Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer hiking

I don't really like to hike during the mid-summer, it tends to be too hot, too buggy, and sometimes too crowded for me to enjoy. My favorite times are spring and fall, before or after bug season, and in cooler weather. Fall hiking may have lots of other trail users, hunters, but also bright colors and good access, less snow and mud. Spring hiking has the problems of snow obscuring trails and dangerous or impossible stream crossings.

I still hike in the summer, although I try to find areas less popular and shaded thus cooler. In the Pacific NW, cooler weather is usually easy to find on the west side of the Cascades or at higher elevations. Mosquitoes may be annoying but are not as obnoxious as in Arctic areas and black flies are usually only mildly annoying. However, one summer after a particularly wet winter, black flies were a real nuisance here. I occasionally see people using netting hats but I don't really feel I need one, deet and normal clothing is adequate unless bugs are really bad.

Hiking is popular in the area, on some trails I almost never get to a place where I can't see or hear other hikers. I've also seen hikers line up to sign trail registers. Yet other trails are rarely used; possibly because they aren't featured in popular trail guides. I wish I could switch my work schedule at times so I had weekdays free and could avoid the crowds.

Of course summer hiking has its particular rewards, beyond the rewards of hiking anytime. Because of mild weather, I don't need to carry or wear a lot of clothing resulting in a lighter pack. Some meadows are bright with summer flowers against green grasses. Lakes and streams can be a joy to play in, rather than a risk of hypothermia. Soon huckleberries will be ripe and I'll hike slowly, picking and eating as I go.

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