I want to discuss the process of discovery hiking because it is the key to making hiking an adventure.
The adventure in discovery hiking starts when you turn your attention from the trail to what is happening on and or off the trail; seeing what is there but not necessarily obvious, listening to what you are hearing and learning to understanding what is being said. Thus, attitude is of singular importance as you hone your skills at discovery hiking because you are hiking expectantly and using all you senses to discover what is happening around you. This will come natural over time but, during your beginning hikes, it will take focused attention.
The most practical way to begin the process is to determine something specific you want to discover (this may be a bird, an animal, a location, etc.) and prepare before your discovery hiking with a little research on where you might find your objective. My suggestion is to start with something relatively general that can lead you to something specific and help develop your skills. That way the hunt gets more exciting the more you get into it. So let’s say you want to find footprints of the animals that live in the habitat of your hike. Your initial research might be to get a chart of the footprints of the common animals found in the habitat. You might get a trail map of the area and look for the locations of water, particularly water that is not directly on a hiking trail. All animals and birds need and congregate around water and footprints are a lot easier to see and identify if they are left in moist ground.
Thus, you have an objective to discover the location (the haunt) where you can find evidence of the animals living in the habitat. You know their footprints because you have done your homework and you have at least one area where you can start your investigation to see what you can find. In our discovery language, the footprints are the objects of your discovery. The location of the footprints is the mystery to be solved. Secondarily, the owner of the footprints is your next investigation. Whose are they? This exercise is one of the most basic and most influential you can do in developing an understanding of the critters that live in your area. Once you understand who is there, their habits, diets, and activities, you start building your knowledge base that will lead you to serious adventure.
Now that you have your objective defined, you have your research compiled and in a form that you can have it readily available while hiking, your next step is to determine what tools you need to take with you to assist in your investigation. Some basics might include:
- The 11 Essentials in your backpack. If you need this checklist you can get it along with a basic hiking strategy and a more exhaustive gear list by clicking HERE.
- You will want to chronicle your findings. I strongly suggest you take a journal and pen for recording your discoveries.
- Bring along a camera to take pictures of the prints you find.
At this juncture, we have identified a basic of discovery hiking that will introduce you to, or at least give you some clues to, the eyes of the forest that are watching you trek through their habitat. Through a series of this type of investigatory hikes, you will gain understanding into the signs, sounds, and habits of the forest inhabitants. As you gain both insight and confidence in the process you will move from seeking a sign, like a footprint for understanding who lives here, to seeing a footprint or hearing an activity and seeking to find out what they are up to. I have posted a couple of blog posts that describe some of this activity. Check out: “Hiking Off Trail” and its follow up “Uncovering The Mystery”. You might also enjoy “Listening To Your Hike.”
In future blogs, emails and training’s, I will be providing you with much more detail on the discovery process along with handy tools and keen insights. Soon the investigations of Rupert Walker and his hiking cohort Dr. Jonathan will be available for your enjoyment and edification. Take a look at Dr. Jonathan’s blog post for a little history.
Concurrent with your growing skills at discovery hiking you will, by necessity and developing the skills of off-trial hiking. In the near future we will be starting the training in the basics of off-trail hiking beginning with map reading and navigation. I am inspired to be participating with you in discovering the wonderful world of nature and the enormous wealth of experience, adventure, and wisdom that we gain by engaging, understanding and preserving what has been provided to us in the great outdoors.
I hope to see you on the trails of adventure.
With hiking stick in hand,