want that perfect Instagram shot and give it to them, but we also hope they experience an exciting, beautiful, meaningful adventure along the way.
What filming gear do you use and does it vary depending on the location and difficulty of the hike?
At first, we utilized the most basic of equipment – we’re talking an iPhone on a stabilizer. Why? We first wanted to prove that we could make an entertaining hiking video without using our best gear, and focus on telling a story. Next, we wanted to challenge ourselves to make it look more cinematic and eye-catching. We experimented with other DSLR and mirrorless cameras, most recently sticking with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K with a stabilizer and some other necessities. See if you can spot the differences in our YouTube Channel!
Gear decisions depend on the intensity of the hike – it’s a heavy haul. Though we have learned to trim the cargo, Alex’s role as production packhorse is certainly not ideal on a 2000 foot gain trek. On flatter terrain, we have the luxury of using a cart; other times we have had (very awesome and generous) friends help share the load.
How has your process (content, technical, etc) changed since you started?
We have been evolving since the beginning, from the base production quality (our aforementioned gear upgrade) to our preparation methods. Because our initial mindset in terms of direction was a venture into the unknown, we were simple in our coverage. Although we were often spontaneous (mainly due to a lack of planning) in terms of shots, we stuck to a formula. Thus, our next challenge was in the storytelling – we started developing specific narratives for each hike. We asked ourselves questions about the message we wanted to share, the feelings, the angles, and, in many cases, the relationships (a group of friends, mother and son, a solo adventurer, etc) and interactions between the subjects and the natural wonder around them. We wanted an authentic, relatable experience for the viewer. We wanted them to feel the hiker(s) genuinely having fun, pushing each other to conquer that summit, sharing the awe of a panoramic vista, inspecting a wasp gall on a coast live oak or even enjoying a well-deserved beer after rock scrambling under the desert heat. For us, variety has become important not just in the trail, but in the tale.
After finishing the shooting, how much editing is involved? How long does it take to convert the raw footage into a finished product?
Over the years, we have developed an extensive shot list – something that is necessary in building our narratives. We have refined our planning and executing skills in terms of anticipating what to showcase and what story to tell (with the inevitable spontaneity). In the end we always have more footage than we need for a 30-second or even 1-minute video. The editing process – an important part of the film process that is not often talked about – takes much longer than the hike/shoot. How much longer is dependent on many things: number of subjects, special effects, transitions, or even a looming deadline. The many creative decisions of the editor determine the flow of the video and ultimately, whether or not people stick around and watch it.
What are some unexpected challenges that have come up and how have you handled them?
Getting up in the morning! But seriously, we always try to hit the early golden hour – preferably a weekday sunrise due to lack of crowds. Obviously, rain can affect the hike, but actually, we had one unexpected downpour that ended up looking great on film. If we want to shoot a waterfall, dry weather hurts our cause. Fires can turn our recently edited videos completely invalid, because, well, the trail may no longer be safe to hike or even there anymore (or at least looks drastically different). Even though at least one of us has completed every hike we film, our memory doesn’t always serve us well. Some hikes might not have spectacular features that generate an instant response, and that’s where our improvisation comes in. For those, we put our heads together to create a story that shows that less famous hikes are still worthy destinations.
How do you decide what locales would make for a good video?
Two of our favorites are Joshua Tree and the San Gabriels, but we believe every hike we do deserves a video. Some hikes are worth knowing about because they are a utilitarian option from work, the right length for a leisurely sunset hike with your family, the toughest workout on the East Side, or the home to some obscure LA history. There’s something for everyone and their fitness level, interest and schedules. We are proud of the videos we’ve made of Whittier Narrows and the L.A. River State Historic Park, destinations that might not seem that exciting at first but have hidden rewards just the same and are easily accessible to many people who don’t have time for an all-day trek.
Where is the most unusual location you’ve filmed?
One in particular we enjoyed was a jaunt through the Arts District, gazing at murals old and new – the sheer variety was mesmerizing and, just like view into an Angeles National Forest canyon, you could stare at them for hours. This was a new challenge for us and, though different, we enjoyed it as much as our natural adventures. Recently, we started focusing on both the hike and a post-hike reward: beer, a donut or a mangoneada. Including these creates a different narrative than the typical hiking video and we personally enjoy the coupling idea of Trek and Treat, hence our name!
What’s the oddest comment or response you’ve ever gotten on a video?
We did a hike with a group of friends (and even Matt’s mom) in Anza Borrego State Park – Hellhole Canyon and a clever viewer commented, “any place with a bunch of hipsters walking around sounds like a hellhole.” We loved that one. We actually appreciate any and all comments, including the jokes, but most importantly, the ones that add something helpful for other viewers. One comment on a walk we did along the LA River in Frogtown noted that the hike may not be safe for solo night hikers – we were grateful for that as we weren’t aware of the danger. We hope the hiking community interacts with our videos, because different perspectives can add value to what we do.
What suggestions would you give someone who wants to get into making hiking videos?
Prepare A LOT – not just in terms of creating a big shot list, getting the right gear and knowing your limitations, but having a specific direction and intention. Ask yourself why are you creating this and who you want to reach. This may sound obvious, but we believe in sincerely loving hiking and loving filming – be authentic to yourself in a creative sense but also just make sure you are having fun. Making hiking videos is usually not financially rewarding, but if you are genuinely enjoying it with an awesome, in-sync partner (we’re best friends, communicate well and are generally on the same wavelength), it can be a meaningful experience and something you look forward to every weekend.
What’s next for you?
We will continue to create and upload videos to our newly created Trek and Treat Youtube channel as well as where it all started a few years ago – Weekend Sherpa. We both have other jobs and commitments, but like anyone who is passionate about what they do, we will keep making videos and getting our message out there. Keep hiking everyone and we hope to see you out on the trails!
