Hiking Food for Fuel

As the weather starts to heat up here in Maryland, more and more people are once again hitting the trails for adventurous day hikes. But even casual day hikes can take a good amount of energy out of a person.

That is why is it so important to make sure that you have the proper nutrition to keep your energy up and keep you going on your day outdoors.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, when going on day hikes, all you need is just one meal and a few snacks to keep you going.

In an article from Livestrong, hikers are advised to be sure to munch on about one snack per hour and bring salty snacks to help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Without water and proper nutrition, a casual hike can make a hiker weak and ruin the trip into nature overall.

According to a recent article, in Central Minnesota, there are a great number of local markers selling unique trail-approved food combos. A combination of carbs and protein keep the body energized and this “little corner of the nation’s breadbasket” has high-quality crave-able snacks for local hikers.

Aside from the health and food safety parts of snacking during your casual hike, eating nutritious foods on the trail is great because, well it’s food, and who doesn’t love food?

If you’ve been on a long hike, it is always exciting to find that perfect spot to stop, catch your breath, take in the views around you, and feed your hungry belly with the perfect trail snack.

And sure, basic nuts and trail mix can suffice, but spicing up your trail snacks a bit can be both more tasty and effective for pushing yourself to finish your hike in the best way possible.

Here are some energizing and refreshing trail snacks perfect for your next hike in nature’s beauty:

  • Fruit salad: Cut up some of your favorite fruits and put them in a zip lock bag or Tupperware with some cinnamon, sugar, or salt to help keep the fruit fresh and give you that needed pop of energy. If you want to be different, try to even dry your fruit beforehand. Dehydrating fruit removes excess water making it lighter to carry and gives you that extra source of fiber and calories.
  • Protein balls or cookies: These perfect little bites of bliss are packed with great ingredients of major protein and carbohydrates for the perfect energy boost. Typically, they are made with chia seeds, quinoa, oatmeal, peanut butter or other ingredients as a base and honey, cranberries, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, peanuts, etc. added for the extra flavor and sweetness.
  • Basic sandwiches: Sure, sometimes a sandwich may be a boring snack for a hike but keeping it simple with just some whole wheat bread, tomatoes, cheese, and a little lunch meat can be a perfect refresher.
  • Frozen grapes: The night before going out on a hike, throw some grapes (fresh or a little old will work the same) into the freezer. Bring them on your hike the next day and they will be the perfect cold and crisp healthy snack that will taste so sweet you’ll think it’s candy.
  • Granola: Buy some premade from the store or make your own! Toast some rolled oats, add in some nuts and dried fruits and viola, granola! This is another perfect quick snack to boot your energy and keep your belly happy.

These are of course just a few of the favorite trail snack favorites but go ahead and try them! Let me know what snacks you bring on the trail to boost your energy and keep you going.

 

 

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Care for Your Trail

hiking trail

Hiking trails are constantly visited by a great number of people year-round; and while it is fantastic that so many people go out and enjoy hiking in the beautiful nature, they can also negatively affect the surrounding environment in a number of ways.

The abundance of visitors to hiking trails need to be aware of the environment around them and the impact they are leaving on it. In order for trails to continue to be enjoyed by this great number of people, some actions need to be taken and kept in mind while hiking.

Personally, my eyes were opened in a whole new light to the necessity of keeping trails clean and cared for when I was in one of my college English classes last year. For the class, the overall topic was generally on nature; so, for my papers, I decided to focus on the Appalachian Trail and visitor impacts on it. These results included impacts to the trail itself, overnight use areas, effects to surrounding wildlife and more.

My research opened my eyes to how big of an impact visitors leave behind without even realizing it or intending to do it. To keep hiking trails open to the public and in their best possible shape, visitors need to be cautious of keeping the trails clean, and management programs need to find ways to take effective action such as enforcing the Leave No Trace Principles.

According to a recent article, volunteers from a hiking club in Southern Oregon – the Siskiyou Mountain Club – have taken strong action to restore local trails, this year with a focus on cleaning the damage from last years’ wildfires.

