Western Traveler

Planning Your Adventure

DESTINATION – This may be both the hardest and most enjoyable part of the outdoor experience, figuring out where to go. There are literally thousands of miles of trails, rivers and shorelines throughout the country, just waiting to be discovered. In my Favorite Links section you’ll find some outstanding places to begin your search.

For obvious reasons, I suggest that you start your planning with a trip to www.nps.gov. With over 400 National Park Service administered areas there is literally something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a challenging wilderness trail or just a pleasant stroll through an historic district, you’ll find the possibilities are endless at NPS sites throughout the US. By visiting the web sites you can get the much-needed information you need to plan your trip.

Also make sure to look for great locations at the web sites for the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Army Corps of Engineers sites. Some of my best experiences have been in the more-remote and less heavily visited areas that these agencies manage.

WEATHER – You may think this is a silly thing to look at so early in the planning phase of your excursion, but make no mistake, this is critical. Always look at the forecast for wherever you’re planning to go. You can do easily by logging onto www.weather.com or www.weather.gov. Either site can give you detailed information on what to expect.

If you’re going to be traveling at higher elevations you also need to be aware that mountains create their own weather systems. Lightning is the single deadliest killer of mountain hikers. Even if the forecast if calling for clear skies, watch the clouds for yourself. If you see the development of cumulus clouds, head to lower elevations immediately!! Cumulus clouds are the precursors to thunderstorms, i.e. lightning.

If you’re going to be on a body of water, or in slot canyons this holds true as well. An increase in water volume can come without any notice whatsoever. A glassy, smooth river can turn into a torrent in mere seconds. A totally dry canyon can turn into a deadly trap if the hiker is caught unaware of a thunderstorm miles away. Always stay alert in the wilderness, surprises are common.

Never forget that with every foot you gain in altitude, the more chances you have of encountering inclement weather. Always plan and dress for worst-case scenarios.

FOOD & WATER — No outing is complete without a meal break. The sky is the limit on what you can take to enhance your experience. For shorter hikes and water trips, a candy bar is all you may want. Other popular trail food includes: MRE’S (Meals Ready to Eat), GORP (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts), Trail Mix, granola bars, peanut butter, potted meat, crackers, sardines (not recommended in bear country), Vienna sausages, fruit or homemade snacks.

Always take plenty of water as well. Though soft drinks may taste better, they won’t keep you hydrated adequately. In fact some will cause dehydration. A good compromise is fruit drinks. They come in small, easy to carry cardboard containers and foil envelopes. A more-detailed description of food and beverages will be included in the section called Gearing Up.

Last modified on: December 12th 2014.
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