Matt Pawlik and Alex Wong are lifelong friends and nature lovers. Currently, they hike and work for Weekend Sherpa – Matt is a writer/photographer and Alex is a videographer/editor. Check out their new youtube channel that showcases some of their videos – Trek and Treat.
Matt also works in LA as a world history teacher, helps run a university study abroad program called Come On Out – Japan and has just started with Urban Hiker, coming soon to Los Angeles! Alex currently works at Hi5 Studios, editing video content for YouTube.
Hiking is a sport which is open to everyone – young and old, anyone can enjoy a stroll through beautiful woodland, up slopes, and along riversides, and it’s great for your physical and mental health, giving you a bit of time to unwind. If you’re getting out there regularly, however, you might want to invest in some trekking poles, which will increase your stability regardless of the terrain, and will also cushion your knees and hips from some of the impact of prolonged walking. This can help reduce soreness after a long walk, and also keeps your joints healthier for longer.
Choosing the right trekking poles can be a challenge, however, so here are some tips to help you find the ones which will suit you best.
1) Think About The Handle
It makes sense that this is one of the most important parts of the pole – it is, after all, the bit which is most regularly in contact with your skin, and different materials will suit different people. For example, if you get sweaty palms, you might want to consider cork handles, which will give you a better grip, and which are nice and light for long hikes over difficult terrain. “Alternatively, you may find that foam is better suited to you; it isn’t great in wet conditions, but if you’re out and about in the sunshine, its lightness and comfortable texture is ideal. Another alternative material is rubber, which is generally best suited to cold weather hiking, but can get sweaty and rub when the weather is warm,” recommends Jessica K. Mitchell, a blogger at BoomEssays and Assignment Help.
2) Consider Height
The height is obviously another extremely important factor to consider, as this is crucial for providing you with adequate support. Many trekking poles are adjustable, but some aren’t because they are designed to be as light as possible. If you tend to hike on different terrains – sometimes uphill, sometimes on a level, etc. – it’s best to get an adjustable pole, or several poles of different lengths so you can always choose something that will suit the terrain. Remember that steep inclines require shorter poles, while you will want a long pole for going downhill. Many treks incorporate both, so flexibility is often preferable.
Having poles with shock absorbancy can save your joints from impact damage, and is important to consider if you hike often. These poles generally have a spring which absorbs the shock of each step, and can make a walk easier, particularly for those who suffer from painful joints already. However, these poles are often heavier as a result, so it’s important to test them and see if they suit you before purchasing.
Every extra bit of weight counts when you’re on a long walk, so consider carefully which poles will best suit your style. If you cover great distances, weight is going to be a major factor in your decision, and you will need to try out different poles to see what works for you. Some poles are specifically marketed as ‘ultralight’, and they will let you keep going for longer as you won’t be swinging so much weight on every step.
“These poles are often more expensive, so if you don’t walk too far or you’re not concerned about the weight, a heavier one with some of the other features – such as adjustability and shock-absorbancy – might be more suited to you,” says Donna J. Brady, travel writer at Essayroo and UKWritings.
5) Wrist Straps
These help you maintain a more relaxed grip on the trekking pole, reducing strain over the course of the walk. Remember that padded straps may prove more comfortable, and that you should learn the proper method of putting them over your wrists, as many hikers get this wrong and don’t get the full benefit.
You may want to consider purchasing more than one type of pole if you walk in lots of different ways. Have lighter poles for long hikes where you’re likely to get tired, and switch to your heavier but more flexible ones when you aren’t going so far. Using two poles over one is often advisable, as you’ll get a much better balance and will prevent one side of your body from taking more strain than the other.
Make sure you try several different poles, borrowing from other hikers to trial before buying if possible, until you find what suits you best.
In Colorado’s remote northeastern corner, a two hour drive from Denver and three hours from the Rockies, the Pawnee Buttes tower 300 feet above the high plains. The 4-mile round trip hike to the buttes is arguably the most popular in the Pawnee National Grassland, but don’t worry about crowds: the trail’s isolated location (reachable only by several miles of dirt road) weed out many tourists. While the Pawnee National Grassland might not dominate Colorado postcards the way the state’s “14ers” do, it offers a chance to experience wide open space and to imagine the land as it was. Many hikers who are used to hiking in California and the L.A. area in particular will likely never have seen anything like this stark but beautiful landscape.
TIPS FOR L.A. HIKERS
Getting to Pawnee Buttes: The nearest major airport is Denver (2 hours, 107 miles). Northern Colorado Regional Airport, near Fort Collins, is about an hour and a half, but flight options from the L.A. area are more limited. The Pawnee Buttes Trail Head is located on County Road 105 in Weld County, near the town of Grover. The last 13 miles or so are on dirt roads. High clearance vehicles are best, but with caution, all cars should be able to make the trip without difficulty. The hard-to-miss trail head features picnic tables, restrooms and interpretive plaques describing the history and geology of the area. There are no trash cans so be prepared to pack out all waste. The approximate trail head coordinates are N 40.8079, W 103.9898. For up to date information about Colorado road conditions, click here.
Staying at Pawnee Buttes: The Pawnee Buttes Trailhead is only open for day use, but dispersed camping is allowed elsewhere in the Pawnee National Grassland. For more information, click here. Hikers who want more developed accommodations can stay in Fort Morgan (just over an hour a way), Greeley (an hour and 20 minutes) or Fort Collins (an hour and a half).
