The avid hiking culture prevalent in and around Asheville could easily be intimidating to a self-proclaimed beginner, but with the easy tips, you’ll be ranging the Blue Ridge with the best of them in no time.
Bring a friend.
As a beginning hiker, it is important that you include someone else on your exploratory journey. Your hiking partner need not be a pro, or even an experienced hiker. He or she should, however, be able to find enjoyment in the small things, be willing to soak in the journey rather than focus on the destination, and be able-bodied enough to find help if necessary.
Bring plenty of water
The last thing you want to deal with on a beautiful hike is the lack of basics. Don’t neglect the necessities, like comfortable shoes, layers of clothing, and most importantly, water. A water bottle is a necessity. When you inevitably find that little cove that looks lovely to spend some time exploring, or a grove of rhododendron growing over the path that begs for a photograph, you’ll be glad you brought the one thing that can extend your hiking experience.
Don’t be afraid to look like a dork.
Hiking isn’t a fashion show, as much as we Americans love our sporting gear. You really don’t need the latest North Face or Patagonia gear to enjoy hiking. Just wear long pants (poison ivy, snakes, thorns), solid shoes meant for outdoor use, and be prepared for quick changes of weather with a light layer or two.
Carry a camera, but don’t stay planted behind it.
Take the time to study your surroundings as you hike. Using a camera is a great way to slow down and appreciate the small things that you will see along the path. Don’t, however, stay stuck behind it to the detriment of your own personal enjoyment. You can’t capture how the changing light dapples the leaves, or how the breeze lifts up fresh, earthy smells. Enjoy the journey.
Scramble over some big rocks and climb a few strong trees.
Take a break from trudging the path and let your inner child come out to play. The tree that grows horizontally for a span is an excellent bench, and worthy of spending a moment exploring. Climb a rock that has been warming in the sun and discover its secrets: veins of quartz, the striations of sediment, and the wearing of time.
Look up as you walk.
Roots, loose rocks and leaves, and uneven ground sneak up quickly unless you pay close attention, making it easy to get lost in watching the path before you. The world, however, is much bigger than the six inches closest to the ground, and even a stumble here and there is worth watching how the world changes as you walk.
Breathe deeply, fully, and consciously.
Let the benefits of being in nature fully do their work by taking time to breathe. Let the stress at the back of your mind recede, focus on how your body feels and what it senses, and just breathe. The sound of your own breath should fill your ears and vibrate with the energy of the living world surrounding you.
Feel the vibrations. Go on: Feel it feel it.
Marky Mark insists on it.
Speak in hyperbole, and loudly.
It is completely appropriate to exclaim wonderingly about the things you see and discover along the trail, especially if those things are an eagle sighting, a pop of color in a brown field, the interplay of light through leaves, or a cluster of bright orange mushrooms peeking from behind a decomposing log. It is also completely appropriate to grasp the hand of your hiking partner and insist that they share in your audible appreciation of the blue mountains.
But not too loudly.