Friday, March 31, 2023

Compression and Ice Speed Healing

July 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

Is this news to anyone?  Ice reduces inflammation. Why take drugs and make your kidneys and liver pay for (otherwise untreated) knee pain?  I believe that everyone should have a good ice pack at the ready!

Remember the adage:  RICE?  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  I’ve talked on this blog about the importance of compression and I carry a compression bandage in my hiking pack – always.  I’ve helped many a hiker with this simple, essential piece of gear.  But when I get home, it’s ice for my knee.  When I ice, I don’t hurt.  When I don’t, I often am uncomfortable the next day.  I have to remember to ice because I don’t hurt until the next day.

I’ve looked long and hard and have tried many ice packs.  I got this one recently and LOVE it.  It’s great for knees, wrists, elbows, ankles, feet (plantar fasciitis), even a shoulder.  When I first pull it out of the freezer, it’s a bit hard, but it softens quickly and stays cold longer than most.  This particular pack comes with 2 ice packs and one compression sleeve (which has a good wide compression strap.   It’s less than $3 for an additional pack making this a really good value.

Under the ice pack link is a link for a Velcro compression bandage (2 pack – one for your pack, one for home).   Compress an injury quickly (and lightly – not too tightly) to prevent swelling, reduce pain, provide support.

Lastly, don’t forget the compression bandage is in your pack – USE IT. If you can get an injury cleaned and compressed, it can make a HUGE difference. Check with your favorite medical professional or even search around the web if you’re not familiar with the benefits and methods of compression. Most medical kits I’ve looked at do not have this most essential item.

As always, order from the links on this blog.  It supports the blog and costs you nothing.  Anything you purchase after clicking thru from the blog results in a (very teeny tiny) commission – it’s called affiliate marketing and it helps support providing quality info to people who love being outside!  Thanks Hikers & Walkers!

Hiking Guidelines

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

BUDDY HIKES:  As people join our energetic hiking-for-exercise group, it’s helpful to communicate how we are VERY different from other groups.  I know this list seems like a LOT, but every single one of these guidelines has emerged from some issue or concern.

Our primary goal when hiking is safety, followed by exercise, and we hope for everyone to have a good time.  Since that’s different for everyone, please read before you join us:

Our prime directive is exercise – that’s why the Morning Hikers Buddy Hikes were formed.  Secondarily, we love nature.  That we can get great exercise – outside – and connect with our buddies is wonderful, but the social is an ancillary benefit of being outside exercising.

Chatter:   Many people go into nature for the serenity.  4+ hours of competing conversations is not serene. We are a “small” group by design.  Large groups of 16 to 20 can have 8 to 9 different, competing conversations.  It can get loud, when some of us want to hear the birds, the frogs, the burbling water, even the wind in the groaning trees.

  • Some hikers are sound sensitive; some are hard of hearing.  One hiker I knew got migraines from the loud voices and stopped hiking with us.
  • Our hiking group is not the usual – show up, hike, social/chatty hiking group; hence these guidelines.
  • Quiet zones are where we walk in complete silence (except for trail hazard warnings).  They include early starts in places like Muir Woods where people go for serenity,  morning walks through campgrounds where people might be sleeping or waking, places where hazards are present so everyone can hear the warnings, as well as along streams, entering non-system trails or anytime a hiker requests “radio silence.”
  • Be aware of your surroundings and, if in doubt,  listen.  Remember Shinrin Yoku!
  • Please do not wait for the leader to call a quiet zone.
  • Repartee and wit welcome.  No whining.  NO drama.
  • Consider this guideline:  If you find you’ve been discussing the same topic for over 15 minutes consider that there are other hikers around you who are hearing your conversation.  On one hike the subject of death came up.  2 hikers were talking loudly for over an hour about death and dying.  While this can be an important topic, it was not an inclusive experience and – enough already.  It was difficult to get far enough away from the voices to have the nature experience and catharsis that being on the trail brings.
  • Inclusion:  If a hiker or the hike coordinator requests a check-in, please honor that.  Some hikes start on a fire road or wide trail.  This is an excellent time to hear from one hiker at a time.  When one person is talking, others are actively listening.  Starting a separate conversation during this time is divisive, disrespectful and against the “friend code.”

