Training Tuesdays: choosing a new gym

Moving to a new town inevitably means finding a new gym.  If you’ve had the great fortune, like me, of spending the last six years at a truly kick-ass facility, this is no small undertaking.  Since landing in our new town, we’ve checked out three local gyms in person + another two gyms via the internet, and I’m here to share some key takeaways from the process of choosing a new gym for any of you out there who might be in the same boat.

1. Start with your goals in mind: Your first step in finding a new gym has to be figuring out what you need your gym for.  This can sound like an easy question. After all, you need your gym for workouts, right? But not all workouts and fitness goals are equal.  Depending on your health goals, you may be looking for gyms that feature a ton of cardio equipment or strength-training equipment, with trainers on staff, with lots of classes, with specific programs (spin, HIIT, etc.). What you need from a gym will be the foundation for your search. Consider things like:

–non-negotiable equipment
–location (if you workout six days a week, you are NOT going to want to drive half an hour to get to the gym)
–cost (i.e. if you have a budget, make sure you stick within it)
–hours (one gym we visited didn’t open until 8am on weekdays, making early morning workouts impossible…not that I love them, but they’re sometimes necessary)

2. Start on the internet and make a shortlist: You can learn a ton by checking out websites. I dismissed a couple gyms outright because it was clear from pictures that they didn’t have the range of equipment I needed, or because of how far they were from my house.  Don’t waste your time visiting gyms that will never work for you.

3. Visit your short list in person: I cannot stress this enough. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can take photos of a space that make it look monstrous, state of the art, and ultra posh. I have been amazed at the difference between online photos and reality.  Case and point, we went to one gym last week that looked promising online but had the creepiest vibe (not like creepy people, but just a sort of dark/dingy/dated/oddly empty vibe) in person. As soon as I saw it, it was an instant no-go for me. Vibe matters. You will not want to go to a gym that makes you feel crappy or creeped out the second you walk through the door.

All in all we visited three gyms, and it was hugely insightful in terms of vibe, staff friendliness, customer service (many offered us free trials to experience the gym, some didn’t), and how busy the gym is (pro tip: visit gyms at the time you actually plan to work out for the best preview). Do NOT skip this step.

Sidenote: I couldn’t help but think of House Hunters during these gym visits, particularly since we visited three gyms in person. All we did was walk around and weigh the relative pros and cons relative to our goals. My critical and judgmental self was let loose and it was so much fun! And I had to have that moment of realization that no gym was going to have everything I wanted (i.e. the only gym in town getting a turf section for sleds and prowlers was too far away from our house to be a reasonable choice). Tough choices abounded!  Now that I think of it, there should be a Gym Hunters show. I’d totally watch that! Who’s with me?

4. Ask a lot of questions about fees:  Gym fee structures can vary wildly.  Some will charge monthly, some charge bi-monthly, some offer heavy discounts by paying up front, some charge more depending on what services you access (i.e. just gym access or access to classes too), some add on inexplicable enrollment fees (like it really takes any effort to enroll you?), and some even charge you for FOBs or access cards. It’s a total shitshow of fee structures, and you want to be really clear on what your membership will cost you.

The other big piece around fees is not to be afraid to ask for deals or to haggle a bit.  You might find some gyms are willing to waive enrollment fees, offer a discounted second membership for your partner or spouse, or adjust the fees if you’re willing to sign an even longer agreement. You may assume that gym fees are set in stone, but a lot of gym staff have more flexibility than you think, particularly in smaller, non-chain gyms. Bring out your best bargain hunting self!

There you have it, all the info you need to make an informed choice to find a gym you love. Happy gym hunting! Seriously, I am so convinced that needs to be a show…

 

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Training Tuesdays: Reintroducing Running

Well, if you’ve been reading my TWIRs you’ll know that I’ve been doing the thing I said I wouldn’t do: starting to run again. It is truly a testament to just how bored I get without variety, and also to my laziness when it comes to driving to the gym on weekends.  Regardless, I’ve been trying to run again, slowly and for short distances, and today I’ll share what the pros (i.e. the internets) suggest as best practice when starting to run after an injury. As an added bonus, I thought I’d score myself on a scale of 10 on how well I did in following best practice.  Join me on this enlightening adventure, won’t you?

Caveat: There are a lot of articles on the internet about returning to running after an injury, and they range from highly detailed and informative to completely and totally useless. Most don’t even take the time to distinguish by type of injury. Thus, I have selected the most common themes from what I deemed to be the cream of the internet article crop.

