Mitch Stevens, Southwest Discoveries
- A full page of hiking tips, complete with helpful videos and the benefits derived from hiking. Highly recommended! 15 Benefits of Hiking
- Before starting to walk for the day, drink a quart of water. This will help you start the day hydrated. Of course you still need to keep drinking water along the way but you will not be starting on empty.
- Wear the wet bandanas under your cap like an Arab when the first heat of the day hits, then switch to the wet shirt. It extends your wet clothes supply time.
- Secondly, train, train, train!!! I trained for a full 9 months, starting immediately with what I figured I’d be taking on the hike. I increased my mileage each month, so that about a month before the hike date, I took a Saturday and hiked, with everything I’d take in, completely around a nearby lake’s shore trail—more than 20 miles—as fast as I could.
- Also, I sewed together a shoulder bag of old towels, which perfectly fits a stuffed full Ziploc bag of trail mix, which I snacked from continuously.
- I also took a roll of TP along—just in case, as well as Ziploc bags for the used stuff.
- In addition, I took a first aid kit of moleskin, and a pair of scissors, to put around hot spots, not on them, before they became blisters.
- Also, I always wore 2 pairs of socks, one being wool, and changed them every few hours, clothespinning them to the trail mix bag like a clotheslilne, to dry them out for later re-wearing.
Dr. Howard and Teresa Neiberg
Wheeling, West Virginia
- We each used two hiking poles and felt that we probably wouldn’t have made it without them. We would suggest those who are not used to using poles should wear a pair of bicycle gloves to keep from getting blisters on their thumbs.
- Also, to keep your nose from getting so dry, we suggest a small tube of nasal saline gel (such as Ayr, available from drugstore.com)
- Two things from our rim to rim last June. I found that the terry cloth wrist sweat bands work really well in the heat. Rather than use them as intended, I soaked them in every stream I passed, put them on and they felt really great. Dry, they weigh next to nothing. Also, Phantom Ranch does have bagged ice. Me and my hiking buddy got a bag and filled our water bladders. What a treat on the hike up.
- Hello, I just wanted to let you know about a trick that we have found very useful when staying at Phantom Ranch in the bunk house. It seems that there is always someone who snores so we make sure we take ear plugs with us.
Peter J. Wihtol
- I ALWAYS take ear plugs even when camping or rooming with a group of people. There ALWAYS seems to be someone who snores!
- Major downhill knee stress.
Speaking as a member of the bad knee club, the greatest stress on one’s body is walking downhill. The absolutely worse thing to do is to walk fast and lock-kneed downhill. Walk slower, take shorter steps and, of course, use one or better yet two hiking poles. Also walking with a loose, springy, unlocked knee will help a lot. Locked knees walking downhill cause badly (totally) torn anterior cruciate ligaments — that’s how I got mine. Upon reaching Phantom the first time, from the North Rim, I could not bend my knees to untie my hiking boots.
- After hiking out, hang around at the trail head for a little while and check out the numbers of serious hikers with various types of knee braces, ace bandages and small arthroscopic knee surgery scars.
- Foot Discipline, minor discomfort versus extreme pain for days. We have had runners in the Boston Marathon stay at our house. They have had foot blisters and raw skin where blisters have popped and loss of toenails!! If you are not careful about foot gear you will have as much or more damage to your feet than running a marathon. And at Phantom Ranch one sees hikers sporting cut-out toe areas of hiking boots. You must trim your toenails one or a few nights before doing the canyon. Hiking down hill causes your toes to hit the toe area of your boot and people do loose toe nails at Phantom or within a few days of leaving the canyon. Women tend to have shorter boots than the men and thus the loose more toenails. Your hiking boots must not be tied loosely. They must be snug around your feet, particularly for the downhill part. This reduces the impact of your toes against the front of your boots.
- Watch out for “hot spots” with your feet. This means that there is some rubbing at a particular spot on your foot. Sit down, remove your boot, reposition your sock and go back to hiking. If the problem persists put a large Band-Aid over the being-rubbed spot or better yet carry some “moleskin,” this is a thick, nice and fuzzy piece of adhesive tape. It stops the rubbing directly against your skin. Cut it to a bit bigger size than the area being rubbed, replace your socks and boots and try again. Test any new socks and boots on shorter hikes and walks at home before your trip. Better quality hiking socks have thicker areas around the toe, heel and the bottom of the foot. Another hiking trick is to use two pairs of socks, an outer wool hiking sock and a slick/slippery inner sock of silk or polypropylene. Any rubbing will be between the inner and outer sock and not against the skin of your foot.
