Happy Summer Solstice! Although we’ve been having a cool summer so far here in Southern California, I know this perfect hiking weather won’t last much longer and hot days are on their way. I have to be honest; I am not a fan of hiking in warm weather. I would rather hike in a snow storm over a heat wave any day. But since I am not willing to give up hiking when the days warm up, I learned how to make it more comfortable and safer. Here are my top 5 tips for hiking in warm weather.
When the weather warms up, I start watching temperatures in the early morning. Starting earlier allows me to hike while there is still coolness from the night and before the sun has had a chance to warm everything up. I aim to be finished with my hike before the temperature reaches 80 degrees, so that means sometimes starting as early as sunrise and/or hiking a shorter route to be finished before it gets too hot. I calculate the mileage I am hiking, and how long it should take me to complete it, and then start as early as needed to be finished before it warms up.
Temperature drops the higher in elevation you go. You will lose an average of 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet of elevation you gain, so the higher you go, the cooler it gets. Summer is the time I head to the mountains and bag a few peaks. Usually temps on the mountain are pretty moderate when it heats up off the mountain. Plus, usually mountain trails have more trees than non-mountain trails so there is typically more shade.
Wear Proper Clothing
Wearing the proper clothing for hiking in warm weather can really improve how comfortable you are. Wear loose fitting, light colored, and breathable synthetic materials that cover your skin. Make sure the clothing you choose has a UPF factor of 30+ and if it has venting, you’ll be even cooler. Brands like Columbia, REI’s Sahara, ExOfficio, Arc’teryx, and Outdoor Research all have great hot weather hiking shirt options.
My favorites are the Omni Freeze shirts from Columbia and the Sahara shirts from REI.
Also, wear a hat and add a neck gaiter with cooling properties dunked in water as well. I usually jut wear an old-fashioned bandana but sometimes will opt for a technical neck gaiter instead if it will be extra warm.
Here is the neck gaiter I use:
Carry Extra Water
Dehydration can be a real threat when hiking in dry and warm weather. I always bring way more than enough water when I hike, and even more if it’s warm out. I also drink from a bladder instead of a bottle so water is easily available to me throughout the hike. If you are new to hiking, especially in warm temperatures, I would recommend a minimum of one liter per hour of hiking. I also carry a life straw in my first aide kit so I am able to drink filtered water from the source should I run out of water. Of course, there would need to be water available on the trail for me to use the straw which is fairly uncommon in Southern California. Make sure to include electrolytes such as Nuun tablets in your first aide kit for added electrolytes and minerals that are lost when you sweat.
Leave Your Pup at Home
I love hiking with my pup more than anything but when the temperature rises, I leave him at home. As a general rule, I will not take him with me if the temperature at the hottest part of my hike will be higher than 75 degrees. My dog is black so he gets hotter faster than a lighter colored dog. Also, take into consideration the ground temperature. If hiking on surfaces that absorb heat (pavement, sand, etc. make sure your pup’s paws will not get burned. If you are unable to hold the back of your hand on the ground for longer than 10 seconds, your dog’s paws will get burned. You can also outfit your pup with booties such as these to protect their feet from the hot ground.
Make sure you have plenty of water for your dog, along with a pack-able bowl for them to drink out of. Dogs tend to hide their symptoms if they are in distress, so they may not show any heat related symptoms until it is too late. If you have any doubt about bringing them with you, leave them home. Check out this infographic from Pet Plan Insurance that outlines temperatures and hiking with your dog.
We hope you have a happy summer full of amazing hikes!
We all know hiking is great for your physical body and can build strength, help to maintain a healthy weight, improve balance and coordination, strengthen cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and help control diabetes but what can it do for our minds? Check out these 5 benefits hiking has on your mind.
1. Hiking helps relieve anxiety.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety," says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. "Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that."
Taking a hike in nature means getting away from your everyday stress, slowing down, re-connecting with yourself, and becoming present in your surroundings. The sounds of nature, birds, flowing water, wind in the trees have a calming effect on your brain and help to stop any anxiety you may have.
2. Hiking lowers levels of rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self).
A Stanford led study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found “through a controlled experiment, we investigated whether nature experience would influence rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness. Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world”.
