“A man on foot, or horseback or on bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.” –Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Although the need to “see it all” while exploring the National Parks is totally understandable, wilderness-proponent Edward Abbey spoke of some truth in his Desert Solitaire reflections: you cannot fully experience nature from the inside of your car. How can you hear the sounds of water flowing down a creek, or smell wildflowers, or experience a place free from human intrusions if you don’t get off the road?

IMG_6858Out there and happy… Even short moments in nature are worth experiencing.

If that’s not convincing enough and you still feel the need to quickly cruise through the parks, here’s another fact for you: in the case of Yellowstone National Park, even if you drive down every road, you will only see 1% of the park’s entire land area. One percent!

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.09.42 PMIt’s still beautiful… but there’s so much more!

In this week’s edition of NATURE RULES, our reminder to you is that experiencing nature isn’t about quantity, but quality: so get out of your car, breathe the fresh air, and go explore a new place away from the bustling and busy roads at your own pace.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.21.15 PMReconnect with the beauty of the world on your own two feet.

Perhaps what’s keeping you on the road and off the trails is the uncertainty involved in leaving the safety of your vehicle and entering into the elements on foot. If you’re new to hiking, it can seem like a daunting activity only meant for “outdoorsy” folk, but we’re here to offer you tips and tricks so you feel prepared for your first time hitting the trails.

So what are you waiting for? Get inspired, get out of your car, get off your bum, and get OUT THERE!

  1. DO the RESEARCH: there are tons of online resources, maps, books, or park rangers to set you in the right direction. Know your group’s ability, and find a hike that will be enjoyable for you.

  2. PACK and PREPARE: you should be carrying plenty of water and food for the day, a first-aid kit, a map and compass, and (depending on where you are) bear spray. Be ready for changes in the weather, and pack an extra jacket or extra layers (especially if you are gaining elevation—higher elevations lead to cooler weather).

  3. DRESS your BEST: review the day’s weather conditions and dress properly based on the temperature. Comfortable and breathable clothing that protects your skin from the sun is ideal for summer hikes. Wear plenty of sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

  4. PROTECT your TOES: your Nike gym shoes probably aren’t the best footwear option while hiking on dirt trails: you need sturdy, ankle-protecting boots or running shoes that have plenty of tread so you don’t slip on rocks or loose dirt.

  5. TELL SOMEONE: if you are planning a longer hike, consider letting a friend or family member know about your plans and when you expect to return. If something goes wrong, you can be assured that someone knows where you are.

  6. LEAVE NO TRACE: review and practice these LNT guidelines to help protect the precious places you hike through here.

  7. DON’T GO ALONE: while solo-ventures may be tempting, the dangers of hiking alone far outweigh the benefits. Ideally, hike in groups of three or more.

  8. REFUEL OFTEN: you should eat plenty of snacks to prevent any hunger, and drink consistently during your hike.

  9. TAKE BREAKS: consider hiking in intervals of 20-30 minutes, and allow your group time to stop, take photos, refuel, and enjoy the views.

  10. DISCONNECT: turn off your phone (or set it in airplane mode) and keep it in your backpack; in the off-chance you have service, take this chance to take a break from the internet and fully enjoy your hike. Instagram isn’t going anywhere.