You work your way up a beaten path laden with blueberry bushes and lichen. Your breathing mirrors the ebb and flow of the distant ocean as you faintly hear the tide collide with the coastline. Moss covers the ground in a blanket as you walk through a section of tall birch and spruce. The shadowy canopy breaks to illuminate a rocky outcrop where the ocean extends beyond the horizon and the salty sea air welcomes you home.
This is Armchair Hiking. With over 330 documented trails here in Newfoundland and Labrador, there is a pretty good chance you are close to at least one (AllTrails.com, 2020). However, this doesn’t always mean that you’re comfortable on them.
This September we are celebrating our trails and encouraging intersectional environmentalism by sharing our trail experiences through blog posts, pictures and videos! Nature NL believes that enjoying nature should be an accessible activity for ALL. So let us introduce you to a new trail or re-experience an old favourite, whether it’s from the comfort of your home or out in the fresh air. Follow our social media accounts (facebook, instagram, twitter) throughout September for our trail stories, and document your own trail travels using the hashtag #TrailTrekNL.
But first, let’s talk about why we love hiking:
Hiking is one of the most immersive ways to experience nature. From the sensory stimulations of smelling wildflowers or taking in scenic views, hiking and walking offer us a way to connect to nature. Trails—from rocky hill climbs to gently graded urban paths—give us an affordable opportunity to exercise and serve diverse user groups. Trails are also important for transportation. No matter how long or short, trails and greenways can be used as a greener form of transportation as they are almost exclusively enjoyed by pedestrians and cyclists. Our urban trails aren’t just for nature walks: they also form critical links between neighbours and neighbourhoods.
Ready to get hiking? Here’s what you need to know before you go:
For beginner hikers, it may be overwhelming when preparing for a hike. Here are some tips to ensure your safety and comfort while hiking:
- Watch the weather:
- Especially in Newfoundland where the weather changes each hour. Pack your backpack for the weather you might get into, not the weather right now. Knowing what to expect beforehand can help you stay dry and warm, even in the summer months!
- For extra tips on dressing right in the outdoors, check out our friend TA Loeffler’s “Layering 101” video on YouTube (originally presented as part of the Becoming an Outdoors Woman 2020 virtual event).
- Go with a buddy (or buddies):
- Find someone who you are comfortable hiking with—think friends with similar speeds and goals for the hike. And remember: the group should hike at the speed of the slowest hiker so that no one is left behind. The buddy system is a safe way to enjoy nature and it is much more fun to enjoy nature together.
- Find a trail that matches your ability and expectations:
- Be honest about your hiking skill and expectations. When researching hikes either online or using an app (i.e. AllTrails), look for hikes that match your abilities and goals.. Most trails have a difficulty rating but be sure to pair that with the elevation, as changes in elevation can make even an “easy”-rated hike more challenging than you might expect.
- Be prepared:
- Make sure you plan for the length of the hike (i.e. quick hour hike, day trip, or longer). Gear may change depending on how long you intend to be on the trail; this is where dressing appropriately for weather and trail conditions is paramount. And remember, the weather may change, so dress for what you might experience, not just current conditions. Always take water (more if it’s hot), and snacks are also always a good call.
- Leave a trip plan:
- Notify someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. This is important to ensure your safety if you run into any trouble.
- Things to include in a trip plan are:
- Where you’re going;
- When you are expecting to be back;
- Who you’re going with;
- Any other details specific to your hike (i.e. who to contact if you are unreachable, etc.)