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Posted October 18, 2019 | 1:06 PM

Take A Hike, Hillsborough

What you need to know before you explore the great outdoors

Hiking Spree is back! Now in its fourth year, the annual endeavor to hike eight of 21 designated trails for the coveted medallion officially begins Nov. 1. This year, bring your four-legged friends, and they get their own commemorative tag.

Every journey may begin with a single step, but a little preparation goes a long way to making sure your hikes are memorable for all the right reasons.

Register for Hiking Spree

If you're new to hiking, or any physical activity, you'll want to start out slowly. Choose a trail that's suited to your ability and experience.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Start out on neighborhood park trails. These trails are short, paved trails with water and facilities.
  • Once you have your hiking legs, progress to conservation park trails which are well maintained paths and trails.
  • When you have built up your stamina and are ready for a challenge, venture out to one of the nature preserves. Nature preserve trails are subject to daily conditions, have no drinking water source, and no facilities.

Unlike other outdoor activities, the Hiking Spree doesn't require a lot of special or bulky equipment. Most of what you need you probably have or can easily acquire. There are some essentials that you won't want to hike without.

What to wear: Wear weather appropriate clothing. That could mean layers in the cooler months, preferably a moisture-wicking base layer, sun hat, and long sleeves for sun and bug protection. Closed toe shoes or structured hiking sandals are best for footwear. Keep in mind you may encounter water, so clothing and shoes could get wet.

What to bring: A backpack will make it easier to carry essentials such as sun protection, insect repellent, small first aid kit, and a whistle for safety in an easy-to-reach location.
Water is crucial when hiking, especially in the hot Florida sun. Experts advise that adults consume about two cups for every hour of hiking. For children the ratio is one to two cups per hour. Don't forget snacks! Trail mix, protein bars, jerky, and fresh fruit and vegetables are great to keep your energy up when taking to the trails. Please remember to keep trash with you until you reach a receptacle.

Finding your way: Be sure to bring a compass, and paper map or a mobile map app. Leave an itinerary in your vehicle, and leave one with a friend who's not with you.

On the trail: Staying on the trail will help protect the natural environment that you're there to enjoy. Follow signs, or blazes on preserve trails. You may want to keep a nature journal of your experiences, and be sure to take photos and share them using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.

New this year, look for Trial Magic signs and follow the directions for your chance to win some extra rewards.

Let your journey begin, take the first step, and take a hike.

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