Negative thoughts can cause self esteem issues, low confidence, fatigue, less clarity of mind, and now are being associated with illness and disease. These thoughts can be improved with just a 90 minute hike in nature!
3. Hiking makes you feel happy.
Dopamine and Serotonin are two neurochemicals that make you feel happy. Dopamine is responsible for improving mood and stimulating pleasurable feelings. Serotonin helps to decrease depression and anger and is known as the happy chemical. According to research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, they found that just a single 40-minute period of exercise can have an immediate effect on mood. It is believed that this effect on mood is due to what is known sometimes as a “runners high” which comes from an increase in dopamine after a run (or a hike).
4. Hiking keeps you in the present moment.
"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present"- Eckhart Tolle
Although you might day dream a bit while hiking, for the most part you are in the present moment for most of your hike. It’s hard to hike on a trail without being conscious of where your feet are, if you’re thirsty, paying attention to not getting lost, etc. You are forced to stay in the present moment to be able to hike without getting hurt or lost.
So what is so good about being in the present moment? The ability to be mindful can create improved focus & concentration, help to make clearer decisions, improve memory, improve mood, and promote peaceful thoughts. It also allows your mind to re-connect to your body and become aware of emotions, feelings, and anything you may not have been aware of while distracted.
5. Hiking boosts creativity and problem solving.
Research showed that a four day immersion in nature while disconnected from technology and/or multi media increased performance on creativity and problem-solving tasks a full 50% for the hikers involved in the experiment. The study found that technology and urban environments are greatly distracting, thus taking away from the ability to focus and have a negative impact on cognitive skills. Unplugging and stepping into nature for a hike will boost creativity and cognitive skills.
Whether you're a Zen Master or not, the benefits of hiking go on and on including these five benefits to your mind while hiking.
Five years ago today, I was laying in the dirt on a trail with a shattered and dislocated ankle with pieces of bone pressing against my skin so hard I developed fracture blisters that left scars that still remind me everyday of my accident. I literally felt like I could die from the pain before the fire department (aka amazing hero angels) would have time to get to me. I was supposed to be celebrating my birthday, not waiting to be rescued from one of my favorite trails. As I laid there, mostly in shock, and in indescribable pain, I couldn’t have imagined one day I would be grateful for my injury. I could have never guessed how much my life would change for the better, and how that traumatic injury would open a new path to becoming a happier and healthier me.
You see, before my accident, I was kind of a mess. I didn’t know how to say no to anyone, I was a hopeless perfectionist, an obsessive over achiever, a workaholic, and a chronic people pleaser. I never put myself first, and took care of everyone else before my needs were met. I lived mostly in the past, chained to past failures and hurts I didn’t know how to let go of, and my stress and anxiety were so out of control I began to manifest OCD symptoms, and panic attacks were fairly common. I was unhappy and really good at avoiding my emotions by staying busy and never stopping (physically, mentally, or spiritually) to feel them, let alone deal with them. It wasn’t the true me and it wasn’t healthy.
It’s amazing now looking back at my injury, and the difficult recovery, and being able to see what a special time that was for me. I’ve found my recovery, as hard as it was physically and even more so emotionally, was where the true healing was. I literally was forced to be quiet with myself for months. After two surgeries and two months in a wheelchair I couldn’t run out and help someone else when my emotions came up. I sat on my couch in pain, physically and emotionally, and was forced to feel what I had pushed down for so long. I cried- I cried so much, years worth of tears I never allowed to flow. I wrote in my blog and I started to feel myself healing. I started to feel like me again. I also understood how healing and important hiking was for me and knew it was something I really wanted to be able to do again and would not take for granted. I had a deep awakening and my perception really changed. I realized I had been living a life I didn’t want anymore and that I could change it as I create my own reality. The magic was already inside of me to do so, and all I had to do was turn it on.