Weather: The Great Plains are known for unpredictable and extreme weather. Nearby Grover, CO’s weather ranges from an average daily low of 15 degrees in January to an average daily high of 86 degrees in July. Average annual precipitation is 29 inches (about twice that of Los Angeles). The moderate nature of the hike makes it a feasible year-round destination, but exercise caution during snowy winter conditions or during summer heat – the route is entirely exposed.
Cell phone reception: Reception is weak to none for most of the route. If you are coming from Denver, your last reliable cell phone reception will probably be on state highway 14, about 16 miles from the trail head.
Dogs: Allowed on leash; exercise appropriate caution depending on the weather conditions. Also watch out for snakes in the warmer months.
4 miles round trip, approximately 300 feet of elevation gain; allow 3 hours for a leisurely stroll with time for a picnic
From the parking area, follow the signed trail north and then northwest. You will pass by a junction with the Overlook Trail (closed from March to June) before reaching a gate at 0.6 mile. Head east and begin a short but sometimes steep descent into a juniper-dotted wash. At the bottom, you will see the buttes straight ahead. The trail follows the wash (there are a few spots where the route is a little ambiguous, but the overall direction is obvious – toward the buttes.)
At about 1.6 miles from the start, you reach the base of the larger first butte. The trail circles around the south side of the sandstone formation before making a descent to a market (2 miles from the start) that marks the preserve boundary. Though this is officially the turnaround point, many hikers continue, now on private land, toward the second butte, less than half a mile away.
More information about the Pawnee Buttes: Trip descriptions here, here, here and here; All Trails report here; Prairie National Grasslands home page here
View from the trail head
Heading toward the descent into the wash
Descending into the wash
Heading through the wash
Leaving the wash, heading toward the first butte
Close up of the first butte
Looking southeast from near the first butte
View of the second butte from the turnaround point
Text and photography copyright 2019 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
There are a ton of different reasons why we all love to spend our spare time out on the trail. For many, it’s about getting away from it all; connecting with nature and slowing life down. For others it’s for the love of the challenge or for the sense of accomplishment that comes with bagging another massive peak. And for some people it’s a way to get fit, stay in shape and be more healthy — added value for all hikers, regardless of our motives to hike.
Hike to get fit, or get fit for hiking?
Hiking is, indeed, an excellent way to get into shape. Hit up a steep and challenging trail and you’ll burn a shed load of calories, not to mention improve your cardio fitness, stabilise your joints and strengthen your muscles. And the mental benefits that go with prolonged physical activity in the outdoors are well worth every painful step towards physical goals.
But what if your steps actually become painful? What if your cardio fitness is soaring but your muscles and joints are saying “hell, no!” with each step? This can not only be super frustrating, but can also lead to longer term injuries that can consequently put you out of the hiking game for months. Not ideal.
So, although getting out hiking is certainly a great way to get into shape, it’s also mega important to fit strengthening exercises into your everyday routine.
Why so important?
The main benefit to training your body for hiking is injury prevention. If you go over on your ankle, for example, strong joints and muscles recover much quicker and are less likely to become damaged in the first place. You’ll also be able to hike for longer and even up your pace — that means more miles and more exploration! Plus, everything is just a bit more fun when every step feels light and easy. Constantly struggling gets really tiring after a while.
Everyday ways to train for hiking
If time is short and you just want to add a few quick exercises into your daily routine, then here are my top tips:
Avoid elevators and escalators like the plague! Take the stairs instead, up and down.
This will help to improve your cardio fitness and also strengthen your quads (thighs) and glutes (butt muscles) — both essential for uphill power and downhill stabilising.
Stand on one foot whenever you’re in a queue (or doing the dishes, drying your hair etc!)
This helps stabilise your ankles by activating all the tiny muscles around the joints. You’ll also end up engaging some core muscles too, without even realising it! Once you get good at it, bend your standing knee. And when this gets easy, close your eyes and do it…
Do lunges while you clean your teeth.
Start with just 10 on each leg, being sure to keep your torso nice and upright. Then increase each week until you end up lunging for the whole time you brush your teeth… that’s a whopping 3 minutes, right?! You’ll strengthen your quads, glutes and hamstrings (muscles at the back of your thighs) and help stabilise your knees, as well as engaging your core.
Strength exercises for hiking
Want to really start upping your hiking fitness? Adding a couple of training circuits to your weekly schedule is a highly time efficient way to improve strength and cardio fitness.
Try this simple hiking fitness circuit:
(Each exercise is explained and featured below in a video)
Mountain climbers x 20 (done in between each of the below exercises)
Step ups x 20 on each leg
Banded side steps x 20 in each directions
Hip thrusters x 10-12
Bulgarian split squat x 10-12 on each leg
Band pull aparts x 15-20
Lateral step ups x 15-20 on each leg
Walking lunges x 16-20
Try to rest as little as possible between each exercise.
Rest for 2-3 minutes once you have completed each exercise in sequence.
Do 2-3 sets of the circuit.
Hiking strength exercises, explained
Train for hiking: Mountain climbers - YouTube
The video shows two ways to do these. The first way works your legs more, the second way works your core more. You chose which you need to improve the most, or do a combination of both.
Train for hiking: Step ups - YouTube
Find anything that is around knee height to step up onto. If you’re at home then the sofa works well as the wobbliness of the soft surface also helps work all the stabilising muscles. This exercise simulates big steps-ups that you might face on steep ascents. It strengthens the muscles involved in that movement and helps improve balance and control.
Banded side steps
Train for hiking: Banded side steps - YouTube
This is an excellent exercise to do to help prevent knee pain and injury. It helps strengthen important stabilisers in the legs and knees which in turn helps your body easily deal with uneven terrain on the trail.
