This hiking journal entry won't blow you away with an adventurous tale from a 6 month Appalachian Trail experience. However, I do think what I experienced is worth writing about. On my last hike, I learned a few lessons that I think will help some of my readers. Last weekend I went on a hike that AllTrails rated as "easy" and it was fairly short - about 6 miles in and out. It was located in a very densely forested area of Issaquah, Washington. A mile into the hike I noticed I was having to make several decisions about which direction I needed to go. At several points during the hike I had to decide left or right. After my fourth directional decision, I started to feel like I might not remember how to get back. During the hike I saw several people on the trail so figured I could just ask someone how to get back to the trailhead if it came to that. I was fine, but that feeling of uncertainty was in the back of my mind even as I was enjoying all of the wonderful sites on the trail. When I finally got to the summit of the trail I rested, ate, took a few pics, and started back in the opposite direction - or so I thought.
After about 1.5 miles I came to a clearing where I was sure I turned right going the opposite direction, so I went left. For a time I recognized the terrain, but soon after things started looking unfamiliar. I was heading west, so I knew that even if I was lost I was generally going in the right direction. Of course, I didn't see one person I might ask for directions during the time I wasn't sure where I was. So I kept walking. About a mile later I knew I was lost, but I felt in my gut I was close to where I needed to be just not quite on course.
Fortunately, this trail was not out in a very remote area so wasn't super nervous. I didn't think I was anywhere near considering going into survival mode - I even laughed at the thought myself when it briefly came to my mind! However, because I had just walked downhill a few miles my feet were starting to hurt - especially my toes! I promised myself I would definitely be writing a blog post about how to protect your toes on a hike. As I said, the hike was not that long so I eventually made it back to a trailhead that was a few miles away from the one where I started the hike. When I arrived there I asked a woman if she knew where any other trailheads were and she pointed me in what turned out to be the wrong direction. After a mile or so of walking in that direction, my gut told me to turn around so I did. I came back to the same trailhead where I had asked for directions and just took a look on the trail map and saw that the original trailhead I started at was about 2 miles in the opposite direction that the woman I asked for directions had told me to go. I remember she kept asking me if I saw a school near the trailhead I started from and was sure I didn't have a picture of the trailhead map that finally revealed my position and where I needed to go to get back to my car, but it looked like the one pictured below:
So I started back on the trail feeling much better. I wasn't lost anymore but I still had about 2 miles to hike to get back to my car. By this time my feet were hurting pretty badly, but not enough for any real concern. The trail didn't lead me exactly straight back to the trailhead, and I overshot my car by about a half mile. The trailhead I came back to was in an area that I remembered driving by on my way to the hike, so I walked on the street outside of the park to get back to my vehicle, alive and well.
So here are the lessons I learned:
Do take pictures of various signs you pass by while hiking. It will help you know where you turned right or left on your way in.
Always bring a compass and make sure your phone is charged
Ask people on the trail any questions you might have. You never know when you are going to see another person.
Take a picture of the trailhead map
If the trailhead has a name, it might indicate that there are other trailheads so remember or take a pic of the name of the trailhead. In my case, I actually could not remember the name of the trailhead I started from. Two people I asked for directions, asked me the name of the trailhead where I was parked, and I could not remember it!
Next, on the website, survivaltopic.com I found a list of "16 simple ways to protect your toes when hiking downhill":
Wear hiking boots that are 1/2 a size larger
Ensure to break in your new shoes
Wear two pairs of socks
Learn the right lacing techniques
Re-tie your boots periodically
Cut your toenails so that they are straight
Make sure your boots have good arch support
Extra insoles are always handy
Not all of the suggestions on the list above make sense to me personally, but most of them do. I would also suggest using trekking poles, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and maybe even getting silicone toe protectors to wear while hiking. And lastly, buying a good pair of hiking footwear is a must, just break them in before you go on a hike in them.