Step one: Ask some question. Step two: Get outside
If like me, you have a wall of shelves stashed somewhere in your house with a loosely organized array of gear.
Camping gear, mountain biking gear, hiking gear, backpacking gear (similar to camping gear but deserving of its own shelf).
The list goes on and on. So does the wish list. Right now I have a Kelty pack I bought roughly 12–13 years ago. I used it last year on an Alaska trip and there really isn’t anything wrong with it. However, once a week my boss and I discuss new packs.
Every time I stroll into REI, I look at the packs. Whenever I get the weekly newsletter from backcountry.com, I look at packs. The information and options are overwhelming.
But think back to where we first started. It’s easy to throw on a Camelbak and head into the hills now. I do it all the time, but what about someone new to the area or wanting to instigate a little Colorado love into their life? What do you need to enjoy the outdoors?
Getting outside, especially in July can be intimidating. The heat alone can scare off a newbie. The easiest way to conquer a challenge like this is to educate yourself.
If you want off the couch and away from the TV, you will find it’s easier than you think. Most hiking can be done with what you have around the house. A good pair of shoes, some light clothing, sunscreen and a water bottle are all you need. I recommend a hat and a pair of wrap around sunglasses as well. If it looks a little dreary tie a windbreaker around your waist. It really doesn’t take much except the will to get out.
To help encourage people to take advantage of the many utilities in our area I did an experiment. I knocked off an afternoon of work just to see how much I could learn about getting started. In two stops I had more information than I knew what to do with. People around here love to talk outdoors.
My first stop was REI. I walked up to the customer service desk and asked them if I could talk to someone about getting started with hiking in the Grand Junction area. In a flash I was speaking with a sweet, and informative lady named Marea who was more than willing to help me out.
Wear loose synthetic clothing. This will help wick moisture away from the body and help you stay comfortable outside. Cotton does not have this advantage. It will stay moist and not dry as fast making you feel clammy.
Start early. Since temperatures around here can easily reach triple digits this time of year it is important to take this into consideration. Heatstroke, dehydration and other issues can be exacerbated by the heat. Start early and avoid it.
Bring plenty of water. Because of the high temperatures, staying hydrated is key. If in serious need of water but with no way to purify it, drink it anyway. Most problems from drinking untreated water are curable. Yes, you will be uncomfortable for a few days, but dehydration is a much bigger threat to your safety.
Protect yourself from the sun. Sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, and clothing are all important for blocking those harmful UV rays.
Bring some snacks. High energy bars are light and fit in a pocket. They also pack the caloric punch to keep fueling the body so you can enjoy your experience.
Bring some bug spray. If hiking down by the river or up on Grand Mesa mosquitos can be a problem.
Have a friend come along. Ask a buddy to share in the experience. If you are both new, you can learn together. If not, then use the knowledge of previous hikes to enhance your experience. Bring the right gear for a safe and fun outing.
I also find the REI Outdoor Resource Board helpful. It is here you can connect with several hiking groups in the Grand Valley. This is an excellent way to make new friends or hang out with old friends.
Following are some excellent local resources.
Palisade Hiking Group. www.townofpalisade.org/recreation. Sarah Brooks is the contact in Palisade Town Hall that coordinates a series of hikes every season.
Western Slope Adventurers. www.WesternSlopeAdventurers.org. Lon Carpenter runs this group and has contact cards on the board.
REI Classes. www.rei.com/stores/70 Our own REI store runs classes to help educate people on everything outdoors. Check this website for a schedule.
As you learn and gain experience, you will probably want to start acquiring new equipment. Mark at Summit Canyon Mountaineering in downtown Grand Junction was more than helpful showing me around his store. His recommendations:
Light Hikers/Trail Runners. These shoes have lots of ventilation but tough soles. This will protect your feet from rugged terrain helping you stay comfortable on longer treks. ($70-$120).
Hydration Packs. Probably the most universal piece of gear for an outdoorsman. Bring lots of water in a backpack where you can store extra layers, food and all the goodies you may need. ($50-$100).
Headlamp. If you are starting early or going out late, make sure you can see. ($40).
Trek Poles. Use these to take the impact off of bad knees and keep your balance going downhill. ($70).
Mark also gave some great advice about buying gear. If you want to commit to the outdoors make sure what you are buying can be used for multiple sports. You want equipment you can grow in to and not have to buy every season.
Most importantly, talk to people. The associates in these stores use the same gear you are buying. They have tons of knowledge and are willing to help anyone at any skill level.
The moral of the story is don’t let the couple sitting in the Subaru Outback with sun faded packs and protein bars intimidate you. Chances are they have been at this a while and know a thing or two. Don’t walk around them, talk to them for a quick minute. Ask them about the trail you are about to do and maybe about another one. It has been my experience that people who are enjoying the outdoors are friendly and willing to chat. It is part of the lifestyle.
When starting out, take it easy. When you feel fatigued, turn around and go back to the car. You will go farther the next day. There are some great, easy hikes around here like Devil’s Kitchen, the Mica Mines, and Serpents Trail. Spend a day on the Monument and enjoy yourself. Just get outside – even if it is July.