The Tenets of the Trail
Guidelines every hiker should know before setting out
If you love the great outdoors or have read one of our previous blogs on hiking in South Florida, you may be raring to hit the trail this summer as part of your weight loss workout. As your weight loss surgeon may have told you, walking is a low-impact cardio exercise that constitutes one of the very best ways to work out after bariatric surgery, and few places are better for a great walk than the beautiful parks near North Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
A day of hiking can be an exciting way to burn some calories once you’re ready to take part in more strenuous activity, helping you relieve stress and maintain the weight you’ve lost. However, just as you shouldn’t brave the trail without all the right equipment (water, hiking shoes, sun protection, etc.) or clearance from your doctor, there are several guidelines that everyone should follow on a hike—rules of the road aimed at keeping the trail experience perfect for every outdoor enthusiast.
Regardless of how remote your chosen hiking destination is, there’s a chance you’ll come across someone else on the trail. To make sure everyone has a stellar outdoor experience, be sure to follow these common rules of hiking etiquette:
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
Rocks, flowers and other interesting things you come across on the trail may make tempting souvenirs, but removing them from nature prevents the next hiker from appreciating their beauty as well. Instead of taking them with you, bring your camera along to snap a memento of the interesting things you find. By the same token, everything you bring with you on the trail should come with you when you leave. Littering ruins the environment you went hiking to enjoy, so do your best to keep the trail untarnished.
Be quiet as the trees.
Many hikers seek out nature to get away from the noise pollution that plagues most highly-populated areas. Though you shouldn’t feel compelled to take an oath of silence before starting your hike, try to keep your noise within reason out of respect to others who are there to enjoy the calming tranquility of nature.
Nature has no shortcuts.
When it comes to hiking, especially for weight loss, the journey is the whole point. Cutting switchbacks or looking for shortcuts will make your hike ultimately less rewarding and may even damage the environment you trudge through. Keep in mind that the trail is the safest place for you during any hike and that straying from it can be dangerous.
Learn the rules of yielding.
In many parks, hikers aren’t the only ones using the trails. You may encounter equestrians, cyclists and even ATV drivers on any given day in the woods, and these modes of transportation all move at different speeds. To smooth the process of sharing the trail, keep these guidelines in mind.
- Stay right, pass on the left. Much like highway driving, this will make things much easier for those who are traveling at a faster pace. If you’re passing another traveler, be sure to give them a verbal warning as you approach.
- Bikers yield to horses and hikers. Cyclists move fast, but have high mobility, making it easy to yield right of way to other travelers. Keep in mind, however, that hikers are usually the smallest and slowest things on the trail, so it may be in your best interest to yield to all larger, faster travelers.
- Hikers and bikers yield to horses. Horses are big, unpredictable animals. You should let them pass in every situation.
- Always yield to uphill hikers. There aren’t many hills in the North Miami area, but this is a good rule to keep in mind if you take a hike elsewhere in the country. Hiking uphill takes a lot more work, so you should yield to an uphill hiker if you come across one while traveling downhill. Despite this common rule, many uphill hikers will choose to give up right of way to stop for a quick break. Regardless, the decision should be made by the uphill hiker.
- Hikers in groups yield to single or couple hikers. This is common courtesy to smaller parties who may be moving quicker than those in big groups. However, it can often be difficult to get a large group out of the way, so many single and couple hikers will choose to yield to groups. Again, you should let them decide whether or not to give you right of way.
Though you should make an effort to learn these rules before hitting the trail, don’t let them distract you from the hiking experience. As long as you’re courteous to other travelers and the natural environment around you, you’ll make sure that everyone enjoys their time in the woods as much as you do.