Start Slow (my score: 8/10)
Apparently, best practice is to start with walking, build up your walking, and then kick running off with just 10 minutes’ worth of running to see how your body responds. Well I completely bypassed that whole walking thing, although, to be fair, I walk every day just in life and that was going pain free so it seemed silly to start there. In fact, I can only presume that advice was meant for those who couldn’t already walk pain free.  When I did start running initially, I was doing well with slow starts, though. Technically speaking, my first running sets were probably 2 minutes (1 lap around the track) followed by some strength intervals before another lap, so I think I followed this rule pretty well *pats self on back*.

Build Slow (my score: 2/10)
The math varies, but for the most part it seems either adding an additional two minutes of running or 10% of distance is what’s recommended, with further additions only if the injury isn’t aggravated. Oops. Even when I was just doing track interval workouts, my trainer so kindly informed me that I should have been adding a max of 1 lap per week, and only if my SI remained stable after that addition. Instead, I added laps with reckless abandon, sometimes adding an extra 3 laps in just one week. Then on my first run out, I went for a solid 5.7 km run, only walking for 30-60 seconds every 7 minutes or so.  Clearly my definition of building slowly is different than a professional’s definition. This also explains why I am not a professional and why my advice is not to be trusted.

Manage Expectations (my score: 9/10)
The long and the short of it here is don’t expect yourself to run like you used to right off the bat.  I’m most proud of myself here because I’ve had a lot of injuries over the years and I’ve almost always been incredibly hard on myself when I can’t bounce back to old distances and speeds. Not this time. You can read about how overjoyed I was to run 5.7 km in 40+ minutes here. That’s growth, my friends.

Build Strength (my score: 10/10)
High on the list of recommendations is to build up strength. This will not only make the transition back to running easier by maintaining some form of fitness, but can also help prevent injury recurrence if you focus on muscles that stabilize your injured area. This has been my biggest commitment over the last 1.5 years. I’ve been all in on building up my strength and, as a result, I definitely see faster recoveries from setbacks. I highly recommend working with a professional if you’ve got a recurring injury. I know I just said my advice cannot be trusted, but this advice is different because this advice is totally sound.

Pay attention to injury aggravation (my score: 6/10)
Notice if your injury starts to flair up or bother you, and reassess your running right away. Well, you don’t say. This falls into the most obvious tip category, and yet I’ve fallen victim to it a million times and I’ve known a lot of other people who have too. We convince ourselves we’re just imagining things, or that the pain will probably go away by tomorrow, or that it’s not really doing any more harm. Before we know it, we’re sidelined again, sometimes with a worse injury than we started with (not that I’m speaking from experience, of course). While I’ve gotten better at recognizing when I need to pull back and lay off the running, I still tend to ignore general stiffness and mild aggravation and push through it. At times, I find it hard to distinguish between run-of-the-mill muscle fatigue and stiffness around my injury vs. injury pain. Also, sometimes I just really, really don’t want to drive to the gym and doing so sounds more painful than my injury flaring up.  Rationally, I know this isn’t true, but I’ve never claimed to be highly rational.

Overall score: 7/10
Huzzah! That’s higher than I thought it would be. I mean, it’s totally average and everything but when I started this post I thought for sure I’d come in at a solid 5. Three cheers for being average! All kidding aside, though, as I continue to reintroduce running, it’s clear that I need to focus more on slow progression and paying attention to those twinges, aches and pains following a run. Otherwise, I will be doomed to driving to the gym and to workout boredom FOREVER (yes, my score for being dramatic would be a 10/10).

Mid-Week Tangent: hybrids changed my golf game

An alternative title for this post could be ‘what it feels like to play a 9-hole round of golf without rage’, which is exactly what happened this past weekend. For the first time, I didn’t want to throw in the towel by the 6th hole. I didn’t even throw one temper tantrum. Okay, I sort of got riled up when I missed a putt for my first true birdie attempt, but I like to think that’s always going to happen. I mean, seriously, I was robbed! That putt should’ve gone in! But I digress.