Train for hiking: Hip thrusters - YouTube
This exercise helps glute activation which is essential when hiking. Getting your glutes into action helps to prevent your lower back from doing too much work — especially important when carrying a heavy pack.
Bulgarian split squat
Train for hiking: Bulgarian split squat - YouTube
Another great exercise for strengthening all the muscles in your legs and butt. It’s also a good one to do to ensure both legs are of equal strength. Only do as many reps as your weaker leg can manage.
Band pull aparts
Train for hiking: Band pull aparts - YouTube
Conditioning your upper back and improving your posture is a super important component of your hiking training and an essential exercise if you are carrying a heavy pack. Good posture will ensure your whole body is in a good hiking position.
Lateral step ups
Train for hiking: Lateral step ups - YouTube
Sideways step-ups help to prepare your knees, ankles and hips for hiking on uneven and challenging terrain. This exercise helps to strengthen the smaller glute muscles and knee stabilisers.
Train for hiking: Walking lunges - YouTube
Staying low in a walking lunge helps target your downhill hiking muscles as well as the uphill hiking muscles. It’s a tough one and it’s easy to just lean right forwards into it. Try to stay upright in your torso and you’ll get some good core activation, too.
If you’re embarking upon a long trek or are after a more in depth plan to get into shape for hiking then check out the rest of our training for hiking tips.
Joey Holmes is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard and hiking small mountains and big hills.
Recently I was approached by Cindy Jones of Colorado Aromatics about reviewing their Sole Pleasure foot butter, designed to relieve pain in cracked or otherwise tired feet.
The foot butter I received was in a small circular tin (it is also available in a tube) and came in attractive purple paper. The container is about 3 inches in diameter and resembles a vintage style candy dish.
Though I haven’t done any strenuous hikes lately, I have gotten out on a few moderate ones (3-5 miles). Additionally, as I am currently preparing for a move, a lot of physical activity has gone into the packing of boxes and stacking them, so my feet have gotten a decent workout in the last few days. I have used the foot butter several times during this timeframe.
The butter has a similar consistency to Vaseline, although it is more granular. The main ingredients are Shea butter, comfrey, mint and black seed oil. It has a pleasant, floral aroma.
The natural oils of the butter make it stay on your skin for a while (start with dime-size portions and rub thoroughly; add or subtract more as you see fit.) Expect to have to spend more time washing your hands than would be the case with shampoo or soft soap.
On my first night, I didn’t notice a huge difference, but by the second, I was starting to feel a pleasant tingling sensation. My wife noticed it as well when I was giving her a foot rub: it wasn’t so much the butter itself that appealed to her as it was the fragrance, the fact that the lubrication made my life easier as it may have been that my being tasked with this review netted her a foot rub.
In the future, I hope to continue to use the foot butter following more strenuous hikes to get a more thorough representation of its capabilities.
For another review of Sole Pleasures Foot Butter, click here and here.
DISCLAIMER: By reading this you agree not to hold the author, website and Colorado Aromatics responsible for any health issues or other illnesses that result from consuming this product. Make sure you do not have any allergies to any of the ingredients and that you prepare the meal safely. The author and website received no compensation for this review other than a free product.
Peakbaggers, especially those interested in visiting high points, won’t want to miss Boösaule Montes. At 57,414 feet, it is about five times as tall as San Gorgonio. Moreover, its comparatively isolated location on the Jupiter moon of Io is likely to be a strong selling point for hikers weary of battling crowds at Lake Elsinore Southern California’s more popular destinations. Io figures to be a strong player in the ecotourism industry, especially if humans colonize Mars and Olympus Mons gets overrun with tourists and brand ambassadors.
GETTING TO BOÖSAULE MONTES
Io is Jupiter’s third largest satellite, slightly bigger than Earth’s moon. Though Io is known for its volcanic activity, Boösaule Montes is not a volcano. It is the highest point on Io and the fourth highest mountain in the solar system (tallest non-volcanic). Depending on where it is in its orbit, Io is typically located about 390 million miles from Earth. Nonstop flights are available, although if you are leaving from SNA, BUR, ONT or LGB, expect to have to connect through Jupiter, Mars or Atlanta Hartsfield. Boösaule Montes is located just south of Io’s equator at 10 degrees south, 270 degrees west. A high clearance vehicle is recommended for reaching the trail head.
Those accustomed to hiking and traveling on Earth might be put off by Io’s atmosphere of sulfur dioxide and its lack of gluten-free dining options. Another potential challenge is Io’s average temperature: -202 degrees F/-130 degrees C (remember, cotton kills!)
CELL PHONE RECEPTION
Most carriers don’t have extensive coverage on Io, so plan accordingly. Also check with your provider to see how interplanetary travel counts toward your data plan.
Most peak baggers will probably want to set their sights on the southern and tallest of Boösaule Montes’s three summits. From the plateau northwest of Pele, proceed at a bearing of 300 degrees (exercise caution – on Io, often the floor actually is hot lava) and gain the toe of the ridge.
Near the summit, you will tackle a scarp with a 40 degree slope; this is where you will be thankful that Io’s gravity is only about 18% of Earth’s. Nevertheless, microspikes are recommended.
Finally you arrive on the summit, where viewing tubes are set up to observe locations such as Calisto, Ganymede, the Rose Bowl and Europa. Ambitious hikers can continue to the east and north summits or perhaps explore the Pillan Patera crater. Whether you go farther or call it a day at the south summit, a hike to Boösaule Montes is sure to be an IO-pening experience.
There are very few activities that gives you so much mental, physical and spiritual relief as hiking. With a hectic work routine and pressing lifestyle, everyone needs to get away reconnect with nature.
And what better way to reconnect with nature than to traverse its wilderness alone?
Yeah, I said ALONE.