- Water, life or death. Carry more water than needed. I’ve run out of water twice, once at Bryce and the other time at Arches. It was near the end of our hikes. Most unpleasant. There are several reasons for carrying more water than needed. For yourself, others in your group or a perfect stranger on the trail, especially if someone is incapacitated on the trail — water is essential for survival until help arrives. Also, you can use the water to wet your cotton hat or sprinkle water onto your T-shirt to cool yourself down near the bottom of the canyon. You can’t call 911 in the Canyon and emergency phones are a long walk away. Cell phones do not work in the Canyon. Satellite phones, maybe.
- Water discipline, sip frequently. A rule of thumb for “normal” temperatures is about one quart of water for each hour of hiking. Two quarts an hour are recommended in hot temperatures. What you should do is to sip water every few (10-15) minutes. The first sign of dehydration is a dry mouth. If you wait until you have a headache, feel “off” and then the color of your urine is that of a dark beer, you’ve waited too long. Do not go a long time without drinking water and then knock down a whole quart at once. That really don’t work. In really hot temperatures a cold beer sounds like a really good idea, but try to stay away from alcohol whilst in the canyon. It screws up your internal thermostat and the effect lasts for two or three days. Carbonated soda does not quench your thirst while hiking, so save that for later. The popular sports drink powders like Erg and Gatoraide should be mixed with twice as much water than the directions tell you to use. [The source of this information is the Natick Army Labs in Natick, Mass.]
- Food tips, nibble frequently. Going down, into the canyon you can eat whatever you want. When we had a group of seven of us we had people eating gorp, trail mix, oatmeal-raisin cookies, sugared doughnuts, a turkey and cheese sandwich, yogurt and fruit. All of us were content and happy. The only trick for food is to stop frequently and nibble a bit, now and then. When you find a shady spot, make it a sip and nibble break. For almost instant energy dextrose sugar is one to look for when shopping for candy and sugar snacks — it is the sugar that goes into your bloodstream the fastest. The Phantom Ranch trail lunches are like food time capsules, an apple, candy, cookie, maybe a small salami stick, a packaged bagel and creamed cheese. Suggestion: eat the creamed cheese about midway up and out, it takes the longest to break down to give you energy. Save the candy or cookies for the last couple of miles. Everyone tends to slow way down for the last mile and a half and you need more quick energy then.
- Absolute best info on trail conditions and drinkable water available on trails. The best source of accurate trail and water information is the Backcountry Information Center. There is one on the South Rim and one on the North Rim. We had a problem with some very nice-and-well-meaning people at GC lodge information desks. To avoid big problems on the trail contact one of the Backcountry Info Centers. Both are open from 6 AM to noon and then 1-5 PM. Both answer their phones afternoons only from 1-5 PM. The South Rim Center is open year-round and the North Rim Center is open from mid-MAY to mid-OCT. It is closed the rest of the year because of heavy snows on the North Rim.
- The easiest food cleaning and disposing procedure seems to be the apparently unmentionable one: put some water in the pot, scrape up the scraps with a spoon, and just drink it. I mean, it’s nothing but what you just ate, right? Not all that tasty, but it will give you some hydration with no waste. And why use soap when you’re boiling water in the pot all the time? So the oatmeal tastes a little of last night’s hot chocolate—it won’t kill you, and the oatmeal can probably use more flavor anyway. To be safe, every few days nest the pots and boil everything for a few minutes. I don’t consider this hard-core at all, more a splendid and rare conjuction of laziness and efficiency: you can clean your dishes without having to get up.
- After years of carrying granola for breakfast, I finally had to admit it was heavy and bulky and a pain. Meanwhile I hate instant oatmeal. Now I vote for something called “fast oatmeal,” which can be jazzed up before the trip with spices, nuts, sugar, and dried fruit. Light, nonbulky, fairly fast, and tasty.