What’s important here is that I’ve found my clubs for life, or at least for my learning-to-golf life, and I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made. Actually, yes I can tell you what a difference it’s made, and I’m about to. Coupled with slowing my swing, about which I’ve already gushed of the benefits, these hybrid clubs have lead to such remarkable improvements as…

…Only losing one ball in an entire round! Even the ball I lost last weekend was a solid shot (for me). It cleared the water…but rolled off the bank back into the water. In contrast, most of my previous rounds involved repeated (think 4-5) balls lobbed into the water or hit into think brush never to be seen again. Ultimately, this led to my giving up, taking multi-stroke penalties and resuming play on the other side of the hazard, all in a distinctly worse state of mind.

…Only taking two mulligans! My partner is uber generous with the mulligans, something which has been completely necessary in past rounds where I missed or badly hit virtually every tee shot. This time around I hit some solid tee shots. Now, if they’d just stop lining fairways with trees I’d be set.

…FINALLY hitting the ball straight with some relative consistency. With any other club I have a strong tendency to hit far left. Every. Single. Time. With my hybrids, I am finally hitting straight, at least with a solid lie. If I’m on uneven ground it’s a totally different story and, in those moments, I really wish I could wrap my head around the fundamentals of physics. Something went horribly awry in ninth grade science. Sigh.

…Having so much fun that I lost track of what hole we were on. Usually by the 7th or 8th hole, I’m all like “sweet jesus, can we be done yet?” Imagine my surprise this weekend when I asked my partner what hole we were on and was actually sad when he said it was our ninth and final hole.

…Wanting to practice and play more!  I am now the one asking if we can golf or go to the driving range, and I owe it all to my hybrids.  I love them so much that I imagine it’s like what Ralphie felt like in A Christmas Story when he finally got his longed-for Red Ryder BB Gun and went to bed on Christmas night with it lovingly cradled in his arms. Let’s be clear, I don’t sleep with my hybrid clubs yet…but if I keep knocking four strokes (!!!) off my prior best score like I did last weekend, I just might!

Now if I could only figure out those bloody chip shots…

Trail Tuesdays: 3 W’s of Hiking in Crappy Weather

Not all hiking days can be blue skies and sunshine.  Particularly here on the west coast, regular hikers are going to encounter inclement weather, everything from low cloud to absolute downpours. Let’s be clear here, hiking in heavy rain sucks. Today’s tips are more for those days when weather is unsettled, the kind of day when you know the clouds are never going to part and it’s probably going to rain here and there, but not the kind of all-day-rain-fest that can happen in the mountains. No one wants to hike in that.  Though it can be tempting to avoid hiking in iffy weather, sometimes you just want some fresh air, scenery and the healing power of nature.

The problem with hiking in crappy weather is that you’re probably not going to see a whole lot from the top of a mountain.  Trust me, I’ve hauled ass up many a trail to see nothing but cloud.

Exhibit A: No view after hours of hiking uphill.

Sure, it makes for a good workout, but it’s far better to save the epic mountain viewpoints for sunnier days.  On a crappy days, the three W’s can help you keep your hiking mojo even in less than ideal conditions:

1. Wildflowers:  Unlike mountain tops, wildflowers aren’t going to be obscured by clouds. On a crappy day, a hike through fields of wildflowers adds a pop of colour and some visual interest even if all the surrounding mountains are obscured by clouds. As a bonus, wildflowers actually photograph better in cloudy conditions than in full-on sunshine. If you get to know your area’s wildflower season and hot-spots, these become great destinations for less-than-perfect days.

Exhibit B: it rained for this entire 18 km hike and I never saw a mountain, but I think we can agree this is pretty damn beautiful.

2. Water: Select a trail that leads to a waterfall or a jewel-toned lake. Similar to wildflowers, jewel-toned lakes pop in grey conditions. Because they’re often found at the base of mountains, those pesky clouds won’t get in your way either. As for waterfalls, they tend to be underrated even though they can be simply stunning.  They’re also more likely to be found at slightly lower elevations, meaning good visibility even in the worst of conditions.  Seeking out both these destinations will keep you from slogging along a ridge line during a torrential downpour.

Exhibit C: Crap day, stunning lake.

3. Waterproof: I’ve written about having the right gear for hiking, and about an epic hiking weekend in which Mount Rainier decided to bestow upon me almost nothing but torrential rain. In other words, I have suffered through a lot of ill-prepared hiking in the rain.  Regardless of the type of trail you choose, the number one most important thing is some high quality, waterproof gear. In particular, you’ll want a waterproof jacket and hiking boots.  All the waterfalls and wildflowers in the world won’t save your hike if you’re soaking wet and cold.

