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Hit the trails prepared

Pine Ridge neighbor Stacia Wilkins with fellow Hidden Pointe resident Dawn Timlin on the top of Huron Peak in July 2023. The duo has done six 14ers together. While this photo was taken at 9:50 a.m. with blue skies behind them, a storm quickly moved in as they headed down the mountain and they were chased down by rain.

We are fortunate to have many hiking trails available to us, from right out our back door to Rocky Mountain National Park and of course, Colorado’s 14ers. Here are some suggestions to maximize the fun, minimize the mishaps and keep everyone safe, whether it is a quick hike or a much longer one.

“Start with a guidebook to plan a route and find a hiking group or a friend,” recommended Pine Ridge neighbor Stacia Wilkins, who hikes regularly as cross-training for marathons and triathlons. “The buddy system is always a good safety choice.”

Footwear is where all the comfort, or discomfort, begins. The American Hiking Society (AHS) suggests finding well-fitting shoes or boots with good traction, support and protection. Comfortable socks are crucial with wool being the best option for various weather conditions. Stacia likes to wear a trail running shoe; she suggests visiting a local running shop for a personalized recommendation. “I like to have comfortable shoes to slip into post-hike,” Stacia shared. Collapsible hiking poles are helpful for extra support.

Colorado weather can change in a moment, so dress in layers and wear moisture-wicking clothes. Bring a lightweight rain poncho and a space blanket just in case. Sun-protective clothing, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are all necessities.

“For those venturing into higher elevations, bring a beanie, gloves and a Gore-Tex jacket,” Stacia advised. “The wind can make it cold and temperatures can drop about 5.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of ascent.”

Plan for half a liter of water per hour in moderate temperatures. For longer hikes, have a means to purify water and bring a drink with electrolytes. “I like a vest with a hydration bladder for shorter hikes and a larger backpack for additional clothing to accommodate weather changes,” Stacia remarked. Always bring nutritional snacks to keep your energy up.

The AHS recommends safety items such as a first aid kit, a flash light, a whistle and a multi-tool for emergency fixes.

Hiking etiquette includes being respectful of others on the trail, such as yielding to hikers going uphill. Help preserve the trail by staying on the trail. Follow the “Leave No Trace” principles by not tossing out even biodegradable items such as banana peels. Bring a bag to take any trash found out with you to keep trails beautiful. The only souvenirs a hiker should come home with are photographs and happy memories.


Stacia Wilkins, in front, with her daughter, Amanda, and friends Jake, Myki and Dawn Timlin. The group is on the 440-foot-long Kaibab suspension bridge that crosses the Colorado River en route to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon.


By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos courtesy of Stacia Wilkins




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