I truly believe that everything in life (whether you perceive it as “good” or “bad”) happens for you and not to you. It took a severe injury and months of recovery and then five years of walking a new path to really understand the beauty in that. I’m still healing in so many ways, as we all are, and am grateful I am able to get in nature and hike as much as I can. Hiking is the one thing that puts my perspective back in a healthy place when I start to feel the old people pleasing, perfectionist, anxious, stressed out me show up. It truly is magical and now I get to share that magic with so many people through Hike It Off and even more with the launch of the magazine. This is my purpose. This is who I really am and I am so thankful for this journey, even the really tough and painful parts. So happy birthday to me and thank you for following me on this incredible journey we call life.
For the first time in many years Dry Lake in the San Gorgonio Wilderness is full! It’s absolutely stunning so take a hike up soon and enjoy the beauty! Here’s a great trail write up to plan your hike with:
I love hikes that are full of history and if they have an old mine I literally freak out. So of course this hike has been on my radar for awhile to check out.
The Big Horn Mine was staked in 1891 by a man named Charles Tom Vincent, aka Charles Vincent Dougherty after finding gold while hunting the area's Big Horn Sheep. Many others owned and operated the mine off and on up until 1985 when it was deemed not feasible to continue operation of the mine. For the full history click here:
For details on the mine stats here:
The trail starts at the Vincent Gap Trailhead. Instead of heading up to Baden Powell, take a left and head down the trail towards Mine Gulch. It is pretty straight forward after this. Follow the old wagon road that winds along the creek and enjoy the beautiful views of Mt. Baldy. The trail will start to go back up and you will see a sign that points you towards Mine Gulch- stay right and continue along the wagon road that hugs the back side of Baden Powell. At just over 2 miles the mine will come into sight. Great area to explore and take pictures. Return the same way you came.
Elevation Gain: +/- 550 ft
Elevation at Mine: +/- 7,000 ft
Details: Dog Friendly (Leash Required), Adventure Pass Required for Parking, Year Round Hiking, Fairly Maintained Trail (there was a washed out section but it was passable), Primitive Restrooms at Trailhead
Trailhead: Vincent Gap- https://goo.gl/maps/vCYWMaQxAA4tbphN8
Park Information: www.fs.usda.gov/angeles/
As a 5'9" tall woman with a super long torso and "junk in the trunk" finding hiking clothing that fits well has always been a challenge. Pants are usually too short and bottoms are too tight in the rear and saggy at the waist. So I can empathize with all the women who just can't seem to find anything that fits, especially if the brand doesn't even carry your size.
One of our criteria for our gear reviews includes whether or not that brand carries plus sized gear and clothing. It is so important for women of all shapes to be included in the outdoors and good gear and clothing for us is a must. So I put a list of my top 5 favorite brands that also carry plus sized clothing and/or gear that is legit.
PrAna makes my favorite hiking pants ever, the Halle Pant. They are durable, super comfortable, water resistant, breathable, have a 50 UPF sun protection and plenty of give. They just fit super well and look cute too. They offer them in sizes 00-22W and have short, regular, and tall inseams. The Halle Pant comes in multiple colors and has pockets! They are cross functional and can be used as climbing, hiking, office, travel, and hang out pants. Here's a video of me wearing them in action on a 4-day backpacking trip through Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite NP.
P.S. Ignore the terrified look on my face ( I hate log crossings).
2. Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
We love Purple Rain skirts and their Founder Mandy Bland. She is such an inspiration as an entrepreneur and Mom. Her innovative design for the skirts make them practical for the trail and so comfortable. They are lightweight, durable and dry in a flash with 88% Polyester/12% Spandex blend and DWR finish. They are super cute with leggings for added warmth and modesty. Waistbands are woven with moisture wicking yarn to keep you dry and cool and they have UV Protection 40+. They are sized XS-XXL and she also can custom make any size needed with a special order.
3. REI Co-Op
REI is doing an awesome job of adding more and more plus sized clothing and gear in their own brand and carrying more from other brands as well. I adore the Sahara shirt and literally live in them (hiking or not). It fits me way better than Columbia's version of a hiking shirt in the chest and is longer in the torso. They also have a more modern cut to them and work off trail too. The Sahara shirt has:
I love hiking in yoga/tights especially ones with side pockets for my phone. Athleta makes an awesome pair of 7/8 tights that have a side pocket hat my phone fits perfectly in. They are high quality and mid-waisted and come in sizes XS-2X with regular, tall, and petite inseams.