So get out there no matter what the weather and remember your three W’s: water(falls and lakes), wildflowers, waterproof. I promise you it’ll help you make the most of an iffy day.

Trail Tuesdays PSA: be prepared!

Warning: this may border on preachy. Being adequately prepared for your outdoor adventures is one of my hot button topics. I’ve written about safety supplies and suitable gear before.  This weekend I was irked to hear of yet another series of search and rescue expeditions to retrieve hikers from local mountains. All of these trails were front-country, relatively easy half-day hikes in regular hiking season.  The common factor among these rescues: individuals were underprepared for conditions, which included snow at higher elevations.  The toughest part for me to swallow is that this will be the first of far too many similar rescues in the early season. There is enough that can go wrong in the outdoors even when you’re prepared, so why take the risk of going out unprepared and uninformed?

So as not to sound all negative, I’ll add that I actually think it’s great that people want enjoy nature, and I encourage people to get into hiking. However, I get quite riled up when I hear stories of hikers heading out with minimal gear, unsuitable clothing and footwear, and with little knowledge of what to expect in terms of trail conditions, including the intensity of the hike relative to one’s fitness level.  One of the beautiful things about our information age is that there is a ton of information out there to help you know what to expect on a trail. For the love of God, use it!

If you’re going to hit the trails this Spring season, make sure that you’re prepared for conditions:

1. Read up on trail reports: Early season hiking truly is some of the most risky for casual hikers. Warm temperatures and sunshine in lower elevations do not translate to higher elevations, where snow and ice are likely to linger for a long time. Not only that, the snow becomes less stable, which causes a lot more slipping, sliding and post-holing, all of which can cause sudden and unexpected injuries. Trickier conditions can also cause your casual hike to take way longer than expected, which can mean changing conditions and fading daylight can become risks. These aren’t things we tend to think about when it’s 22 degrees at the base of the mountain and yet we should. Provincial, federal, state and national parks have trail reports that are updated fairly regularly, and there are also a number of hiking websites where comments sections are used to provide recent trail conditions. Google is your friend.

2. Pack your gear: I wrote a whole post on being prepared for shoulder season, so I won’t repeat myself here except to say temperatures drop quickly and suddenly in the mountains.  If you get stuck waiting for help because of an injury, or even if it’s just that it takes you way longer than you thought to finish your hike, extra layers may save you from discomfort or even mild hypothermia and a headlamp may help you find your way back to the trailhead safely even in the dark.

3. Know your limits: If you hit snow and you’re not comfortable, or your footwear isn’t giving you enough traction, just turn around. I see people labouring (i.e. slipping and sliding) up and down snow-covered trails in street shoes all the time. My completely obvious pro-tip: if it’s hard for you to get traction going uphill, it will be ten times worse coming back down. It’s not worth it.  Just because others are easily navigating the trail does not mean it will be easy for you. If you encounter terrain that makes you uncomfortable, do not proceed just because others have no issue with it. We all have different experience levels with various trail conditions. Other hikers may be well-versed and geared for their snowy journey. If you’re not, don’t go.

4. Make sure you have route descriptions or a screen shot of a trail map: Most trails are really well marked, but in snowy conditions trails that are usually obvious may be less so. If you’re not sure you’re on the right track, don’t just keep going. Backtrack to the last time you had a clear trail marker or visible sign of trail. From there, if you cannot identify the actual route, do not keep going.

5. Hike for your fitness level: Particularly in early season, conditions may cause hikes to take longer than you think as well as make the hike more physically draining. There is a big difference in energy exerted on a dry, dirt path vs. post-holing through snow. If you’ve ever had to post-hole through crappy Spring snow, you know this. To add insult to injury, you’re probably less fit than you were at the end of last hiking season. Hiking time estimates are just that. A two-hour hiking time estimate assumes good conditions and average fitness.  That could mean you might take 45 minutes or you might take four hours, depending on your fitness and trail conditions. Keep track of your time and don’t assume it’s always faster descending a trail. Turn around if you think you won’t make it back safely during daylight hours.

Okay, I think this concludes my slightly patronizing rant. Like I said, this is a hot button topic for me. Most search and rescue teams are volunteer-based, which means these individuals are often working day jobs and then getting dispatched in the evenings and overnight, giving up their time and putting themselves at risk when searching for hikers. Let’s not put others into greater risk for no good reason.  Accidents absolutely happen on trails and we can’t always prevent them, but we can do everything in our power to be informed and prepared.

