Advanced Walking Techniques for Ridge to Bridge
Fred Gunther, a volunteer and long-distance hiker, compiled some tips to help hikers prepare for Ridge to Bridge or any long-distance undertaking on the Ridge Trail. Please enjoy!
Most of us successfully master the art of walking at a young age. However, walking over a long distance and in relative comfort requires a little more preparation than confidently putting one foot in front of the other. Following these guidelines should help keep a smile on your face during your Ridge to Bridge journey.
Prepare thy body
You definitely don't want to wake up dormant muscles on the day of the hike. Conditioning your lower body and core with squats, lunges, dead-lifts, and an abdominal routine will ensure there are no surprises on the big day. These exercises can be done with or without weights. Try taking a few minutes out of your day at work or hit the trail and incorporate it into your weekend hikes. You may feel silly doing lunges in the woods but your body will thank you.
Dress for success
Start off your base layer with a merino wool shirt. Merino wool is one if the best materials for the outdoors since it will keep you warm when wet and its wicking properties will help regulate your temperature when it gets hot. This is a great advantage for a climate that has a hard time making up its mind. If fog rolls in or the wind picks up you can add a wind or rain jacket. A down or primaloft vest or jacket is another lightweight way to add warmth on the move. Put them all together and you have the ultimate layering system for any weather. For your lower-half, pair a nylon, polyester, or blended "quick-dry" pant or shorts with undergarments of similar fabric for a winning combination. We recommend long pants for singletrack sections where you may find poison oak too close for comfort. If you must wear shorts, be sure to scrub with Tecnu!
Happy feet = happy hiker
The best way to avoid blisters is to have well fitting shoes and dry feet. California trails are very friendly towards trail running shoes which are well ventilated but those that crave the extra ankle support should opt for a lightweight hiking boot. Merino wool socks make an excellent choice to move moisture away from the skin on your feet. Replacing the wafer-thin insoles that comes with your shoe is often overlooked but well worth the added comfort. Make sure to give your system a few test runs before going the distance.
What do I do with my arms?
I can't endorse hiking poles enough. They allow you to engage your upper body while hiking, provide extra balance, support your lower body, and eliminate the "Mickey Mouse hands" effect which inevitably happens when blood pools into your dangling hands. Glove liners make the perfect companion for hikers that don't like swinging their hands in the cold air.
If you don't already have a hydration reservoir and day pack to carry it now is a great time. While on the trail, you will need to drink plenty of water and often. Reducing the effort to access your water by having a bite valve near your mouth is a great way to do it. Most day packs for hiking will have a sleeve to slip in a stand alone reservoir with a slot to run the hose out to your face. Any company that sells the reservoir will also sell the complete hydration pack system if you want to get it all in one purchase. Just make sure it's big enough to stuff with your extra layers and snacks for the day.
Each person will receive a map with directions. If you are unsure which direction to go at a trail junction orient the map to point north by using the sun to establish your east/west axis. You will also have the distance to the next trail junction. Take note of the time and estimate how long you think it will take to get there based on your hiking pace. You can figure out your average pace during your warm up hikes. A quick pace is generally about 3 miles per hour. If you don't reach your next destination on within a reasonable time you should reevaluate your position.
If you heed my advice to condition your body, avoid cotton at all costs, splurge on your feet, activate your arms, stay hydrated, and wear a watch you're going to have a good time! And, if you haven't registered yet, sign-up here!
Fred grew up hiking in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and the day after graduating college in 2009 he and his best friend were dropped off in Georgia with the goal of "thru-hiking" to Maine. After completing the 2200 mile journey in less than 4 months he spent some time in the workforce and eventually found his way out to Silicon Valley where his interest in the Sierra mountains grew. Following in his father's footsteps Fred completed the entire John Muir Trail hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney in 2014 and looks forward to his next big adventure wherever that may be.