Hey everyone! I really hope everybody had a very special holiday season! Over the past few weeks, I tried to compile a list of the best tips I had for hiking with a disability. I kept coming up with one common word : KNOW.
1. KNOW your disability.
Know what makes your disability unique, and prepare for it. For instance, people with Multiple Sclerosis are incredibly temperature sensitive, especially to heat. When I hike, I usually go in the springtime or fall, when the temperatures are cooler. I’m definitely not saying don’t go out in the summer time, just be prepared if you do. An AWESOME trick I’ve used are those emergency ice packs that you break to make cold. Those have saved me when I’ve needed to cool down quickly. The biggest tip I can give anyone, even those without a disability, is to keep hydrated. This may seem like a ‘no duh Mary” kind of tip, but it is SO important. I can’t stress it enough. You WILL be miserable if you don’t drink enough water.
2. KNOW your limits.
Fatigue is a very common symptom for those with chronic illnesses. I found out incredibly quickly how far I can hike before I hit what I call “the wall.” That’s the point where I realize that I am so worn out and so tired that I need to stop right that very second. Everyone’s limit is going to be different. Try to hike trails of different lengths before embarking on a huge hike. Do a one mile loop, then a two mile loop, etc. There’s nothing worse than being in mile 3 of a hike, hitting “the wall” and still having 3 more miles to go before you can reach your car. That being said, know when to stop and turn around. There was one time Justin, Jordan and I went on a mini hike in East Hampton, Connecticut on a very hot day. I made it about a quarter mile into the woods before my legs started cramping up. As much as I hated it, I knew I had to turn around, and let the guys venture on by themselves. It turned out to be a really good decision, the hike was much steeper than originally thought, and I was already in bad shape early on.
3. KNOW yourself.
Know what makes your symptoms occur, and what makes them disappear! If you get muscle cramps, bring the medicine that makes it go away. (as long as it won’t make you drowsy on the trails! NOT a good idea!) If you know that your arm may be sore, bring Ibuprofen or the likewise! Always stop to rest when you begin to feel tired. Pushing yourself is not going to make the hike pleasurable. You will end up incredibly tired and grumpy towards the end. The hike may take an extra hour than originally planned, but who cares? You may even find something really awesome where you stop to rest that you never would have found.
How to let other people know: The one thing you can’t plan for: accidents. Even though they are rare, accidents happen, and it’s important for medical personal to know everything about you very quickly. It can save your life. When I’m hiking, I keep a list on me of some very important things: My disability, my medicines, my allergies, my doctors, and emergency contacts.
If anyone else has tips, I would love to hear them! Leave a comment at the bottom of the page to tell me how you prepare for hikes!