My first solo hike was not planned. My regular hiking buddy got stuck in something else, but I was too excited about this trip. I’ll always be thankful to him for ditching me that day, because it ended up being my best adventure to date. It wasn’t just the beautiful scenery or solitude that made it memorable. On my way back, having tackled the challenges of the trip alone, I was feeling more empowered and confident. Today I regularly take solo trips, enjoying the solitude and being able to go at my own pace. If your plans change and you end up having to hike solo, I recommend you do it. You can thank me later.
Now let’s get real.
Being intimidated by hiking solo is a healthy and understandable fear. As social animals, we feel safer around other fellow beings.
Besides, there are some real challenges and dangers of getting along a lonely trail all by yourself. Losing the trail, animal attacks, human attack (especially for female), natural calamity and injuries are few of the very real and imminent dangers of all outdoor adventures. But if you take necessary measures to ensure your wellbeing, solo hiking is worth it. If you haven’t started just yet or are looking around for some motivation, let me help you.
So, what did I learn from my solo hikes?
I experienced several revelations along the journey.
Though I was hiking solo, I wasn’t alone. On my first solo hike, I met other friendly and supportive solo hikers. Many of them stopped and took pictures with me after knowing that this was my first solo trip and asked about my experiences so far.
Another moment of clarity was becoming more sure of my abilities. The fact that I depended on only myself for survival was empowering.
Lastly, what made me really fall in love with solo hiking was being able to get a hold on my nerves and experience the solitude. I was able to talk through everything that mattered to me and was able to clear my mind of toxic worldly experiences.
Already planning your first solo hike?
Wait, we aren’t just finished yet.
Here are some tips that will help you make the most out of your solo hiking experience.
1. Have the right attitude and stay within your limits.
Yes, we all want to test our limitations but it’s better to save this excitement when you are with an experienced group. Your first solo hike should be a fun, pleasant and soul seeking mild workout, not a record-breaker for distance or elevation gain. (The Zone of Proximal Development concept can help you gauge the difficulty of a hike and pick a suitable one for your solo trip). And no selfies at the edge of a cliff, please.
2. Make a checklist of essential gear day before and pack the night before.
If you leave things for the last minute, you are bound to forget something and the consequences for leaving things behind are greater on a solo trip (think of the times you have covered someone who forgot gear, or perhaps been covered yourself on a group trip).
3. Never bring brand new / untested gear to your trip.
As I suggest in my Camping Survival Tips, take all the unknowns out of the equation. Imagine getting to your campsite and finding that your multi-tool kit doesn’t have the right key to turn on the stove. Or that your new GPS unit needed to be charged before use. Or waking up and finding that your backup power supply for your cell phone froze during the night. Now consider how much more serious these setbacks would be if you were on your own in the wilderness.
4. Inform your family or friends where you are going.
It’s not just about your safety. It’s about the peace of mind of your entire family and social circle. Yes, it sounds romantic and exciting to be “off the grid” or “dark” for a few days, but imagine being on the other side of the equation, wondering if a friend or family member you haven’t heard from is OK. If nothing else, just post it on social media.
5. Make and carry a separate survival go-to kit
Different hikes and different types of trips (desert vs. mountain, overnight vs. day, off trail vs. on trail) may require different equipment, but there is some gear that you will need to survive in any environment should things go wrong, so why not make tip #2 easier have it ready at all times so you can pack it without having to think about it These items include:
First aid kit
Pro Tip: If you get creative, there are wonders which you can do with just duct tape, zip ties and WD-40.
If you are receptive to them, there are signs which make you feel something is not normal, such as awkward behavior of people or animals around you. This might take you some time to get used to but our internal system works well. Last summer I saw some tourists taking group selfie over an old wooden bridge/ramp. For some reason, I didn’t cross them and alter my route. And guess what, a few minutes later bridge collapsed due to overload. Luckily no one got seriously injured.
I couldn’t point exactly to what seemed amiss, but somehow it didn’t feel the way it is supposed to be. You might call it your “sixth sense” or even your “Spidey sense” – whatever name you give it, when you feel a little uncomfortable moving forward, trust your guts and keep your guard up all the time, even if you are just a short distance from the summit.
7. Be prepared for the worst-case scenarios
In “127 Hours”, the protagonist’s arm was pinned by a rock that fell at the exact moment he happened to be walking under it. (He also obviously didn’t read #4 and hadn’t let anyone know where he was going). As they say, mother nature always bats last. Knowledge is power: with all of the information available online, educate yourself about the ways that even experienced hikers can get into trouble and how you can avoid them. This article details twelve of the most common ways to die in the wilderness, including drowning – a cause of death not usually associated with hiking.
Another way of looking at it: There is no way to stop an earthquake, but by stockpiling non-perishable items, water and batteries, you can be better off when it happens. Things to consider to help prepare for a worst-case scenario: knowing the agency responsible for the area where you were hiking; being aware of your cell phone coverage (if you have none, knowing where the last place you had it was); owning and knowing how to use an SOS signal or personal locator beacon.
In this edition of Beyond L.A., we tour some of Death Valley’s most famous attractions in a route that can easily be done as a two-day road trip from Los Angeles. Needless to say, there’s much more to the largest park in the continental U.S. than the hikes and sites described here, but for those intimidated by Death Valley’s reputation – a healthy fear – the itinerary described below offers a introduction to the park, including the lowest point in the western hemisphere, a natural arch, sand dunes and a waterfall. Yes, a waterfall.