*end rant*

 

Mid-Week Tangent: the secret to productivity

The trouble with being unemployed is that I have to schedule meetings all the time with prospective employers or clients.  Okay, this isn’t the real problem, I guess. The problem is that their availability rarely is such that my meetings are all neatly in a row.  As much as I’d like everyone else’s schedule to magically align with my own, it doesn’t seem to work out that way.  Most of the time, I have an hour or two in between meetings, sometimes longer. When I was working, time between meetings was there to get work done but, without a job, there’s no real work to be done. I’m just sitting around waiting for the next conversation.  But I noticed something really interesting about this wasted time between meetings:  I was getting a lot of shit done.  It occurred to me that I may have discovered the real secret to productivity: being forced to kill time.

I like to think that I’m not alone in that I will almost always choose the most enjoyable of tasks at hand in any given moment. If I can watch Netflix now and take care of that annoying thing (that I’ve already been avoiding for months), 99% of the time I will watch Netflix now.  This is the primary reason that I fail to check things off my to-do list for months (and months).

However, when I am forced to sit for hours on end in coffee shops, killing time between meetings, with no one to distract me from myself, I am transformed into a focused, productive machine. I start to tackle tasks that I’ve been putting off for months, tasks that aren’t always complex nor particularly meaningful, but that needed to get done nonetheless. It’s absolutely astonishing.

Here are just some of the things that I’ve finally (dear lord, finally) crossed off my to do list care of killing time: at least 15 blog posts that wouldn’t have been written otherwise (including this one!); applying for four jobs that I wouldn’t have found unless I had been bored and trolling corporate websites; spamming my LinkedIn network to drum up business and/or networking meetings; following up on why I’m not getting billed for my provincial health care; finding out how to get my all season tires back now that my old dealership that stored them is closed; scheduling car service and tire swap at a new dealership; filing my taxes; and changing my address with all the places you don’t think about when you move because they only mail you once a year.

You are probably wondering why I don’t just hang out in coffee shops even when I don’t have meetings scheduled. It is not the same. The perfect storm of productivity requires that a) I am unable to go home or even somewhere more entertaining because I don’t quite have enough time to get back before my next meeting b) I have no money to spend on frivolous shopping and c) no friends are available to come meet me. Only with this particularly trifecta will I find my productivity zone.

No, what I (and maybe you, too) need is a nice, forced block of time to kill . So the next time you are disgusted with your lack of progress on pesky little life tasks, here’s all you need to do:

  • book some sort of event and/or meeting in a location at least 45 minutes from your home or office
  • book another event and or/meeting 1-3 hours after the initial event/meeting
  • do not tell anyone that you have free time between meetings
  • do not pack a book
  • do not look at your work email (if you are employed, that is) or take any other work with you
  • preferably, go somewhere without free wi-fi
  • sit facing a wall so that you will not be distracted by people watching (come on, you know you would be)

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

Trail Tuesdays (it’s new!): what you need for shoulder season hikes

Spring is finally starting to arrive here, which has me thinking about hiking.  When the sun is out and temperatures are rising, it’s tempting to want to get cracking on your hiking bucket list. However, just because Spring is…springing (see what I did there?) into action where you live, it doesn’t mean higher elevation trails aren’t still in winter’s grip.  This is what we call shoulder season, that transition between winter and hiking season, and it’s basically a crap bag of weather and conditions for which you need to be prepared. That’s why today’s post is all about how to prepare for shoulder season hiking.

Quick note: My recommendations here are for lower elevation day hikes during shoulder season, not more ambitious scrambles or mountaineering. That’s not my jam and it requires a considerable amount of knowledge and gear, neither of which I have.

Tips for Picking Shoulder Season Hikes

1. Check mountain forecasts not city forecasts: :  It may be sunny and snow-free where you are, but mountainous areas tend to be their own weather systems. Many National, State and Provincial parks have detailed weather reports for their parks, and some even have weather stations within the parks. These will give you far more accurate expectations for weather conditions on the trail.

2. Whenever possible, check trail condition reports:  Many parks also provide regularly updated trail condition reports that can keep you informed of all sorts of things that can ruin your planned hike (i.e. avalanche risk, washed out access roads, washed out trails, deadfall on trails, etc.). There are also countless online forums where other hikers provide trail reports.  Just be sure to check report dates to ensure you’re actually using recent information.

