Use this list of safe hiking tips to keep you moving.
• Know your limits and the limits of your companions. Don't undertake a hike that is too long for your capabilities.
• Plan ahead by finding out about the trail and prominent landmarks.
• Use bug spray before you leave and bring some with you.
• Bring a water bottle. On longer hikes, bring snacks.
• Learn to use a compass and map and bring them with you. Stay on trails if they are marked. Make mental notes of unique landmarks to help find your way back.
• Use sunscreen.
• Dress in layers to be ready for changes in weather conditions.
• Use hiking boots or sturdy walking shoes and break them in before the hike.
• Use a hat for protection from cold, sunburn and insects.
• Consider using a walking stick, especially for balance on rocky or uneven trails.
• Bring small easy-to-carry binoculars if you want to watch birds or wildlife.
• For fitness, a brisk walk of 15 minutes per mile will get your heart pumping. More advanced walkers can walk at a pace of 12 minutes per mile. A stroll of 20 minutes per mile will allow time to view wildlife and foliage and still has benefits for physical and mental health.
• When hiking with young children, pick short hikes with interesting features like streams or big rocks. Allow lots of time for them to investigate along the way. Take frequent breaks and give children control over the pace and when to stop for lunch. Help them have fun.
Sources: The American Hiking Society, www.americanhiking.org and Anne Kiefferof the Marathon County chapter of the Ice Age Trail.