It’s that time when people across the country make a New Year’s Resolution. The most popular goals range from getting organized to saving money, but tops on most lists is a desire to get healthy. Whether that means exercising more, eating better, or losing a specific number of pounds, it’s a lofty ambition and one that, unfortunately, has a high rate of failure. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of these resolutions fail—by February! The news for dieters is even worse, with failure rates reported as high as 95%.
Don’t get discouraged, though. Instead, get active. Hiking is a popular way to go outside, enjoy fresh air, and, yes, get the exercise that will give your New Year’s Resolution a boost. Some hikers prefer to find a favorite route and walk it every day. Other adventurers use the opportunity to explore new and different places. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to set a schedule and follow through. How far will you walk (or for how much time)? How often will you do it? What time of day works best? Answer these questions, and commit to it. You have an advantage because hiking is fun!
Yes, many people find the experience of taking a hike to be rewarding in itself. Perhaps you’ll glimpse wildlife or find a remote waterfall. Or maybe the peace and quiet of an escape into nature is appealing. Of course, even if it doesn’t sound like something you will enjoy, worry not. There are plenty of ways to make your New Year’s Resolution work. Following are few simple ideas to spice up your hike:
Bring a Friend
Everything is more fun when you have someone to share it with. Build your hiking schedule around a friend or family member. Not only are you both more likely to stick with the plan, you’ll also get to enjoy each other’s company.
Bring a Friend, Virtually
Thanks to mobile phones, you can hike with a friend who is somewhere else entirely. Grab a headset with a speaker, and both of you can walk together, even when you’re apart. (Just pick trails with good reception.) Similarly, you can listen to music, podcasts, or a good audiobook.
If you hold an interest in the arts, turn your New Year’s Resolution into a search for inspiration. Bring a camera to take photographs, plan your next poem, or look for picturesque settings to paint.
Turn Hiking into a Learning Experience
Depending on the hike, you might enjoy taking an identification guide with you. If you see plenty of birds, you can discover what kinds are present. Or learn to identify animal tracks. You might also find a new hobby in identifying and collecting rocks. (Make sure you are in a place where rock collecting is allowed.)
Regardless of where you live, chances are good that there’s a wonderful trail—or several—within striking distance. AdventureKEEN has a variety of series to help you find the best options, including 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Five-Star Trails, and Top Trails. Make a plan, choose your routes, and turn this New Year’s Resolution into a success in 2020.
Birds in winter are wonderful to observe, and a birding-themed gift is a perfect fit beneath your Christmas tree. A good friend of mine is very enthused about the birds (less so about the squirrels) that visit her feeder during these chilly months. I took it upon myself to create the ultimate bird-watching present. With AdventureKEEN products, that’s easy to do. Following are five ideas for a great gift package.
1. Bird Identification Guide
A state-specific field guide adds an extra personal touch to this gift idea, and that’s always a good thing. Find the Birds of book for your state. These wonderful guides for watching and feeding birds in winter are organized by color. So when you see a yellow bird, jump to the yellow section to find out what it is. Once you find a match, you’ll learn about the bird’s nest, eggs, migration, favorite foods, and more.
2. Birding Journal
Add another level of interactivity to your gift. The Birding Journal allows its users to record their favorite birding moments. Note which birds are seen, including when and where. Document the birds in winter—and all seasons—eating at the feeder. Compare new spring arrivals from year to year. Keep track of a life list and more. It’s a beautiful book, worthy of a spot under the Christmas tree.
3. Bird Playing Cards
A fun addition to a gift package or a perfect stocking stuffer, the Birds of decks of playing cards are available by region. Choose from the Gulf Coast, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, and Southwest. Each card features a photograph of different species common or important to the region. So people can learn to identify birds in winter, spring, summer, and fall while playing their favorite card games.
4. An Asylum of Loons
For something fun and entirely unexpected beneath the Christmas tree, this fascinating book is the twist your gift package needs. It introduces strange and unexpected collective nouns for specific types of birds. Discover the surprising number of different terms, and learn their true meanings―as well as the history behind them. Did C.S. Lewis really coin the phrase “a parliament of owls”? Find out in this colorfully designed conversation-starter.