3. Follow the sun: Your best shoulder season hikes are on trails that get the most daytime sun exposure.  They’ll be the first to be snow-free in the Spring/Summer and the last to get a solid base of snow in Fall/Winter. Consider whether the sun’s trajectory is going to work in your favour on your planned hikes. For me, that most often means southwest facing slopes.

4. How low can you go: Low elevation may not yield the most spectacular views but, unless you know what you’re doing in snowy conditions, they are your best bet for hitting the trails during shoulder season. It’s simple science: snow lingers longest at higher elevations.  You have all summer to summit peaks and to get epic panoramic views. Keep it low in shoulder season.

what to take, what to wear & what to know

It’s important to note here that basics like first aid kits and other safety gear should be carried year round, so I haven’t included those items below. Though much of the gear I have mentioned below is also helpful year round, I think it’s particularly critical for the varied conditions you’ll encounter during shoulder season.

1. Light-Weight Waterproof Jacket: It may not be raining or snowing at the trail head. It might even appear to be a perfect day.  But I promise you that even a couple hundred metres of elevation gain can leave you standing in drastically different conditions, not to mention that weather systems generally change more quickly in the mountains.Take it from me, the girl who never carried a rain coat and nearly froze her ass off several times in the dead of summer: a compact, light-weight waterproof jacket will offer great protection against rain, snow and wind when temperatures don’t warrant a full-on winter coat.

2. Microspikes: The earlier in the season you attempt to hike, the more likely you’ll encounter some form of snow or ice.  I have been ill-prepared for many a shoulder season hike and have descended very long sections of trail only by combining a fierce crab-walk with some anxiety-riddled tree hugging. I don’t recommend either. Microspikes barely take up any room and will save you from making a spectacle of yourself in front of more prepared hikers (not that I would know anything about that).

3. Hiking Boots: I hate hiking boots. They are clunky and heavy and they interfere with my ability to feel the trail beneath my feet. Vanity alert: I also don’t have the leg shape to pull off hiking boots with shorts. Whenever possible, I’m the first to go with trail runners for any hiking experience. The one exception is shoulder season. If it’s not slush or snow, it’s going to be mud.  Any and all of these will lead to wet feet if you’re stubborn (like I’ve been in the past) and refuse to wear your hiking boots. You have all summer to hike in trail runners or low day hikers but this is the time to keep your feet insulated and dry.  For most moderate snow conditions, I find that hiking boots suffice, though there are the odd occasions when even gaiters would’ve been welcome.

4. Gloves & Toque/Hat: It’s generally good form to carry these two items, but it’s especially important during shoulder season. Should temperatures or weather change, you will be far happier.  I’ve also been known to use my hands to help me climb through steep sections of snow. Do that with bare hands just once and you’ll pack gloves forevermore.

5. Poles: I wrote about how much I hate carrying poles in another post in which I recommended carrying them in case of injury. Well, trekking poles are equally helpful for shoulder season in case you encounter snow and ice. They will give you a little extra stability, particularly descending on snow or crossing steep snow slopes.  I’ve also used them to test snow depth and stability when on unfamiliar terrain (more on unfamiliar terrain later).

6. Headlamp:  Hiking in shoulder season can sometimes take longer than expected due to trail conditions,  we sometimes forget the days are still shorter, and it can seem a lot darker in the woods than out in the open. If you are unexpectedly slower than planned, a headlamp is a great thing to have on hand. They’re cheap, light-weight and a lot brighter than the built-in flashlights on smart phones.

6. Know your route and know your limits:  If you do encounter snow during shoulder season, it’s entirely possible your route won’t be easily identifiable.  There may be no track to follow, and not all routes have tree markers. Let me tell you that even when I’ve been on trails I’ve hiked a million times in Summer conditions, I’ve found snowy conditions change the landscape enough that it can be disorienting and you can easily be led astray. Even if there are tracks in the snow, you can’t be entirely sure that previous hikers are on the right routes or travelling safely. Snow is an entirely different ballgame and what looks like sturdy snow may not be. If you’re unsure of the trail’s direction or snow stability, call it a day and wait for warmer weather to finish the trail. Safety first!

With the right gear and information, shoulder season hiking can be absolutely stunning. If you don’t believe me, here’s just a taste of the tranquility you can find:

Typical shoulder season: Wet snow, all of which had melted by the time I descended.
This was the wettest, stickiest snow to hike through. It constantly clumped on my microspikes but it was still worth it.

Happy trails!