Trail Hazards & Conditions:  We call warnings – “Low Branch,” “Poison Oak in the Trail,” “NEWT!” We ask the last person on the trail to acknowledge this so we know everyone has heard it.   This means that conversations must take second place to trail awareness.   Please be aware and ON so that everyone is safe and has a good time, even if part of that time is quiet.  If anyone steps on a newt – the consequences are too severe to put in writing.

Confirm:  Trail head locations and start times can change due to weather or whim.  We ask that you reply to the hike coordinator to let him/her know of your intention to join us.

RSVP:  If it’s a meet-up hike, keep your status current.  Always check the hike listing the night before or morning of in case of changes.  Changes can occur due to weather or whim.

Plus One:  Please do not extend an invitation to someone  without first checking with the hike coordinator.  If you do bring a buddy, please make sure s/he reads these guidelines before joining us.

OTT:  We start walking at the posted start time – it’s our OTT (on the trail) time.  If you have a specific time you must finish by, let the hike leader know before the hike starts.

Stopping:  We plan our gear adjustment stops/pauses collectively to minimize non-hiking time.  When hiking in rain – many more stops!  If you are stopping for photos, it is up to you to catch up with the group.

Biology breaks:  call your need (for this or any other reason to pause or stop), we’ll either wait or continue more slowly (if it’s a trail without an intersection).  Please do not walk ahead of the group for a biology break and then expect everyone to wait for you.

Trail Etiquette: 

  • Wait at intersections and bridges.
  • If there’s a substantial spacing in the group, it’s important to make sure the last person is with the group.  If you’re in the lead, occasionally look back.
  • If you’re lagging, try to keep up, even if/especially if, it means less talking, more walking.  It might surprise you how much more expeditiously you can hike if you focus on the trail instead of chatting with your buddies.   But, if you’re having trouble, let the leader or another hiker know.
  • If your plan is to go at your own pace, let the leader know at the start.  Do not leave the hike without informing the leader.
  • Please do not stop in the middle of the trail causing everyone behind you to stop.  Pull off to the side so those who like to keep moving (even if more slowly so you can catch up) can do so.
  • If you have your cell on (for GPS, work or medical reasons), try to turn it low or vibrate.  If you get a call while hiking, please hang back away from the group to have your conversation.
  • Carry a map.  You are ultimately responsible for yourself.

Perfume:  don’t wear it.

No Cussing:  Profanity isn’t pretty.

Ill?:  Do not show up with an active cold.    It is a myth that we are not contagious towards the end of a cold – we are contagious until we are well.   Particles from a sneeze can travel up to 25′.

Pole Etiquette:  make sure your pole tips are under your control and not aiming at other hikers.  Make your intentions clear as hikers pass you.  Practice active pole etiquette.

Hike Descriptions:   We try to accurately describe the hikes so that hikers can decide if they’d like to join us for that hike.  If you confirm your intention to join us, please plan to join us for the stated hike.  This helps prevent schisms and extra conversation on the trail.  However, sometimes people need to shorten the hike for all kinds of reasons.   If you need to peel off, inform the hike coordinator as soon as possible.   Hiking back alone, especially if your reason is a medical one, may be contraindicated.

Know your average hiking pace so if a hike is listed as 2.4 mph you know you are comfortable with that pace.  2.4 average means that we’ll be pushing on flat and easy sections up to 3 mph to achieve the average.

Car Pooling: 

  • Not everyone is comfortable car-pooling.  Do not offer someone else’s car or coordinate for someone else.
  • Car poolers:  Be early.  Consider tolls, parking fees and gas contributions.  Bring extra shoes for wearing in the car after the hike (or some protection for muddy boots on floor mats).  Err on the side of overly gracious.