5. Zen Birds
The giftiest item in your bird-lover’s present will be Zen Birds. This small, beautiful hardcover book was inspired by traditional Asian brushwork and haiku. The artwork and text are sure to warm a heart more quickly than spotting one’s favorite birds in winter.
Put these five products in a box, wrap them up, and tuck them under the tree. You’ll win Christmas for just around $50 or so.
Karen Borski Somers felt uneasy before deciding to pen a book about the Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT). The Texas native was concerned that her book might bring too much attention to the trail and ultimately ruin its beauty and solitude. Fortunately for everyone, she chose to share her love of the trail. Now, 10 years later, Karen has put together an entirely updated new edition of The Lone Star Hiking Trail (November 2019, Wilderness Press).
The book, endorsed by the Lone Star Hiking Trail Club, is a comprehensive guide to the LSHT. It begins with a history of the trail and then delves into need-to-know information about hiking it—from weather to water to regulations to trail ethics. The bulk of the book is spent on detailed descriptions of the 128-mile LSHT. Karen conveniently divides the trail into 11 sections, so readers can learn about—and hike—it in manageable chunks.
Entries for each section begin with a general overview of the trail and include information about trail access and parking, GPS waypoints, accommodations, and water sources. In-depth trail descriptions give readers a breakdown of what to expect along the way, with ratings and descriptions of all major water sources and campsites. Full-color photographs and maps further enhance the usability of each section.
For Karen, the book is a way to show her appreciation for the LSHT.
“Thanks to the vision of others before us, we have a protected footpath,” she says. “We can walk quietly and alone with our thoughts. We can take our children and show them what all of East Texas once was.”
The LSHT is hidden in the depths of Sam Houston National Forest, a little more than an hour from the bustle of downtown Houston. It is a little-known trail that many consider a magical retreat. It is limited to foot travel and is the longest continuously marked hiking trail in Texas.
Karen ultimately chose to write The Lone Star Hiking Trail because of the people living in southeast Texas.
“Many believe—just as I did once—that the best long-distance hiking trails were far away, in other states,” she says. “I figured those were the people who would most love knowing that this long footpath is in their backyard.”
The author took a gamble that a guidebook would benefit the LSHT, and the risk paid off.
“The trail is in better shape, and there are more people now who respectfully walk on, care for, and protect this unique hiking trail. More than ever before, the LSHT is a singularity and a treasure, for us and for the wild things.”
The Lone Star Hiking Trail, 2nd Edition ($18.95, softcover) is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores and gift shops throughout Texas, as well as popular online retailers.
About the Author
Karen Borski Somers is a native of Spring, Texas. She studied biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University and has spent most of her career working for NASA contractors in Clear Lake, Texas, and Huntsville, Alabama. In 1998 she thru-hiked the 2,165-mile Appalachian Trail solo, and in 2004 she hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail with her husband, Andy. She has hiked and backpacked in 36 states, logging more than 9,000 trail miles. Karen currently resides with her husband, two daughters, and their hiking Sheltie in northern Alabama.
From short nature trails to difficult peak climbs, Los Angeles County is a hiker’s paradise. The diverse topography and geology yield a variety of localized climates, and these climates make for excellent hiking conditions any time of year.
Yet there remains a notion in Southern California that summer is hiking season, even though it tends to be hot and dry. While this belief might make sense in other parts of our vast and beautiful country, it does not hold true in the Los Angeles area. For Southland residents and visitors, prime hiking conditions begin in autumn.
“Late fall brings autumn color to the oak woodlands and wet canyons of the county,” says David Harris, coauthor of Afoot & Afield: Los Angeles County (November 2019, Wilderness Press). Harris adds, “This is a time when the marine layer over the coastline and basin often lies low, while the air above can be extraordinarily clean and dry.”
The region offers plenty of trails to explore. In the updated edition of his guidebook (originally written by Jerry Schad), Harris details 259 spectacular outings. This comprehensive collection of hiking adventures is for everyone from families with small children to experienced mountaineers seeking the ultimate challenge. The guide encompasses almost all public lands within the county, including Griffith Park and the Hollywood Hills, the San Gabriel Wilderness, Crystal Lake Recreation Area, and numerous county and city parks.
