Snow is coming down in dollops. Or it’s raining so hard you’re scouting supplies of gopherwood. What’s a hiker with “itchy feet” to do when weather conditions would give a Yeti cause for pause?
First off, don’t venture out on any hiking endeavor without checking the weather report and preparing properly. If you’re not into snowshoeing or other winter trail options, there are some things you can do now to make the most of your “down time” while you’re waiting for better hiking weather. Here are eight suggestions:
1. Invest in a good quality trail guide. The single page maps provided by the nice National Park Service rangers at Mount Rainier National Park are okay. They offer basic, brief overviews of area trails at Ohanapecosh, Longmire, Paradise and Sunrise. If you’re looking for something meatier, however, I recommend Ron Judd’s: Day Hike Mount Rainier: The Best Trails You Can Hike in a Day. For the Olympic Peninsula region, check out Day Hike Olympic Peninsula: The Best Trails You Can Hike in a Day, by Seabury Blair. Both include trail descriptions, topo maps, and trail ratings and photos. Hiker Dude recommends The Creaky Knees Guide: The 100 Best Easy Hikes in Washington, also by Seabury Blair. (Guides for other states are available).
2. Unless you’re planning to hike to your hike, now would be a good time to get your vehicle tuned up. Check the oil, fluid levels, rotate the tires, check your spare, etc.
3. Take stock of your emergency stash. Are your batteries fresh? What about extra food and water? Blankets? An emergency shelter? Tire chains? (Required for all vehicles inside Mount Rainier National Park during the winter season, November 1 – May 1. 4WD and AWD not exempted.) What do you need to replace or update?
4. Make reservations. Don’t wait until the week before your planned hiking excursion to snag a campsite or a room at the inn. You’re likely to be left out. Plan ahead. Book your room or site now. You can book a room at National Park Inn at Longmire or at Paradise Inn via Mount Rainier Guest Services. National Park Inn is open year-round. The adjacent general store offers cross-country ski equipment and snowshoe rentals during the winter months. Paradise Inn typically operates from late May through September-ish, depending on weather.
5. Make your own trail snacks. Whether you dehydrate your own beef jerky – I recommend thin-sliced round steak marinated in honey teriyaki sauce – or mix up your own unique brand of trail mix, now’s the time. The DIY route can save you money, too!
6. Check your hiking gear. Do your boots need new laces? Another coat of Max Shield? How are your trekking poles? Backpack? Is your, “in case of emergency, notify…” contact info. current? What needs weather proofing? Are your socks, Under Armor, gloves and gaiters in good shape? What about your water filter? If any of these or other items need repair or replacement, you can often scoop them up at bargain prices during the off-season.
8. Stay in shape. This may include power walking in an indoor venue like a mall, working out at the gym, developing your own strength-training/calisthenic regimen, or hitting the treadmill. Whatever works. Just don’t use foul weather as an excuse to couch potatoes. If you work at staying in shape now, your body will thank you later when the trails melt out and you’re ready to tackle that next hiking adventure!
A little advance planning and preparation now can save you money, time and effort later. Get busy now so when the weather warms up and sunshine is pouring out of the sky by the truckload, your itchy feet can get out and go!
What would you add?