- Tip from somebody on the Tanner who’d stayed comfy on the river at 110 degrees: besides the fast-drying hi-tech clothes, pack one cotton shirt that will stay wet for a while. He’d just dip in the river everytime the shirt dried out, and the breeze kept him comfortable. When you’re about to hike in the sun, soak the shirt and start wet. Cotten’s bad for most hiking, but here’s a case when its slow drying is the best thing.
- A canyon ranger recommended to me a wire-mesh bag called the Outsack™. It’s light, rolls up, will protect food, I gather, from anything up to bears. They come in three sizes. Ranger said they’re getting popular in the southwest.
- Keep in mind that for a GC reservation, any number from 1 to 6 is classified as a “small group.” If you’re not sure how many are going or are concerned about dropouts, reserve for one or two people. You can always add more up to six at will, by simply paying their fee anytime up to the last minute. If I’d known that, I would have been $100 richer a couple of years ago, when two people couldn’t go.
- Finally: before a GC trip, collect all the questions you have and phone the backcountry office at 928-638-7875. Not usually hard to get through, and on the phone as they are in person, the rangers are marvelously helpful, patient, and of course knowledgeable.
- Don’t bring a tent. Only a fly to provide shade.
- Don’t bring sleeping bags, just sew the end of a light cotton sheet up and use it on top of a pad. In the summer at the bottom of the canyon it is more than enough.
- If you are hiking to Phantom Ranch for one night, have dinner at the lodge. Its expensive, but it’s a great steak and you don’t have to carry the food or the cooking stuff. And the dining room has a/c.
- Take a zip lock bag and fill it half way with water. Tuck it in your belt and use the water to soak your bandana as you walk or at every quick stop. This is a variation on the wet t-shirt in a zip lock.
- I have hiked the Canyon 4 times and one solo. I am a confirmed Canyon junkie!! Pack 3 large oranges in the top of your pack. The weight is justified by the warm juice that squirts into your mouth about ½ way down. PLUS you let the orange peels dry out, become very light and then put is your used toilet paper bag. It really “freshens” things up!
- As a 3 time Grand Canyon hiker (rim to rim, twice), one of my goals was to find a campshoe that was super lightweight, comfortable and supportive. Finally, I found just the thing. There is a shoe called CROCS. They are super lightweight (less than a pair of flip flops) and supportive and offer complete protection for your feet while fording streams and walking on rocky trails and campsites. They also have a heel strap that you can rotate out of the way if you want to just slip in them. They are $25 to $30 and are available everywhere altough you may have to search for them.
- Excedrin PM! A lot of folks, myself included, sometimes have a hard time falling asleep when sleeping on the ground, even with a comfy ThermaRest. I often take a half-dose of Excedrin PM when I go to sleep (one tablet). Not only does it make the aches and pains of the day go away, as well as some of the aches and pains of sleeping on the ground, but it contains a mild sedative that helps you go into a gentle sleep. I’ve never had a problem waking up in the morning, or falling asleep again if I wander out to see the stars at some point during the night.
- Find a lightweight field guide to take along. There are so many different plants, several of which are unique to the desert ecosystem. Not only that, but as you lose elevation in the canyon you are entering different temperate zones, meaning you’ll see different kinds of plant life along the way. I had plenty of time at camp to read about the cool stuff I saw along the trail, and was sorry that I only brought along a bestseller. The bestseller was welcome, but satisfying my curiosity about the day’s sightings would have been grand, too.
- If you make it to Phantom Ranch, be sure to catch the rangers’ talks. They’re great information that’s very specialized to the Canyon, and when we were there were extremely entertaining, as well.
- Again at Phantom Ranch – if you can’t make advanced reservations for dinner at the ranch, give it another try when you get there. Often times they have had a cancellation and you can reserve a spot for dinner that night. Yes, they do take credit cards. And, yes, the dinner is very much worth the expense.
- Watch for condors in the air over the canyon. They are huge – very impressive birds – and once you see a real one you’ll never mistake another hawk or raven for a condor. The condors all have tags, and often they’ll fly close enough that you can read the numbers. The rangers will be interested in which bird you saw where.
- You can rent and buy trekking poles at the Grand Canyon General Store. Leki has a demo program where you can try “rent” them for free. Only a security deposit is required in case you lose them.
- BTW, I second the motion for knee braces. They saved me on Hermit and South Kaibab trails.