Complete descriptions and driving directions are paired with easy-to-read maps with GPS waypoints. At-a-glance essential information—including distance, hiking time, elevation gain, and ratings for difficulty—help readers choose the perfect trail to fit their interests. Plus, readers need not venture far into the wilderness to find the top routes.
“Many of the best hiking opportunities start right on the edge of town, right off the freeway,” Harris says.
He would know. For the fourth edition of the book, Harris rehiked every open trail. In doing so, his field work involved more than 1,500 miles of walking and 20,000 miles of driving, over 2½ years.
Harris divides the trails into 33 regions and includes what he believes is “virtually every hike worth taking within an hour’s drive of the city.” The thoroughness of his approach makes Afoot & Afield: Los Angeles County an essential guide for anyone with an interest in experiencing Los Angeles County on foot.
With so many trails, it would be a challenge to explore them all. Luckily, Southern California’s hiking season lasts a very long time.
“More than 9 times out of 10, your outings in Los Angeles County are likely to coincide with dry weather and temperatures in a moderate register for at least part of the day,” says Harris. “Few other areas around the country, and probably no other great city in the world, can offer such good odds.”
Afoot & Afield: Los Angeles County ($24.95, paperback) is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
About the Authors
David Harris is a professor of engineering at Harvey Mudd College. He is the author or coauthor of seven hiking guidebooks and five engineering textbooks. David grew up rambling about the Desolation Wilderness as a toddler in his father’s pack and later roamed the High Sierra as a Boy Scout. As a Sierra Club trip leader, he organized mountaineering trips throughout the Sierra Nevada. Since 1999, he has been exploring the mountains and deserts of Southern California. David is the father of three sons, with whom he loves sharing the outdoors.
Jerry Schad (1949–2011) was Southern California’s leading outdoors writer. His 16 guidebooks, including those in Wilderness Press’s popular and comprehensive Afoot & Afield series, along with his “Roam-O-Rama” column in the San Diego Reader, helped thousands of hikers discover the region’s diverse wild places. Jerry ran or hiked many thousands of miles of distinct trails throughout California, in the Southwest, and in Mexico. He was a sub-24-hour finisher of Northern California’s 100-mile Western States Endurance Run and served in a leadership capacity for outdoor excursions around the world. He taught astronomy and physical science at San Diego Mesa College and chaired its physical sciences department from 1999 until 2011. His sudden, untimely death from kidney cancer shocked and saddened the hiking community.
I’ve visited Colorado before, but I’d never been to Denver until last weekend. I was in town promoting my new book, Phillip Lindsay: Rise of a Hometown Football Hero. It seemed like a perfect excuse for a mini vacation, so my wife and a few friends decided to tag along. If you’re looking for things to do this weekend, here are five itinerary ideas that we loved.
1. Drive the Lariat Loop
When my wife suggested Colorado’s Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, a few miles west of Denver, I imagined a terrifying white-knuckle drive at the edge of a cliff. I’m happy to report it isn’t that! It’s a scenic drive along 40 miles of well-maintained roads.
A person could make the loop in an hour or so. But there are so many points of interest that you could also spend a day or more traversing it. Because time was short on our Colorado vacation, we only stopped at two spots outside Denver. We spent a few minutes at the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum, largely because the view of the city from there is not to be missed. We also explored the next item on the list:
2. Visit Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
This place took our breaths away—in more ways than one. Even before you get to the amphitheatre, the setting is spectacular. The Colorado landscape, where plains meet mountains, is a sight to behold. As for the amphitheatre, it is by all accounts a perfect place for a concert. We didn’t get to see a show, but we were thrilled even just to walk down to the stage area. We were much less thrilled when we had to walk back up!
3. Go to a Denver Broncos Football Game
Admittedly, this option isn’t for everyone. It is expensive, and if you aren’t a football fan, you might instead opt for a self-guided tour via Walking Denver. (That’s what half of our party did.) Those of us who visited Empower Field at Mile High enjoyed a beautiful Colorado day at one of the best stadiums in the country.
