Preparing for a hike
Before I moved to Washington I didn't know a thing about hiking, so when i first started going on hikes I was extremely unprepared, and let's just say I've learned a lot through my experiences. By no means do I consider myself to be a hiking expert now, but there are a few steps I like to follow when executing a hike. The first step is research. I get asked all the time how I find all the hikes and beautiful places I post about. The answer is pretty simple, I either discover places simply by driving down the highway and pulling over at scenic spots, or I go to the internet. TheOutbound, AllTrails, and Instagram are probably the 3 internet resources I use the most. TheOutbound and AllTrails both allow you to select filters to narrow down the different trails in the area, showing you hikes based on the season, and things you want to see. (Waterfalls, mountains, lakes, etc.) I always like to have 2 or 3 options, and from there I narrow down which hike I want to do with a few questions. Questions like: "How many hours away is the hike?" "Is the trailhead suitable for my car?" "How many miles is the hike?" "What are the weather conditions?" "What is the elevation gain?" Another thing I ALWAYS make sure to do is read the current trail reviews, it can be so darn helpful.
The next step you should take is preparation. Like I said, when I moved here I was inexperienced and hiking solo. One of the first few hikes I did was called Hidden Lake Lookout, which is not an easy hike, and I found myself hiking down the mountain with no light source in total darkness, I couldn't even see my feet. I wrote about it on my Hidden Lake Lookout page, if you wanna know what happened. It was not a fun experience, but it made me realize that I never wanted to be that unprepared again. A few things I always like to carry with me on hikes are water, a knife and pepper spray, snacks, (charged) portable charger, flashlight, first-aid kit, and extra layers as it can get pretty chilly in higher elevations.
Another thing to consider when preparing for a hike is the weather and current trail conditions. A year or so ago, my friend and I went on a hike, not at all aware of the amount of snow we'd encounter. We reached the top, shivering with numb toes and fingers. The views were incredible, but it could have been a lot more enjoyable if we would've been prepared. Long socks, gloves, and maybe even a scarf would've easily done the trick.
The next step is the execution. Once you've done your research and you've picked a hike, you should make a trip plan. Figure out what time of day you want to be hiking, timing it right according to sunrise or sunset. Figure out the exact location of the trailhead, and make sure it's an accurate address. I say this because certain websites give faulty directions. Typically if it's not a well known place, I like to get the actual coordinates to ensure it's taking me exactly where I wanna go. A few times I've been stuck without proper directions, and no service to figure out where I actually needed to be. Now, when you begin hiking, pace yourself. It's not always easy to find the motivation to hike, but I try to think of it as a kick-ass workout that's gonna result in a killer view. I like to screenshot trail details the night before, that way I can follow along as I'm hiking. I also use the Health app on my iPhone to track my mileage, it's always nice knowing how far you've gone and how far you have till you reach your destination.