- For chafing, I use a product called Body Glide™. It comes in a deodorant-like applicator, and goes on like chapstick-just rub it onto the areas that are chafing. I have heard that vaseline works well, too, but am not sure it will retain its non-liquid state in the high heat of the Inner Gorge in summer. Body Glide™ definitely does-mine stayed solid even at the river in August when the thermometer said 120 degrees.
- For camp shoes, I’ve used Aqua Sox for years. These are used by surfers. They’re low-top slip-over slipper-type things with a surprisingly tough sole. Drawback: they have virtually no protection from the side and they tend to cut into you after a awhile unless you wear liner socks with them. They are much better than Tevas on stream crossings and wet rocks and they weigh almost nothing.
- I agree that Thermarests are wonderful. They’re great on snow. I have a Z-rest also (and an ancient blue closed-cell foam pad from the early ’70’s). I always go back and forth whether it’s better to carry a pound less with the Z-rest, or sleep a lot better with the Thermarest. If I’m camping on sand or gravel (where the ground isn’t hard) I use the Z-rest; otherwise the Thermarest.
- I think it’s hard to overemphasize how much easier hiking is with poles, especially on uncertain terrain.
- I always have one, sometimes two balaclavas (or one and a wool watch cap). Bags are never warm if your head is cold. Especially with light, snug bags that you can’t burrow into, balaclavas are great. Ditto fleece gloves.
- I’ve never been very fond of the prepackaged backpacking food. It’s never designed for high altitude (over 10) and usually is accompanied by various layers of unflattenable wrapping that take up pack space. And it varies from okay to something that would gag a housecat. All entrees containing vegetables feature a healthy dose of unearthly-looking peas, which during cooking float like green buckshot. I generally assemble entrees from smoked salmon, pesto, instant dried beans (Mexicali Rose or Knorr’s) and the like. Instant potatos are another favorite.
- Another food thing: although jerky won’t rehydrate and is thus tough to cook with, dried hamburger is fine. Procedure: get ground sirloin or other 7% or low fat ground meat (not the cheap crap we used to eat in college). Crumble up and brown at med high heat in large skillet; pour off fat. Pour in enough water to cover meat (an inch, maybe) and boil for a couple of minutes. Pour off water (which will carry off more fat). Repeat – intent is to get rid of the fat which can go bad. Put crumbled meat on foil or other flat pans and put in low warm stove (175) or in electric dehydrator for a little while; not too long because the intent is not to make jerky and the meat is already cooked. You’ll end up with stuff that looks like grape nuts and can be added to almost any camp fare. It works best if put in water an hour or so before you start cooking.
- Here is a quick tip. To wash dishes on the trail I use a plastic grocery bag, (over and over again), and Bio soap. I put about 2 cups of water and about a small hand full of dirt in the mixture. Then wash the dishes. It works great and I can usually use the same bag for quite a while. (Unless you have a sharp knife in the mix J) To keep the black marks off the bottom of pots and pans I usually use a bar of soap. It will not mar the bottom from the open flames and it is easy to clean. It washes the suet and cleans the dishes. (You can use the same thing on the top cover of a lantern. It will clean up in a jiffy.)
- After using a rock (?) for a pillow on my first Canyon trip I got a little smarter and used one of the “floaties” my kids wear on their arms in the pool for a light, inexpensive, and comfortable pillow.
- To get the legs in shape prior to the trip I have found that the height of 2 cinder blocks makes the legs work but spares the knees more than a stepper machine at the gym I belong. I overload my pack and alternate stepping on the blocks. After a 6 or 8 week program leading up to 45 minutes 4 x / week, my legs and lungs are as ready as they can be. I think the last 1,000 feet will always feel harder than the previous 3,000 no matter what I do the 8 weeks prior.
- I find the Superfeet “hiking” insoles a big improvement over the insoles supplied with most boots – they have a really good website if you want to check them out. It was a tip from Canadian soldiers who used them on all their forced marches. Also thin polypropylene liner socks inside regular socks really help to prevent blisters, though obviously no substitute for well-fitting boots. A lot of other hikers I encountered were having feet problems, so this may be useful.
- Here’s a trick that a lot of people overlook that can save water, time and hassle:
Always bring a bagel or piece of bread when cooking in a pan. Use the bagel to clean the leftover sauce or what not in the pan. A delicious way to clean up!!!