Any discussion of Death Valley National Park should start with the weather. The official record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 134 degrees F/56.6 degrees C, was taken at Death Valley in 1913. Temperatures in Furnace Creek range from an average daily low of 38 degrees in January to an average daily high of 114 degrees in July. Annual precipitation is a little over 2 inches. Death Valley’s National Park’s elevations range from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater to over 11,000 feet at Telescope Peak, but the highest point on this trip is 3,600 feet and the majority of these sites are located at or below sea level. Even if the temperature is relatively cool, the dry air and complete exposure of several of these sites – notably Badwater Basin – may have more of an effect than one might think. Peak season at Death Valley is considered to be October through April.
GAS, FOOD, LODGING
Death Valley is the 5th largest national park and biggest outside of Alaska, at 5,262 square miles, larger than the state of Connecticut. (Joshua Tree is 1,235 square miles). While the wide open spaces are one of its attractions, the scarcity of services and goods requires planning, especially considering that there is virtually no reliable cell phone reception outside Furnace Creek. Gas and food can be purchased at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells, but needless to say, prices are inflated. If you are following the route described below, your best bet is to fill up in Barstow (gas in Baker will usually be considerably more expensive). From Barstow to Trona via the route described here is about 300 miles. There are three campgrounds in Furnace Creek: Sunset (which primarily caters to RVs and campers) at $14 per night as of this writing; Texas Springs ($16) and Furnace Creek ($22). Sunset and Texas Springs are first come first serve; Furnace Creek accepts reservations and also keeps a few walk-up spots open. More upscale lodging is available at the Oasis at Death Valley – expect to pay over $250 per night in peak season. The Ranch at Death Valley has a general store with basic supplies and groceries. There is also a buffet and saloon.
This itinerary assumes an overnight stay in Furnace Creek, but Stovepipe Wells (located about half an hour’s drive from Furnace Creek) also has accommodations including a first come/first serve campground ($14/night) and a hotel (typically less expensive than the Oasis, but still usually over $100 per night). A general store, restaurant, saloon and gas station are also available. Panamint Springs Resort, half an hour southwest of Stovepipe Wells, also has accommodations, a gas station, store and restaurant. Prices are comparable to Stovepipe Wells.
There are a few more remote campgrounds outside of Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. For more information about camping in Death Valley, click here. Note seasonal restrictions (several campgrounds are only open from October to April while some of the campgrounds at higher elevations are closed for the winter).
Desert hiking with dogs presents serious risks including heat, rattlesnakes and coyotes. Dogs are allowed in campgrounds at Death Valley National Park and at the hotels at Stovepipe Wells and the Panamint Springs Resort. They are not allowed at any of the sites described in this post, although there are a few dog-friendly walks in Death Valley. For more information about taking pets to Death Valley National Park, click here.
Badwater Basin, the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail and the paved road to Zabriskie Point are accessible. For more information about accessibility in Death Valley National Park, click here.
The drive times are approximate, depending on traffic, and the times at each attraction are ballpark figures, based on an average hiking speed and personal taste. Distances assume a departure from downtown Los Angeles. NOTE: the Artist’s Palette, a popular attraction known for colorful geology, can easily be added to the day 1 schedule as it is located off of Badwater Rd. between Natural Bridge and Golden Canyon. Unfortunately, as of March 2019 it is closed due to storm damage.
Drive from Los Angeles to Badwater Basin (289 miles, 5 hours)
1 hour at Badwater Basin
Drive from Badwater Basin to Natural Bridge (5 miles, 10 minutes)
1:15 for Golden Canyon hike
Drive from Natural Bridge to Golden Canyon (12 miles, 20 minutes)
1:45 for Golden Canyon hike
Drive from Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point for sunset (6 miles, 10 minutes)
0:30 at Zabriskie Point
Drive from Zabriskie Point to Furnace Creek (5 miles, 10 minutes)
Total day 1 mileage: 317; total time: 10:20 plus breaks
Drive from Furnace Creek to Zabriskie Point for sunrise (5 miles, 10 minutes)
0:30 at Zabriskie Point
Drive from Zabriskie Point to Harmony Borax Works (7 miles, 15 minutes)
0:30 at Harmony Borax Works
Drive from Harmony Borax Works to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (21 miles, 25 minutes)
1:30 at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Drive from Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to Darwin Falls (36 miles, 50 minutes)
1:30 at Darwin Falls
Drive from Darwin Falls to Los Angeles (221 miles, 4 hours)
Total day 2 mileage: 290; total time: 9:40 plus breaks
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the western hemisphere. Its relative accessibility makes it one of the most popular spots in the park; even on hot days, it easy to get out of the car and take a picture by the sign. (If you want to be technical, the sign isn’t located at the actual lowest point, which varies depending on conditions, but your social media followers will probably let it slide.) On cooler days, you can stroll out onto the salt flats and experience the endless open space, framed by the distant Panamint Mountains. It’s possible to walk about five miles out onto the flats, although most people only walk the first half mile or so.
Geologically, Badwater is an endorheic basin, meaning that no water flows from it. The average 2 inches of annual precipitation that Badwater receives evaporate, leaving behind salty deposits that may look like snow from a distance.
Parking is tough here, due to the trail’s popularity; even an expanded lot built in 2003 often is quickly filled up. There are vault-style toilets at the trail head.
The short Natural Bridge Trail delivers exactly what its name promises. After a somewhat tricky 1.5 mile trip on a dirt road (high clearance vehicles are best but not required), the hike is easy: simply stroll up the canyon for about 1/3 of a mile to the natural bridge. The 35-foot gap below the bridge was created by millennia of erosion. Shortly beyond the bridge you pass a 50-foot dry waterfall. Deeper into the canyon, you come to two more dry waterfalls, both of which are fairly easy to negotiate, before reaching the end of the trail: a 20-foot cliff that blocks further progress. The total hike distance is about 1.4 miles round trip with 400 feet of elevation gain.
