“Up there, alone with the wind and the sky and the steep grassy slopes, I nearly always find after a while that I am beginning to think more clearly. Yet “think” does not seem to be quite the right word. Sometimes, when it is a matter of making a choice, I do not believe I decide what to do so much as discover what I have decided. It is as if my mind, set free by space and solitude and oiled by the body’s easy rhythm, swings open and releases thoughts it has already formulated.”
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“I am not at all clear when it happened, except that it must have been more than ten years ago. I do not even remember for sure whether it happened in Africa or in North America. But the salient contours stand out boldly. I had come to some natural boundary. It may have been the end of a trail or road, or the fringes of a forest or the rim of a cliff, I no longer know which. But I do know that I felt I had gone as far as a man could go. So I just stood there looking out beyond the edge of the world. Except for a wall of thick, dark undergrowth, I am no longer sure what I saw, but I know it was wild, wild, impossible country. It still looms huge and black and mysterious in the vaults of my memory.
All at once, quite without warning, two men emerged from that impossible country. They carried packs on their backs, and they were weatherbeaten and distilled to bone and muscle. But what I remember best of all is that they were happy and whole. Whole and secure and content.
I talked to them, quite briefly and in considerable awe. They had been back deep in the wilderness, they said, away from civilization for a week. ‘Pretty inaccessible, some of it,’ admitted one of them. ‘But there’s a lot of beautiful country in there --some of the finest I’ve ever seen.’ And then they walked away and I was left, still awestruck, looking out once more into the huge, black, mysterious wilderness.
The awe that I felt that day still hangs in my memory. But my present self dismisses it. I know better. For many times in recent years I have emerged from wild country, happy and whole and secure and content, and have found myself face to face with astonished people who had obviously felt that they were already at the edge of the world. And I know, now I have come to consider the matter, that what I have seen on their faces is exactly what those two men must have seen on mine, many years ago.”
-- Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker (Alfred A. Knopf, 1968)
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Everybody knows that we can’t live for long without water. And that it’s vital to take in adequate amounts of water each day for our bodies to function properly.
Just how much do we need? That obviously varies from one person to another, but most of us need more water in warm weather, especially when exercising outdoors.
The consequences of getting dehydrated shouldn’t be taken lightly. Common symptoms include weakness, dizziness, nausea, and simply not feeling well.
Summer headaches are often due to inadequate water intake. If you get a headache while hiking or at home or work, drink lots of extra water and see if it goes away.
As you may know, thirst doesn’t always sufficiently inform us of when and how often to drink. By the time we feel thirsty we may already be semi-dehydrated.
When in doubt, drink regularly throughout the day, both at home and on the trail. Ignore occasional warnings in the media about the dangers of drinking too much.
Such warnings mainly apply to people engaged in strenuous activities who have chosen to chug down large amounts of water in a short time. Not smart!
While hiking it’s sensible to sip regularly, and only try to drink significant amounts of water after resting. A rested body should process and retain the water best.
Also, it’s wise to drink plenty of water during the day and evening BEFORE a hike, plus early that morning, so you’re not starting a hike with a water deficit.
It’s important as well to take in ample salt and electrolytes on warm or hot days when we’re exercising, sweating, and drinking lots of water. Don’t avoid salty foods at this time of year. For electrolytes consider bringing juice or a sports drink.
How much water should we bring on a summer hike? A minimum of a liter on easy hikes, and at least 2-3 liters on moderate and moderate-strenuous hikes.
These days many of you have hydration systems in your packs which allow you to drink from a tube. Others of us continue to carry hard plastic water bottles, which will also do the job perfectly well.
Fill them up before leaving home, so you don’t forget, and in case the place where we make a bathroom stop on our way to a hike doesn’t have potable water.
As many of you know, you can have refreshingly cold water to drink on a hike by putting a water bottle in the freezer the evening before. To avoid the risk of a bottle bursting (since water expands when it freezes), always allow air space at the top.
Some of us favor spring water, which is invariably delicious. Whatever you bring, prepare to enjoy one of life’s simplest, most vital, most delectable pleasures…
-- Charlie Cook