Hike Ratings (when we use them):  Hike ratings consist of a number-letter code where the number is the distance and the letter is the amount of uphill climbing.  Most of our morning hikes tend to be 2-B/C.

Length (miles)

1: Up to 5
2: 5 – 10
3: 10 – 15
4: 15 – 20

Elevation Gain (feet)

A: under 1,000
B: 1,000 to 2,000
C: 2,000 to 3,000
D: 3,000 to 4,000

Hiking & Ticks

May 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

this is not the first post on this blog about ticks .

Last week, after a magical morning hike on Mt. Diablo, I announced a tick check before we got into our cars.  We also did 2 or 3 tick checks while out OTT (on the trail).  Even with the post-hike tick check, I found a tick at my hairline about 30 minutes after getting into the car.  I did not have anyone check my hairline and this was a huge mistake.  A hiking buddy recently sent this link regarding tick removal out to our hiking group.  It’s a one-minute video that’s well-worth watching.

Let’s be safe outside!

Blister Prevention

June 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

Whether you’re walking The Camino or just day hiking, blisters can ruin your day/week/journey.  Here are some tips:

  • Sock liners – for more challenging hikes, I use compression socks as my sock liners.  (search this blog for more info on compression socks) – they reduce fatigue.  The friction occurs between the socks, not between the hiking socks and your feet.
  • Keep moisture to a minimum.  Alternate hiking shoes if you can.  Make sure shoes dry completely between wearings.  Use a fan or boot dryer – air circulation is key.
  • Stop immediately if you feel a “hot spot.”  That’s a blister trying to form.  Do not tough it out.   Affix some sort of protection.
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly.  Lace creatively to reduce unwanted friction.
  • I prophylacticly prevent blisters on my RIGHT heel by placing a piece of moleskin (not mole foam) lengthwise at the back of my heel and then I put a piece of cover-stretch tape over it.   I then carefully put my compression socks on making sure I don’t curl the edges of the tape.
  • Carry pre-cut mole skin and pre-cut cover-stretch in a little plastic baggie in your medical kit.    Cover-stretch tape will stay even with moisture.  It’s gentle on the skin.  If you try to put moleskin on when you’ve been hiking, it will not stay.   Practice with the cover-stretch so you learn how to “stretch” it over the moleskin.
  • Treat blisters with Glacier Gel or some other fancy, space-age treatment.   REI has lots of options.  Carry several in your medical kit.  We like Adventure Medical Kits (available at REI).  They’re a bit more expensive, but so worth it quality wise and sport-specific.

Cover-Roll Stretch – 2″ x 10 yards available at medical supply or compression store

Got a blister prevention or treatment tip?  Please comment!  🙂

Addendum from Dr. DMP:  …from a medical perspective sometimes “blisters” can result in complications and cellulitis and be more serious than you allude to; a warning about seeking medical attention if the lesions do not heal is warranted.

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Hiking Etiquette – Listening to nature

June 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Nature, Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

I was MORTIFIED the other day when hiking with a regular hiking group.

We started at Muir Woods and I wanted to go ahead to warm up before our climb.  Plus, the quiet of Muir Woods early in the morning is magical.  I passed a gentleman and his son experiencing the wonder of this national monument.  I overheard the tourist quietly challenging his son to find a more wondrous experience.  He said it’s better than being in church.   I stopped to point out a few of the natural wonders with them.  We found ourselves whispering because the silence of the woods was serene and profound.  There’s even a sign asking people to respect the quiet of the woods.

Towards the end of the woods, I heard a cacophony of sound resonating thru the forest.  I knew immediately that it was “my” hiking group approaching.  I felt embarrassed.  The man and his son pulled to the side so the group could pass and I told him to go along because – thankfully – we were heading up a trail out of Muir Woods.

This hike was on the small side for this group – maybe 10 people, vs. the usual 15 to 20.  Imagine what that kind of noise an even larger group would have made.  This is a nature experience people go to early so they can enjoy the serenity and majesty of the big trees.