For trip descriptions of the Natural Bridge Trail, click here, here, here and here. Trip Advisor page here.
Approaching the bridge
Looking up at the dry waterfall beyond the bridge
Climbing the first of two dry falls
Looking back from the turnaround point
Heading back through the bridge
Red Cathedral gets its color from iron compounds in its rocks. Until 1976, when a flash flood destroyed the road, it was possible to drive to the base of the cliffs. Now you can get there by a short hike which showcases some of Death Valley’s most interesting geology.
From the parking lot (which, like Badwater’s, tends to fill up quickly in peak season), head into Golden Canyon, where the narrow walls provide shade during the earlier and later hours of the day. The volcanic formations resemble those of Vasquez Rocks and the canyons east of Palm Springs. About one mile in, a trail branches off, eventually reaching Zabriskie Point; if you have time and want to explore the area more, you can make a 6-plus mile loop to Zabriskie and back via Gower Gulch.
To reach Red Cathedral, stay left and continue up the canyon, which soon narrows. About 5-10 minutes after the junction, look for a..
Your hiking adventures don’t have to come to an end simply because winter has arrived. In fact, winter is a great time to get out and see the world in a whole new way. While snow and colder temperatures undeniably present new challenges, they shouldn’t prevent you from getting out and doing what you love.
Keeping warm on a cold hike is extremely important. Failure to do so could result in hypothermia, frostbite or even death, so finding the right cold weather gear is not something that should be taken lightly. It’s also important to know how to wear or use that gear to properly keep yourself warm and toasty. Here are a few tips regarding how to keep warm on a cold hike.
Dress in Layers
Dressing in layers is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you will stay warm when the temperature plummets. You will need a base layer, a middle layer and an outer layer. Your base layer wicks sweat away from your skin to help you stay dry while the middle layer acts as insulation to help you retain body heat. Finally, the outer layer shields you against wind and rain.
During cold weather, your base layer should include long underwear and a long-sleeve t-shirt. Look for options that are made from synthetic materials, like polyester, and designed to wick moisture away from your body. Cotton t-shirts are great, but not for hiking during cold weather. If you wear a cotton base layer, your sweat will be unable to evaporate and your body temperature will likely drop.
For your middle layer, choose a jacket that is warm and well-insulated. Polyester fleece, down insulated jackets and synthetic insulated jackets are all good options. Choose the one that is best suited to the actual temperature where you are hiking and your personal preferences. Also known as the “shell layer,” your outer layer should protect you from snow, rain and wind. Options range from simple wind-resistant jackets to more costly mountaineering jackets. Waterproof and breathable shells are the best option because they protect you even in full-on storm conditions. Water-resistant and breathable shells are more affordable, but they are more suited to light wind and rain. Soft shells and nonbreathable shells are appropriate in certain situations, but they usually are not the best for winter hiking. If you plan on going on lots of cold weather hikes, you may want to consider buying apparel in bulk to get the most bang for your buck!
Keep Your Feet Warm
Cold feet can be a huge problem when you are hiking through the snow. In addition to being incredibly uncomfortable, it can be downright dangerous if your feet get too cold. To keep those toes nice and toasty, start with the right socks and boots. While you may think that putting on the thickest socks you own is the best way to keep your feet warm, doing so could actually make your feet colder. Those nice, thick socks can make your feet sweat, and once that happens, your feet will be cold.
Instead, you should wear layers on your feet just like you do on the rest of your body. Start with a lightweight moisture-wicking sock. Next, put on a lightweight wool sock for insulation. In extremely cold temperatures, you can also add a mid- to heavy-weight wool sock as an outer layer. By layering in this manner, you can ensure that perspiration will be wicked away from your feet rather than soaking into your socks and boots and making your feet cold.
Make sure your boots made for cold weather. The upper needs to be constructed from leather or another material that blocks out the cold and wind. They also need to be waterproof if you will be hiking in snow or near water. When you try them on, they should be big enough to fit while wearing all your layers of socks and you should have room to comfortably wiggle your toes. If they are too snug, they could restrict circulation and make your feet cold regardless of how well they are protected by your footwear.
Protect Your Hands and Head, Too!
You can lose a lot of body heat through your head and hands. And your ears and fingertips are susceptible to frostbite when the temperature plummets. Make sure you wear a warm hat and gloves that will keep your hands dry. In especially cold temperatures, you can layer your gloves like your other clothing.
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking plenty of water may not seem like a good way to stay warm, but it is actually extremely important. Believe it or not, dry winter air dehydrates you more than warmer air. People often don’t feel as thirsty in cold weather, so they don’t drink as much as they would during warmer weather. Not drinking enough, though, could make it difficult to stay warm. Water helps your body generate heat, so if you are dehydrated, you are going to feel cold. It never hurts to bring along a warm beverage, too. A thermos full of tea, coffee or hot chocolate will help you stay hydrated and warm you up a bit.
Hiking during the winter burns more calories than hiking during the summer. In fact, one study found that people who hiked in temperatures ranging between 14 and 23 degrees burned 34 percent more calories than those who hiked when the temperature was in the mid-50s. Your body burns a lot more calories trying to keep you warm, and it’s important to eat foods that compensate. Snacks that are rich in protein, like jerky and hard-boiled eggs, are great choices. Nuts and energy bars are good, too. Snack on your food throughout the day rather than stopping for large meals. This will help you maintain a more consistent body temperature and avoid having to adjust your layers.
Hiking during cold weather allows you to see the world in a brand-new way. With the tips listed above, you can enjoy all the beauty that Mother Nature has to offer during colder weather without suffering the consequences of winter’s chill.
