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An injury has kept me from hiking for several months. But now that the injury is healing and the weather is getting warmer, I’m thinking about hiking and lessons I’ve learned from it.

Thimbleberries, Rattlesnake Ridge, July 2014

Thimbleberries, Rattlesnake Ridge, July 2014

  1. Hike on the “boring” parts of the trail.

    If you like wild berries (and who doesn’t like ripe huckleberries warmed by the sun?), hike where other people don’t hike. Bushes in the scenic areas will be picked clean, but there’ll be an abundance in other places.

  2. Distract the leader with botany.

    If the group is hiking too fast, ask the trip leader about flora and fauna along the trail. You won’t run out of breath or collapse, and you’ll learn something new.

  3. Yield the right of way.

    If you’re coming uphill and someone with a heavy pack is going downhill, or if someone’s hiking faster than you, or if someone’s running the trail, stand aside to let them pass. It’s courteous, and what’s more, you won’t get knocked off the trail and into the stand of Devil’s Club.

  4. Get down in the dirt.

    If a berry bush looks picked over, crouch down and look at the bottom of the bush, and turn over all the leaves. No one else looks there, so you’ll find berries when no one else does.

  5. Ask directions. Or not.

    If you think you’ve missed the falls, or other scenic point, ask someone. Alternatively, don’t ask. Make sure you have the 10 essentials with you, keep track of where you’ve gone, make sure you’re well prepared, make sure you can retrace your steps, and enjoy exploring. (And see #9.)

  6. Don’t pick berries that aren’t ripe.

    Yes, you’ll get the berries before someone else picks them, but they still won’t taste good. Instead, see #1 and #4.

  7. Go in the rain.

    Where I live, if you don’t get into the out of doors when it’s raining, you’ll never go out at all. Pack your rain gear, and go anyway.

  8. Be patient and generous.

    If you have a big, shaggy, black dog who looks like a bear, be prepared for every person on the trail to say, “Oh my gosh! I thought I saw a bear!” and laugh like they’ve said the most original thing in the world. Smile politely and keep hiking.

  9. Don’t require an expensive rescue.

    Starting up the trail with two people, two dogs, one small bottle of water, no map, and no idea where you’re going? You might be okay. Then again you might not. Be prepared.

  10. Don’t expect to write a book afterwards.

    Yes, you might be the next Cheryl Strayed and write a best-selling book that gets made into a movie. More likely, you’ll just have a good hike in the company of congenial hiking buddies.

  11. Look for the wise people.

    The person with the scruffiest-looking gear probably has the most experience. Ask that person for advice and assistance. Then offer your thanks and wish them a good hike.

Look, a bonus! I said 10 lessons but there are 11. It pays to be generous on the trail. A culture of helpfulness and generosity keeps us safe and gives everyone a better experience.

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