Flip-flops are for the beach, the pool, and for questionable public showers, but they should never be for hiking trails.
As people swarmed local parks during the pandemic, many inexperienced hikers found their way into nature for the first time. Although they were eager to get fresh air and great views, many new hikers were woefully unprepared for the challenge of being in nature.
Over the past two years, search and rescue teams have been working overtime to save unprepared hikers who find themselves in unexpected and dire situations. The cost for these rescues has been exorbitant and takes away the funding for other important programs that our parks provide. With just a little preparation, many of these rescues can be prevented.
Now, I am not saying we should restrict access to nature, or that those who are inexperienced should stay off the trail. That type of judgment and gatekeeping has gone on for far too long in the hiking community and every person, irrespective of size, age, skin color, or disability has a right to be in nature without shaming or fear. But, I think we can all agree that being prepared for nature is a prerequisite for being in it, no matter who you are.
On the hottest day of summer 2021, I summited Anthony’s Nose from the Camp Smith Trail in Hudson Highlands, New York. Strapped with my full pack, extra water, food, and a first aid kit, I looked unbelievably overprepared as I passed several hikers with only their flip-flops for protection and Starbucks iced coffees for hydration. But, as I climbed and sweat poured down my back, the trail started to look more like the ending of the Olympic Men’s triathlon, with overheating bodies strewn at various points along the trail. I’m unaware if anyone needed to be officially rescued that day, but I do know that there were several hikers who needed extra support to make it back to their cars.
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