A lot of the time, management programs do not take enough action to truly restore and care for their trails as it may not be a priority to them. That is why this great hiking club took charge with their forest restoration work to keep trails open and cared for the way they should be.

waste in nature

Here are some ways you can personally work to keep the trails around you clean and cared for:

  1. Take little, leave little – The less you bring in, the less trash you are going to have to deal with. Take as little as possible with you so that you don’t leave anything behind or lose anything by accident.
  2. Bring a trash bag – Carry trash bags and gloves with you on your hike and pick up any trash you may find. No need to necessarily look for trash, but if you just notice it, pick it up rather than ignoring it. The little things can make a difference. If you want to take more action if you notice a particularly dirty trail, plan a clean-up hike – come prepared with bags and commit to keeping it clean.
  3. Stay on the designated trail – Although side trail excursions to see a particular view may be tempting, stay on the main trail rather than off-shoots. Trails are typically designed for the hikers’ best interest in mind, so just follow the designated trail and stay on track. If you venture off, the trails may need to be closed off and restored for some time. The longer you stay on sustainable trails, the longer it will be open and enjoyed.
  4. Leave what you find (nature) – Examine the beautiful nature around you, but do not touch. Leave rocks, plants, flowers, etc. as you found them, and don’t build structures or dig trenches. Leave the trails as they are so that they can continuously be enjoyed by all people who may visit.

Keep on hiking and let me know how you are committing to keeping your local trails clean!

Take a Hike for your Mind

Hike

When people hear hiking, a lot of the time they think of it as a kind of work out. Because of this, it makes hikers need more of a motivational push to go outdoors and actually do it. But hiking doesn’t always have to be about getting in that workout and pushing yourself to do it, believe it or not, there are other options.

A recent article from PopSugar stated that Baltimore’s own, American actress Anna Faris hikes because she values it as her time to be alone and keep in touch with her emotions.

Faris helps to bring up the great point that hiking can be a brilliant exercise for not just the body, but also the mind. It clears your head and lets you focus on little things. It is a time of solitude and reflection.

In another recent article, poet-biologist-rhetorician from Massachusetts, Susan Johnson said that she hikes for a number of reasons: the view, the people she meets, how both calming and energizing it is, and most of all, for the scenes in her mind after. To Johnson, hiking is a completely different exercise from an actual work out.

Personally, I think of hiking the same way that Faris and Johnson do. Of course, at times, hiking is a great opportunity to work out and get your heart rate up, but other times, it is the perfect opportunity to relax and reflect on both yourself and the beauty of the environment around you.

I have always loved to be out in nature, and as I grew up, I learned to appreciate it for being the perfect getaway. A couple years ago, my mom, sister, and I used to live in a townhouse around a local lake. It was the perfect area for enjoying nature and going on trails all around.

There was one trail I would follow to get to this specific spot right against the lake’s edge – I would always go there a lot when I felt like I needed to clear my head. Being alone and away from all the hustle and bustle of the world is a perfect time to reflect and appreciate the beauty around you.

Lake
The local lake where I lived

            Hiking is truly a time to stop and smell the roses. It has endless benefits to become more mindful and to just appreciate the trail for what it is. Here are a few examples of how you can hike for your mind and how it will truly benefit you.

  1. Engage in meditation – meditation is the practice of focusing the mind or working the brain. While you hike, try to focus on your breath, body, and the natural beauty around you. Controlling your thoughts on a hike can keep you focused on what’s in front of you and not all the other worries in the word.
  2. Engage your senses – making an awareness of your senses can also help you focus on the moment, and make your body feel more balanced. As you take note of your senses, your body will relax, and your mind will settle.
  3. Relax the mind – hiking can help relieve stress through simple relaxation. By casually hiking in nature, you rid yourself of the stresses of everyday life. Some studies even prove that relaxation through hiking can also help lower the risk of depression.

Hiking is the perfect opportunity to focus on the little things and use it as a time of solitude and reflection. So, next time you go on a hike, try to take a few moments and meditate, relax, and engage your senses to keep your mind happy and fulfill your spirit. Let me know if you try a mindful hike and how it benefited you.

Take a Hike, Bring your Phone

trail

As the weather starts to heat up with spring finally pushing out Maryland’s cold winter, many people are excited to get back outdoors and reconnect with nature. A spring hike is a highly popular way to welcome this newly warm weather – and is personally my favorite. The crisp fresh air, warm sun, hidden trails, and blooming nature all contribute to the exciting hike.

It is so easy to get lost in the beauty of it all, and sometimes people really do. And when I say lost, I mean really lost. Hiking truly is an exciting adventure, but it also can come with many hazards and risks along the way.

A recent article stated that in Mississippi’s De Soto National Forest, a search and rescue team spent three hours looking for a family that got lost on a casual afternoon hike. Officials said that the family had actually left the trail, but that the scare of this occurrence should serve as a warning that hiking trails can be dangerous if not properly prepared for. This seemed to be a bit of a stretch for me, but they do bring up an important point.

It is very easy for hikers to get lost even though they may think they are following the correct trail. Paths sometimes have side trails guiding hiker’s in an off direction rather than staying on the main path.