4. Take a Ghost Walk
For a fun blend of local history and macabre storytelling, you can’t go wrong with a ghost walk. We booked ours through Nightly Spirits. The 2.5-hour tour was less than a mile of walking. The time was mostly spent sitting in private rooms at four different bars. There, our guide regaled us with tales of reported hauntings. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a ghost walk definitely qualifies as a unique experience worth trying.
5. Enjoy the Food
I don’t have fancy tastes (I’m a fussy eater), but I take my dining out seriously. The meals in Denver were consistently amazing. It started with a home run at Jabo’s Bar-Be-Q in Greenwood Village. We also, of course, had to try the famous Colorado-style pizza at Beau Jo’s (along the Lariat Loop). Other favorites included dinner at the Blue Moon Brewing Company and breakfast at The Cow Eatery (also on the Lariat Loop). If the weekend’s first meal wasn’t my favorite, it had to be the last: a pizza place called Two-Fisted Mario’s.
You’ll find a variety of things to do this weekend in the Mile-High City. You can also grab a copy of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver and Boulder. And if you aren’t in Colorado, today’s a good day to start planning your next trip.
Don’t be fooled by the temperature in Tucson. The thermometer might read 100 degrees in June or 50 degrees in December, but almost any day is ideal for a hike, regardless of the weather. Encircled by mountains, blessed with desert scenery, and flanked to its east and west by Saguaro National Park, Tucson is a hiker’s paradise.
In the new edition of Five-Star Trails: Tucson (December 2019, Menasha Ridge Press), local author Rob Rachowiecki presents 38 five-star hiking trails, for all levels and interests. Divided into six distinct areas in and around the city, the trails provide plenty of opportunities to explore. Readers can bag a peak, take a dip in a swimming hole, or wander among towering rock formations. The nearby mountains are temperate in summer, and the desert is gorgeous during winter. So there is always a trail to suit anyone’s needs.
“Perhaps the area’s greatest attraction is being able to hike year-round in superb scenery,” says the author.
As an example of Tucson’s diverse beauty, Rob cites Mount Lemmon. “Driving [there] is the equivalent of driving from the Mexican border to the Canadian border in terms of ecosystems. It takes just an hour to drive Mount Lemmon Road from saguaro cactus lowlands through high desert grasslands, and on to oak and mesquite woodlands, ending in pine, fir, and spruce highlands. Meanwhile, the temperature drops by 20 to 30 degrees. It’s no wonder, then, that Tucsonans enjoy picnicking and hiking in the mountains to get away from 100-degree summer temperatures in the city.”
In the guidebook, Rob includes detailed descriptions of popular routes, ranging from relaxing jaunts to full-day ascents, as well as a number of lesser-known hikes. Each featured trail is assigned one- to five-star ratings in each of the following categories: scenery, trail condition, suitability for children, level of difficulty, and degree of solitude. This helps readers find a perfect outing with just a glance.
Of course, as Rob puts it, “This being Tucson, none of the hikes have one- or two-star ratings for scenery.”
GPS-based trail maps, elevation profiles, and directions to trailheads help to ensure that readers know where they are and where to go. Insights into the history, flora, and fauna of the routes entertain and educate hikers while out on the trails.
Those with more specific interests will appreciate Rob’s recommended hikes near the beginning of the book. For example, Rob provides curated lists that include “Best for Nature,” “Best for Mountain Summits,” “Best for Kids,” and “Best for Wheelchair Adventurers.”
Five-Star Trails: Tucson ($17.95, paperback) is an essential guide for visitors and residents alike. It helps them save time and make the most of their hiking opportunities. It is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.
About the Author
Rob Rachowiecki was raised in London and climbed his first mountain by accident while on a school biology field course in Scotland. Rob crossed the pond in 1974 and traveled throughout the Americas, from Alaska to Argentina. He has authored hiking and climbing guides to Central America and the Central Andes, as well as travel guides to Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the American Southwest. He has been an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers since 1997.
Since 1990 he has lived in Tucson, where he earned a master’s degree at the University of Arizona and where he enjoys the area’s varied ethnic restaurants, theaters, and outdoor music festivals. He is often found hiking the many desert, canyon, and mountain trails surrounding Tucson, following the seasonal changes, and usually doing a spot of bird-watching, as Brits are wont to do.