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There's Magic In The Mountains
#83 - Hue-Man's tips for traversing peaks and valleys
“Figures dark beneath their loads pass down the far bank of the river, rendered immortal by the streak of sunset upon their shoulders.”
A toothy silhouette tears across the horizon as early purple hues creep from deep space. The Sun is about to make its grand entrance for the day.
The rising morning light paints the land rusty red orange, and by noon jagged faces cut the soft blue sky where cotton ball clouds haven’t padded it.
The Mountains command respect from any who dare to challenge them. And they have their own rugged ways of teaching you to be exactly where you are, so you don’t end up in a place where you don’t want to be.
Hue-Man’s Tips For Navigating the Mountains
I’ve charged blindly into The Mountains enough times now to know firsthand why it’s not fun to run out of water during a heatwave. Or to have the wrong clothing when it gets cold, or to burn up your vehicle’s breaks going downhill from 10,000ft.
So today I’m sharing the tips I wish I would have known before I ever left home. Just in case they might help you in preparation for your next adventure.
Stop to Ask The Locals
Whenever you’re in new territory, especially The Mountains, ask locals you encounter for advice on where to go.
For the best results, ask employees in bicycle shops, outdoor stores, and truck stops. Places where people know the land and travel routes.
They’ll fill you in on scenic routes, great trails and spots to camp, where to find a mechanic, and sections of your current route which would be better to avoid.
I’ve seen magical views I never would have found on my own, simply because a friendly stranger took time out of their day to point me in the right direction when I asked.
If it feels right, I’ll ask if I can have the person’s phone number too, so I can call or text if I get lost, and need a quick piece of advice. Not a single person has turned me down, and I’ve only had to text once.
Review Your Maps Before You Go
Assume your phone is going to lose service. You don’t need to know the land like the back of your hand before you leave your house. But it certainly helps to have a generalized understanding of where you’re going, so you can properly prepare.
Bookstores often sell high quality paper maps. Same with truck stops, and some national pharmacy chains like Walgreens.
Google Maps works great to give a general understanding of the geography of an area you’d like to explore. And it works great to give turn-by-turn directions to get there.
Gaia Maps is the app I use when I’m riding my bicycle on The Mountain. Living on the road, I use the paid version, and when I’m living indoors I turn it off.
It’s easy to download Offline Maps, and to upload my own routes, so I never get stuck without a signal.
It shows my current topography, along with other land features, like summits, giving me a basic understanding of what kind of climbing is in front of me.
No matter how far out of service range I’ve ever been, my phone continued showing my little location dot on my map. With offline maps, I’ve weaved my way through unknown territory, back to cell service range, to pick back up with turn-by-turn directions.
Simply being able to find yourself pinned on a map helps tremendously when facing the mental challenges which sometimes arise when navigating peaks and valleys all alone.
Be Prepared for Sudden Weather Shifts
Weather in The Mountains is unpredictable, shifting at the whim of the wind. Beautiful afternoons darken with storm clouds in the blink of an eye, and even a short hike can quickly transform into a torture fest if you don’t bring enough layers with you.
Anticipate what you would need to stay warm during an emergency overnight situation, and bring it, just in case.
Properly layering allows you to stay warm and comfortable without feeling like you’re wearing a down comforter on a hike. Buy the best clothing you can with your money, and focus on packable longevity.
Merino Wool is expensive up front, but it’s high quality, so it lasts multiple seasons. It packs easily, and since it’s a natural fiber, it doesn’t stink like polyester when sweat-logged.
Use a thin base layer to wick sweat, and to stop air from traveling across your bare skin when it gets cold.
Your warmest layer then goes in the middle. A nice cotton hoodie, or wool sweater works well. Stick with natural fibers as much as you can.
Use a thin, waterproof layer for your outer shell. Of course, if you’re climbing Everest, you’re going to need something with a little more weight to it.
Warm boots are more important than warm socks when it’s really cold. If your boot is insulated, your foot is too. If it’s not, your sock won’t be enough.
Bring a good pair of gloves, and a small dry bag if you anticipate packing any wet items into your bag.
Don’t forget to pack water!
Bonus Tip: Stop To Read The Signs
There are beautiful vistas alongside thrilling roads, scattered all across the United States. And many of them feature fascinating informational plaques about where you are.
Stop to read the signs and you’ll learn the incredible history of the land you travel, just by showing up.
Have Fun Out There
Whether you prefer The Staggering Elevation of the Rockies, or the peaks of the High Desert, The Mountains offer a mystifying perspective on where Hue-Mans fit on Nature’s Sliding Scale of Life.
Our Earth is meant to be explored, and when you go alone, it pays to be prepared.
But any experience will teach you one thing.
You can’t prepare for everything.
So sometimes it’s best to just get out there, to see where the road takes you.
But don’t forget to bring plenty of water with ya!