Pant details are:
Although I am not a fan of their sun shirts, Columbia makes some great jackets for the cost that come in sizes 00-3X. I have used my Columbia rain jacket for three seasons and it is still holding up and waterproof and I got it for less than $60 on sale!
We've had the most spectacular Spring this year in Southern California. Way beyond the "Poppygeddon" we had in Lake Elsinore, the flowers just keep on blooming! Here are a few of my favorites I ran into the past couple months on the trail. Click on each photo for flower name and location.
Earth Day is a big deal around here. We love celebrating it with a new way to show love for our planet each year. Here are five ways you can celebrate Earth Day too!
1. Plant an organic garden. There’s nothing like fresh home grown veggies and growing your own is easy, inexpensive, and helps save all the pollution from transporting your vegetables from the farm to your grocery store. Start with easy vegetables to grow like tomatoes, lettuces, and zucchini.
2. Ride your bike to work once a week. Get a workout and save gas money!
3. Volunteer at a local preserve/park/trail. There are tons of opportunities to volunteer and give back to your community open spaces. If you’re in CA, check out CalParks as they offer multiple volunteering dates in many of our state parks.
4. Start a pledge board at your work or school. Inspire others by posting pledges they can commit to all year to help keep our planet green. Some ideas are: stop using plastic water bottles, plant a tree, go paperless, use re-useable straws, and pick up litter once a month.
5. Take a hike! Get out there and enjoy what this earth has to offer.
About an hour from most places in San Diego there is a magical place, a real diamond in San Diego County, Palomar Mountain State Park. The Sierra Nevada like atmosphere and 5,400 feet of elevation make Palomar Mountain State Park a unique habitat to San Diego County. Lush forests, babbling creeks and gorgeous views are endless in the park. Home to a few historically important sites, great weather, diverse flora and fauna, and many hiking trails make it a hiker’s paradise.
Palomar, the Spanish name for pigeon roost, was named during the Spanish colonial era in California when Palomar was known for its band tailed pigeons that are present on the mountain. Prior, Lusieno natives called Palomar, Paauw, and lived in seasonal villages on the mountain. There is still evidence of them today, mainly in the form of morteros, or grinding rocks. In the 1880’s, the start of settlement came when George Edward Doane built a cabin where the present day Doane Valley Campground is located. By the 1890’s the mountain’s population had grown significantly and supported three schools and three hotels, including Bailey’s Cabin, which operates as a private lodge today. Four apple orchards were planted around this time, and still produce apples that are used for the annual Apple Festival in October. A fire lookout, Boucher Hill Lookout, was built on Boucher Hill on the 1920’s. The lookout today is operated by volunteers and visitors are able to take a tour of the tower during the season (May-December- 7 days a week from 9am-5pm). In the 1930’s Palomar Mountain State Park was born. Most of the park’s roads, trails, and picnic facilities were built by the Civilian Conservationist Corps. Palomar is also home to Scotty’s Cabin site, Big Willie’s gravesite, and the Weir on Weir Creek, which are accessible by hiking trails.
The mountain receives on average 30”-40” of rain a year and snow in the winter. This humid climate supports the densely wooded forests and vast vegetation in the park. It is included in the California mixed evergreen forest sub ecoregion that California black oaks, firs, cedars, closed cone pines, other California oaks and conifers are grouped in. Cooler days and even cooler nights than the majority of lower elevation areas of San Diego County make the mountain a great escape from the warm summers. Wintertime can bring snow, and the trails are awesome for snowshoeing.
The diverse array of wildlife, including the southern mule deer, raccoons, western grey squirrels, skunks, gray foxes, coyotes, bobcats, rattlesnakes and mountain lions are present in the park, and make their appearance every once in a while to guests. In the late spring through summer, flowering trees, plants, and shrubs share their beauty with us. Dogwoods, wild lilac, wild sweet peas, azalea, lupine, goldenrod, buttercups, and Indian paintbrush are just a few you can see in the park.
