Category Archives for "Stories"

How do I start? What gear do I take?

Let me start off with a story: A few years ago, I spent a few days in a remote Zen monastery near Kameoka in Japan which is about a 45 min train ride from Kyoto. This
zen temple was in the mountains of Kameoka with some spectacular scenery and hiking trails. At one point in time, the monks who lived there and the visitors like me
decided to go for a hike on one of the trails. One thing to note that this was a rocky, rooty trail that was steep in many parts and this was February so quite cold
at that time. I remember wearing my hiking pants and large hiking boots with goretex and all my fancy gear and then there was a young monk who lived in that temple
who wore his simple cotton clothes and a pair of sandals which had definitely seen better days. My memory of him is that he was bounding up the trail with a big grin
on his face and having the time of his life. I do remember consciously thinking that I could get by with a lot less.

The point of the above story is this: hiking is easy. You just pick a trail and start walking. While you are walking, you let go of your worries and enjoy nature.
That is all there to it. There are a few details you may need to think about but those should be secondary to these points. A lot of time we get lost in the details
(for example, what gear to take, food, weather etc) and lose sight of the big picture. Do not get me wrong – All that stuff can be important and we talk about that on
this site. But the point is, you can get started with a minimal set of things and still go a long way.

So, what are some of the things to think about?

Firstly, start small. Pick a trail that is easy and on a day that is nice and sunny and no chance of bad weather. Just pick something that is not that far from civilization
and you can bail out in a hurry and get to safety if things take an unexpected turn (for example: you get tired, run out of water or the weather turns nasty).

Do not pick something that will take longer then a couple of hours to complete. Just make sure whatever you pick is enjoyable and well within the parameters of your
current fitness level.

Do not worry too much at this point about exactly what you will take. As you get more knowledge, start getting out more, you can start thinking about gear more.
At this time, just a snack and a liter or 2 of water should be sufficient (for your easy trail). The quantity of water may vary depending on where you are hiking,
season and your individual body needs – try to carry enough and a bit extra but no more.

Make sure you have comfortable footwear. That is key. I have hiked barefoot in India and in big leather mountaineering boots on glaciers, Adidas sneakers in tropical
forests in Hong Kong and minimal sandals near active volcanoes in Philippines and trust me when I tell you: Having comfortable footwear is KEY. We will touch on a
lot more on that in future posts.

Make sure you have a snack. Something tasty , packed with calories. Food tastes much better when you are hiking. This is something you can experience for yourself
when you get out there. We will again be talking in a lot of detail around food.

Well…that should be about it. Like I said, hiking is easy. Our main goal should be getting out there and enjoying ourselves. Learning a bit more about
ourselves and the world we live in. Hiking beautiful trails and leaving no trace of our passing so others can enjoy as well.

If you need further information, feel free to download the checklist. Also , email me questions. I read every email I get and I may just answer it in a blog post so others
can benefit as well.

Talk to you soon and see you on the trails!


My first overnight hiking trip

Joffre Lakes

Or how I did a 2 hour hike and dehydrated and hungover…

Joffre Lakes

An intrepid hiker, long time ago 🙂


Back in 2004, I started getting into hiking. I had moved to Vancouver from Toronto in 2000 and I had did a couple of day trips at that time. I started reading some online forums and people were posting their trip reports as well as pictures and I really wanted to get out there and start experiencing the great outdoors.

A bit of background: I started first getting into the outdoors and the wild when I was younger, around 13, 14 years of age. After that, there was a lull in any kind of hiking or outdoor activity until much later. So it is, totally OK
to start if you are older.

In any case, I woke up Saturday morning hungover – I knew I was going hiking in the mountains, carrying a heavy pack on a trip that I had never done before with people that I never met before (except virtually online) but being young and stupid, you do what you gotta do 🙂 Word to the wise: Do not do what I did. Hiking hungover is not fun at all!

I cannot remember if I drank enough to get re-hydrated but the trip to the trailhead with my companion from the forum was uneventful. When we got there, we started hiking together but soon after, it was apparent that he was in much better shape then I and asked me if I was OK to hike alone to the campsite (3rd Joffre Lake – picture below).

My first hike - the view was worth it!

The view was worth it!

I said “Of course” and soon was left to my own devices! It was a beautiful, sunny, warm summer day and it felt good
being in the mountains. It sounds cliche, but fresh air and the scenery was quite rejuvenating spiritually and physically.

I have ALWAYS felt that whenever I go hiking. A phrase that keeps popping up in my awareness of my thoughts is, “I’d rather be bumming around in the mountains”. Now keep in mind that it is not always fun – there can be challenging times, mentally and physically (more on that later) – but if I were asked to pick, I would rather be bumming around in the mountains.

In any case, I got to the campsite and met my companion as well as the rest of the group who had hiked up earlier. They were glad to see me and had already setup their tents before and were enjoying their beverage of choice when I got there. They welcomed me and I started setting up my tent and brewed a cup of green tea. I will be talking about strategies for setting up camp and beverages to drink in future posts!

The reward when you get out there

Mountain view at Joffre Lake Campsite

Detailed memories are a bit sketchy at this point but one that stands out is that our campsite was right next to a huge
glacier which had an icefall at the edge. In the evening, we could hear big chunks of ice breaking from the icefall
and falling in the lake. The sound was quite loud, that of rumbling thunder and it was quite neat to be in the middle
of nowhere and experience something like that. Other then that, it was very quiet and that is one of the things I really enjoy about being outdoors (specially in the winter when snow acts as extra sound dampener).

I will talk more about the experience of quietness and meditation in the outdoors at at later point.

Conclusion and Lessons Learnt

– Be prepared for your hike with good rest and make sure you wake up and have a good meal before you embark on a
strenous hike.
– Hydrate yourself with water prior to beginning hiking. This will help you.
– Take the time to stop, admire the scenery, take pictures. Uusually, there should be no rush to get to a destination.
Enjoy the journey. Time is precious and a time with a good friend/loved one or alone in the mountains is very precious.