Hit a hiking trail: It might do you some good

As the seasons change from summer toward autumn the weather provides a great opportunity to explore the trails since there is less heat, humidity and fewer bugs. Looking to take a trek? Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Find a trail. Pfeiffer Nature Center (and Western New York ) is filled with hiking trails of all kinds from easy walks in the woods to challenging terrain and hills. Whether novice or an experienced hiker, finding a trail to suit your pace and physical level is important. Things to consider when choosing a trail include distance, elevation and terrain. Is the trail rocky or a well-worn dirt path? Is it flat or will you have to climb hills or scramble up rocks?

2. Wear the right clothes. Once you pick your trail, check the weather forecast and pick your clothes. You don’t need lots of hiking gear to walk in the woods or try out the sport. “People don’t need to buy expensive hiking boots and poles to start with,” Peluso said. “A good, comfortable pair of sneakers can start you out.” Whether you’re wearing sturdy sneakers or hiking boots the key is to have comfortable shoes which will give you protection on the trails. Even well-worn and groomed paths give your feet a pounding. “The quickest way to ruin a hike is to have sore feet,” Sander said. He also brings along an inexpensive rain poncho available at discount stores if there is any chance of rain in the forecast. “It can be quite pleasant to hike in a light rain,” Sander said. “But it’s no fun when you’re soaking wet.”

3. Bring water and food. Regardless of how long you think you will be in the woods, bring along plenty of water and some snacks. Erring on the side of too much water is better than being without. Dried fruit and nuts make good trail snacks.

4. Expand the adventure. Find a hiking partner who know about trees or wildflowers or geology and learn while you’re on the trail. Sander recommends bringing a simple camera on the hike and a journal. Take photos of interesting trees, flowers, rock formations or water ways. In the journal, add notes to remember specifics about the photo including location, time of day and what interested you about the scene.  (Join a local hiking club such as Olean Area Hiking Group)

5. Making it a family day. While it can be a different type of challenge, families with young children can enjoy a day in the woods. The key is to plan ahead and be thoughtful in thinking about what the kids are really capable of. “One of the most important things, and it can be difficult to realize, is to try and get a handle on your own abilities and your children’s abilities because you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew the first time and end up with miserable kids,” said Rob Laing, who has been hiking for 25 years. “I was never into forced marches. I wanted my kids to get involved in the outdoors and have fun. We started with shorter hikes and gradually as they got older we added more climbing.”

Article was adapted from By Amy Moritz, Buffalo News