With miles of trails, there are many variations that accommodate most levels of hiking. Our favorite hike is the 11 mile moderate outer loop route. Touching most areas of the park, hikers get to see much of the diversity the park offers. The hike starts at Doane Campground, follows French Valley Trail to the Weir on the Weir Trail, up Baptist Trail to Adams Trail to Boucher Trail and the lookout, then down Boucher Trail to Silvercrest Trail, and all the way down Chimney Flats Trail to Thunder Springs Trail and back to the trailhead. With this route, you experience everything the park has to offer from the 500 year old Live Oak canopies, a stunning meadow in French Valley, historical Weir on Pauma Creek, a heart pumping ascent to Boucher Lookout with expansive views to the ocean, Black Oaks on Boucher Trail, a visit to Big Willy’s grave and the apple orchards, and ending at Doane Pond. Palomar is truly a magical place and we highly recommend the trails. Make sure to stop at Mother’s Kitchen afterwards for lunch!
A few things to know before you go:
Parking is $10 per car & Seniors are $9 per car
Camp spots can be reserved here:
Fishing is allowed at Doane Pond with a valid California fishing license.
Dogs are allowed in the park but not on any trails.
Check out Scott Turner’s trail write ups for Palomar Mountain SP on Modern Hiker here:
Hike It Off Magazine supports Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park, the officially recognized non-profit association that supports the park in cooperation with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Check out Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park as well and consider making a donation!
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god -Aristotle
As most of us hikers know by personal experience and proven by recent scientific studies, not only is hiking good for your body, it is also beneficial for your mind as well. It turns out, in a study done by Stanford in 2015, hiking in nature contributes to lower depression. (http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/) So in a time where we have so many everyday distractions that can cause anxiety and stress, hiking is a great way to get outside, disconnect, and feel good, both physically and mentally. Hiking for many, is also a social experience, as hiking with a group offers a way to connect with others and share the same passion with like-minded people. But what happens when you don’t have someone to hike with or you just want to get away sans your hiker friends? Go solo!
Solo hikes, for me, are even more beneficial to my mind and reconnecting with myself through nature than group hikes. All those distractions of life we try to escape from by hiking sometime sneak along with you on the trail in the form of your hiking partners. Maybe someone is little grumpy, or wants to complain about their significant other, or just won’t stop talking. Maybe someone is having a bad physical day and needs to turn around ending your hike too. Don’t get me wrong, hiking with friends is amazing, but can be distracting, causing that connection with nature to be lost. When I hike solo, it’s just me, the trail, and the weather; no distractions and a perfect time to re-connect with myself and hike off some of those stresses and anxiety. Solo hiking becomes much more of a spiritual experience for me and I notice how much I am one with the earth. I come back feeling so rejuvenated and grounded at the same time.
But what about the dangers of hiking solo? I can’t tell you how many people freak out when I tell them I sometimes hike by myself. “Aren’t you worried about psycho killers on the trail? What about getting eaten by a mountain lion?” I always smile to myself when I hear this and think about my husband’s favorite movie quote in a scene from Heat where Al Pacino yells at Snitches “You can get killed walking your doggie”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=575xM6Uljw4 Al Pacino’s quote really holds some truth when you look at the stats. On average, around 5,000 people a year get killed by being hit by a car. Compare that to the roughly 35 people a year that die hiking and it doesn’t seem so dangerous. And those mountain lions that everyone is afraid will eat me? According to Wikipedia, since 1890, there has been less than 25 fatal mountain lion attacks in the entire U.S. More people died from contaminated cantaloupes in 2013 than mountain lions since 1890! The facts are mountain lions just don’t eat people and it’s extremely rare to even see one (I’m still waiting to see one even after the 1,000’s of miles I’ve hiked in cougar country).
When I go out on a trail alone, I feel so free- so connected. It’s such a great feeling, knowing I am capable of doing something that scares most people and loving every second of it. When you think about it, it’s only been a couple generations since everyone became so disconnected from the wild and somehow it became “scary”. My Grandfather lived in a time where normal people lived in the wild, slept under the stars, and hiked every day because they didn’t have access to horses or cars. Oh what a time that must have been to live!
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting solo hiking is for everyone but I do think everyone should try it at least once and see if it is for you or not. If you’re new to solo hiking, here are some tips for your first few solo hikes:
Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)