To prepare, hikers should be sure to have the basic essentials such as snacks, water, first aid supplies, and of course, a phone. I know, technology sometimes distracts from the excitement and beauty of the trail itself, but with a little technological help you can hit the trails with even more confidence and be sure that you’re as safe as you could possibly be.

Here are some of the best apps to download just to make sure your casual hike keeps you on the right trail.

  1. AllTrails – This app is my all-time favorite, go-to app when I go hiking. With access to more than 50,000 trail maps, directions to physical trails, descriptions, and pictures, AllTrails is the perfect guide for the outdoors. This app has settings to filter your options by length, rating, and difficulty. It even shows tags telling you specific aspects along a trail (dog-friendly, birding, forest, lake, etc.). AllTrails will plot your progress along a trail map, display upcoming terrain, and track your statistics. It even saves this information so that you can see your progress and share it with social media.
  2. Cairn – This app is the perfect hiking safety net. It allows you to download topographic maps and use them while you’re offline in the wilderness. It also finds cell phone coverage spots to help you stay connected to the outside world if need be. Cairn even has a special feature where you can set it to automatically send notifications to selected emergency contacts alerting them if you are out on a hike longer than initially expected.
  3. Map My Hike – This is another one of the best hike tracking apps, and it’s backed by the world’s largest digital health and fitness community – Under Armor. This app allows you to log and track our hike, connect with social media, create challenges, analyze your data and more. Map My Hike is the perfect hiking motivation app since it measures your hike statistics and allows you to review your progress in a detailed manner.
  4. ViewRanger – This app provides hikers with access to thousands of trails all around the world – there are endless opportunities. You can pick from a variety of street maps, satellite images, and terrain maps to follow, or you can even make your own. ViewRanger is even claimed to be used by a number of search and rescue teams because of its great navigation system.

And every one of these apps are free and available for downloading on any iOS smartphone. That’s always a plus for me!

So, download some hiking apps and hit the trails with full confidence that you can find your way along the path. Stay safe and enjoy the hike!

A Hiker’s Best Friend

Two new hikers have recently become huge in the social media world, but they’re not the typical hikers you would expect. These hikers are a cat and dog duo.

The unlikely friendship of Henry (dog) and Baloo (cat) is so unique as they are constantly attached and love going on long walks and hiking trips in the great outdoors. Hundreds of thousands of people have begun to follow this duo’s adorable adventures on Instagram – me being one of them (they’re just so cute!).

Henry is a rescue dog mix of a German Shepard, Husky, Boxer, Staffordshire Terrier and Aussie. Poor Henry had a bit of separation anxiety, so his owners decided to get him a little friend – rescued Siamese mix Baloo.

Ever since, the bond between these two has been inseparable. They love going out on hikes, with Baloo in his most comfortable spot – on top of Henry’s head.

Many people who go hiking enjoy having a companion, and what better than a pet? My sister and I personally run an Instagram account for our adorable rescue pup Sami, and she for sure has a lot of energy. Being just about a year old, our little girl needs a lot of activity to at least tire her out a little, so hiking trails here we come! Aside from just the cute pictures on Instagram, casual hikers need to be sure they have everything they need to make the best of hiking with their dog.

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My family rescue dog Sami on her first hike

First off, find tail-friendly trails for you and your bud. Hiking trails are not always dog friendly, so before going out on your adventure, make sure it is welcoming for you and your companion. Also, make sure the trail is easy on your dogs’ paws so they don’t get hurt from walking on the specific trail.

Make sure you have a good harness and leash for your dog. Don’t just rely on a collar since it could easily slip off, get a harness that is comfortable and doesn’t chafe. Also, make sure your dog has a tag with its name, your telephone number and rabies tag. Be sure to get a strong leash that is short heeling and not too long to make sure your dog stays by your side.

Poop bags. Bring them with you. Not much more to say there, just clean up your pooches’ poop.

Food, or in other words, one of a dog’s favorite things. Be sure to feed your dog a regular meal before hiking and bring along small snacks and treats to keep up their energy. Water (and portable/ collapsible bowls) is also essential for dogs on a hike. Dehydration can easily occur, so be sure to watch for excessive panting and drooling, or stumbling, confusion, or disorientation. To prevent any of this, let your dog drink water every time you drink. Stay hydrated!

Again, dogs typically need some ways to get out all their energy, and what better way than hiking? Hiking benefits both you and your pooch as you keep each other company on your outdoor workout adventure.

Not everyone’s pets can become as popular as Henry and Baloo, but you can always adventure like them. Become your own duo and go on a hike with your dog! Sami and I definitely love to hike when we get the chance. Let me know when you and your dog go on your own outdoor adventures!