Please note – If you do not read to the end of the article, you are missing the point!!

New hikers and even experienced hikers often find themselves confused by the nuances of this wonderful Washington sport. Hiking can be a great way to accidentally cause yourself bodily harm. Have no fear… I have come to your aid! Here is my comprehensive guide on how to stay safe, have fun and make good choices on the trail.


1. Stranger Danger. Many novice hikers are nervous about meeting a crazy person in the middle of the woods. The solution? Bring a crazy person with you. Bring the craziest person you know, and encourage them to bring all of their favorite things with them. (Examples include: sword, bow and arrow, hand-forged machete.) If you have the craziest person on the trail, other crazy hikers will respect you and keep their distance. It is the unspoken rule.

We like to call him “Security.”

2. Trail Food. Many beginning hikers find themselves hiking along and run upon a slug in the middle of the trail. (Out of towners please note: Our slugs are often the size of BudLight trucks.) Don’t step on it, and don’t be afraid. In fact the slug should be afraid. Their nickname in these parts is escargot without the work. A delicacy without having to wrestle a shell!  These formidable tidbits are packed with protein and slimy goop, making them a snack that will really “stick to your ribs.” So next time you see a slug scoop it up (you may need both hands) for a little afternoon treat. They come in three flavors: apple, banana and licorice (you can tell by the color). Yum.

3. Priorities. As a newbie hiker you might frequently hear backpacking junkies referring to the common practice of “packing light.” (Surprisingly, your first instinct is right: this DOES mean that you should bring a headlamp.) But if you are trying to reduce your dayhiking poundage, you might find yourself staring at a heap of clothing, food and beverages but a very small backpack. This can lead to a struggle of priorities: what should you take? When packing, always remember this little gem: rain gear weighs significantly more than beer, so bring the beer. While rain gear keeps you dry, beer makes the rain bearable. You may also want to try “packing heat” (a stove) to stew those yummy slugs.

4. Getting lost. If the thought of getting lost in the wilderness sends a chill down your spine, you have a LOT to learn. This is actually a common practice for many experienced dayhikers really just want to “lose themselves” in the wilderness, which somehow eventually leads to “finding themselves.” Pretty awesome, right? Unfortunately the hard part is the “finding yourself” bit. If you ever get lost in the woods, take the 5-year-old-lost-child approach. Throw your head back and yell for your mommy/daddy/favorite toy and run around in a circle until you find a pair of legs to hold onto. This works great in grocery stores, (believe me, I know) and it should prove equally successful on the trail.

5. False Summiting. You may have heard of the term watch out for the “false summit,” and asked yourself: “Why?” Great question. Why go to the REAL summit when you can go to the one that looks JUST like it? (New York street venders were trend-setters on this one.) Who do you think you are, Edmund Hillary? If this isn’t Mt. Everest why spend the extra 5 minutes climbing to the top when you can simply snap a few photos on a rocky ledge with two thumbs up. With the false-summiter’s approach you can get back to the car approximately 10 minutes faster. This is important since it allows you to spend more time celebrating your awesomeness by blasting “We Are the Champions” over the car stereo and enjoying that beer in the rain.

6. Nature. All hikers beware: when you go out into the wilderness there is a chance that you might get nature on yourself. Here’s the important part – Don’t panic! I know this can be a wholly unnerving experience, but mud, dew and pine needles aren’t actually lethal to the human body unless they are consumed in ghastly amounts. If you ever get nature on yourself when hiking it is important that you: 1) stay calm, 2) sterilize the nature with an antiseptic wipe as quickly as possible and 3) don’t cry, as this will only make your mascara run. Contact with nature is something that all hiker/backpacker-types must face eventually, and even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts can be a little intimidated by it at times. Be brave, be calm, and always use multiple layers of nail polish.

7. Wildlife. Seeing native animals can be a little overwhelming for many beginning hikers. The idea of being considered dinner is something that many city slickers can’t wrap their head around (as they gaze lovingly at their cheeseburger). To keep yourself safe on the trail, follow this simple rule: always bring someone slower than you, preferably someone with terrible eating habits. That way you can outrun them in times of danger, leaving the wildlife to feast on your unfortunate friend instead of you. Don’t give me that look, it’s different out there!


8. Working on the Trail. Some of you beginning hikers who are still becoming acquainted with the concept of being “unplugged” for more than 8 hours might find it difficult to leave your beloved laptop or iThingy home on an overnight trip. Please be assured, this is PERFECTLY all right. Other backpackers absolutely love staring at the mind-numbing glow of a digital screen while they are trying to sleep in the same tent as you. They LOVE it. That is why they keep accidentally kicking you in their sleep. Just remember one thing: electronics do get dirty out on the trail, which is exactly why you should wash them frequently in bubbling streams. Just a little dip, right at the beginning of the hike (submerge completely for best results), for about 5 minutes.

9. Making Camp. One very important rule for setting up camp: you must do this at night—this is why you “packed light.” Setting up camp in the dark is expecially effective if you are working through “finding yourself” from item #4. Nothing is more exiting than waking up and viewing your surroundings for the first time. If you’d set up camp during the daylight you might not have pitched your tent by the exciting, crumbling drop-off, or underneath that rickety cliff, or below the biggest widow-maker or two feet below the high tide line. These are all key for finding yourself! Don’t skip it! Talk about taking the surprise out of life, sheesh.

Whoa! Who put that volcano there?

10. Staying Warm. Always remember the mantra: “Nothing keeps you warm like hypothermia.” If you are feeling a bit nippy, one of the best things to do is to find a nice, frigid alpine lake, throw off your pack and jump in with all of your driest clothes on. It’s particularly useful below about 40 degrees. Although this might make you a little colder initially, after a few minutes you’ll be basking in the heat of hypothermia. Aaaaah, toasty.

That’s it! You’re ready for your next outdoor adventure. Learn more about hiker issues in the not-so-distant future by tuning in next time for some more life-saving tips that feature titles such as: Bear Hugs, Bringing the Kitchen Sink, Cuddling Like a Man and Don’t Panic: It’s Called Sweat.


Note: This article is sarcastic. If you actually do anything listed here, you will be judged by your peers and possibly die of embarrassment or natural causes.

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