Brenda Kimble is a writer and wellness blogger. She is also a mother of 2 daughters and a son. When she is not writing, she is typically hiking, enjoying the outdoors with her kids, or writing for The Talkin’ T-Shirts Blog, where she is a frequent contributor.
Going to the mountainside is a good way to refresh your brain and body and create nice memories with the people you love. However, it’s not all rosy, especially when it comes to cooking. Here is our guide on the top 8 meals to cook in mountains.
Camping in the mountains is highly enjoyable and therapeutic even. If you’re doing it with friends or family, mountainside camping can be a great bonding experience not to mention the benefits to your physical health. Now, it’s not exactly easy to cook in mountains as the available utensils are somewhat limited unless you have the means to go with a fully stocked RV. In this article, I have highlighted 8 amazing recipes you can cook while out in the mountains:
Granola Fruit and Nuts
Arguably one of the easiest meals to cook in mountains, the granola fruit and nuts combination is just a matter of mixing Mountain House Granola and Milk and Blueberries on boiling water. If you don’t fancy processed granola, you can make yours using some instant oat packs, oil, and a sweetener such as maple syrup or honey. Since I somewhat have a sweet tooth, I always add some nuts (macadamia, walnuts, etc.) and dried fruits such as apricots and cranberries after the granola dries. Alternatively, you can prepare some vegan granola that’s just as tasty and twice as healthier. Check out some amazing recipes here.
Blueberry Banana Pancakes
We all love homemade pancakes, whether for breakfast or dessert. Both banana pancakes and blueberry pancakes are alright and hugely delicious on their own, but I like combining them to create a delicious combo dish. To do that, first create a batter from flour, milk, water, eggs, etc. as you would when making ordinary pancakes. Then, heat a skillet and add some ghee or butter on the pan and then add some of the butter and let it heat. Cut your bananas into pieces and scatter them, along with blueberries, all over the hot skillet with the pancake batter. Cook until golden and serve with honey, jam or maple syrup on top. If you are lactose intolerant or are watching your weight, it’s advisable to keep off the syrup altogether. To reduce your luggage, it is best to prepare the batter you think you’ll need while still at home and carry it in a plastic dish instead of carrying everything and ending up with some left over ingredients. You can also carry powdered milk as opposed to the heavy liquid version. Here are some simpler pancake recipes if you don’t fancy this one.
Roasted Corn on the Cob
It is not a meal in the strict sense of the word, but roasted corn is a delicious and healthy snack not to mention a quite easy food to cook. What’s more, no sophisticated equipment is necessary, and you can simply do the roasting on a firewood fire or on a stove grill, as this video explains. For some reason, I always overheat some parts of my corn which sucks but you probably will roast yours to perfection. I found that soaking your corn on a mixture of water and sugar for about 30 minutes makes it easier to roast without overheating. Notably, roasted corn contains minimal calories and sugars, especially, which bodes well with healthy living.
Spaghetti Sauce – Easy to Cook in Mountains
You’ve probably made a spaghetti dish at home, so you know how easy it is to prepare. In this case, all you need is a spaghetti pack, garlic, onions, virgin oil, tomato paste, and some water, all very light and easily accessible. Here’s a guide on how to make your own spaghetti sauce and it takes less than 20 minutes.
Salmon & Pine Nut Pasta
Spice up your diet by preparing a salmon and pine nut pasta combo which, despite how it sounds, is quite easy to make. When going camping, I prefer buying some dried pasta meals from the store to make everything easier. While there, I heat the pasta then add the salmon on top and top with several pine nuts. Never cooked salmon before? You’re welcome! If you’re vegan, replace the salmon with something else, like a fruit salad.
Biscuits are lovely accompaniments to tea and are one of the simplest meals to cook in mountains. This is an amazing video guide on how to prepare tasty biscuits with the resources available at camp. While at it, it would be better to mix the ingredients at home and carry them to camp in a sealable plastic bag to cook when there. I personally found this a better option as cooking at the camp place was quite hectic when we attempted it, mostly because you can’t regulate heat in a campfire as you would in an oven.
While at home, fried potatoes are the thing but who has the time to fry them in the midst of a rendezvous in the mountains? Certainly not me.
So on a recent camping trip that went for a week and a half, I couldn’t stand not eating potatoes, which I absolutely love and so I checked out a few cooking books for some quick fixes. Here’s one fast and easy way to go about it: If you have a campfire, wrap the potatoes in foil and bury them in it. Ideally, the fire should be just enough to heat the potatoes through the foil but not enough to burn them. Alternatively, if you have a grill, cut your potatoes up, add some onions and cooking oil, wrap in foil and place on top of the rack for a few minutes.
Rice is a popular dish and is a staple food across many different cultures. It is also one of the best food to cook in mountains as all that’s required is a small pot, the ingredients, and fire. Well, it’s not that simple or straightforward, but you can find lots of recipes and tutorials online, including this one that explains how to prepare a basic rice dish in the wilderness. One of the positives of rices is that it can be a standalone dish or can be served alongside vegetable or beef stews. On the negative, rice (white rice, that is) consists a higher level of carbs and calories and you may want to substitute it with brown rice or wheat, which are way more leaner and healthier.
Those of us who love camping do so because spending a night or two outdoors takes us out of our comfort zones and thereby creates for some superb experiences. That does not mean we have to settle for some bland, packaged food, though because, as the article suggests, there are lots of tasty, healthy food to cook in outdoor situations.
We hope you enjoy your time in the mountains as much as we do. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to drop us a line below.
Malcolm Cano is a college tutor, he is a big fan of fishing, baseball, and hunting. Malcolm also has his own project such as GearExpertGuides. Follow him on Twitter.