Large groups often have multiple conversations going on and people have to speak more loudly as they compete to be heard.  Long ago a woman, standing on a bridge over the stream at Muir Woods, asked our small group of 4 to be quiet.  I thanked her for reminding me.   I have a friend who hikes behind just so he can hear the sounds of nature.  Many times, I’ve had to remind  our hiking group to please be quiet as we approach and are near water.   I wish I did not have to remind people that part of the experience of hiking – in addition to the EXERCISE and the socialization –  is being able to hear the birds and the water and the wind.

I am going to request RADIO SILENCE the next time I lead an early morning group through Muir Woods.  Good luck to me.

Does this post resonate with you?  Or tick you off?  Either way, thanks for reading!

Guest Post: Do You Really Need to Bring That? How to Audit Your Pack

November 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

Pack weight used to be a point of pride for me. When a fellow hiker began to struggle, I’d happily sling their share of the food and water into my own pack. My travel guitar, a thick novel — they all came along, because I could handle the weight.

That all began to change a few years ago, about the time I hit 30. It was a warm December day in that beautiful block between Christmas and New Years, when excuses aren’t necessary to unplug for a few days and go hit the trail. On day three of a four-day walk along the AT in north Georgia, I sped up to the summit of Blood Mountain and enjoyed lunch with views clear to North Carolina.

But on the way down, I buckled. I’d been feeling a dull but searing pain on the outer bands of both knees, a sensation that had been manifesting itself over my last two years of occasional distance hikes.  I adopted trekking poles in hopes that the better posture and better weight distribution would alleviate the pain, and it seemed to work — a little — until I hit that steep Blood Mountain downhill and could barely take each step.

At that point, I realized that I needed to make a change.  I was carrying too much weight, and I was risking having to hang up my long-distance boots for good.

These days, I rarely carry more than 30 lbs (I weigh 175 lbs) and I’m able to go as far as I need to. Here’s how I made the change:

Get Inspired

Ray Jardine has long been the guru of ultralight hiking, and his book Beyond Backpacking is an excellent place to start researching. Although I didn’t end up giving up my tent altogether, Jardine did inspire me to replace much of my gear with more efficient (although less luxurious) alternatives.

There is also an excellent community and forum called Backpacking Light that provides tips, advice and inspiration from like-minded folks.

Count Ounces

Even though it will never leave your house, a digital scale may be one of the most important pieces of backpacking equipment you can own. Grab a notebook and weigh each piece of your gear (it’s oftentimes a bit different than what the manufacturer says).  Putting your total on paper will help you spot your biggest weight culprits, and be extra incentive to make cuts when it’s time to pack.

Stick with Synthetics

Traveling and hiking in the same clothes that you wear when you’re at work or at home is foolish.  Not only do cotton pants and shirts weigh more than synthetics, they also retain water.  Stuck in a rainstorm wearing jeans?  You’ve just added the equivalent of a brick to your pack weight.

Look for Gear Alternatives

Once I realized that my tent, sleeping bag and stove were over 12 lbs combined, I realized it was time to make some changes.

Tent – Most tents include a separate screened section and rain fly, and perhaps a footprint.  Do you really need it all for the conditions you’ll be out in?  If I’m positive that it’s going to be dry but could be buggy, I bring only the net section of the tent.  Or if it could rain, but bugs are not an issue, I bring only the rain fly and enjoy the open air feel while staying dry.

Sleeping Bag – During the summer, I often sleep with my bag unzipped.  So when it’s warm, I’ve ditched it completely, in favor of an ultra-light blanket (mine is made by Thermarest) that still provides more than enough cover.

Stove – Although I love my WhisperLite, the aluminum can stove has changed my life in the woods.  They literally weigh only an ounce or two (plus denatured alcohol for fuel) and you can make it yourself (or order one from a Boy Scout troop selling them online as a fundraiser).   The only downside is that the setting is always on ‘high,’ but you can boil water in under two minutes!

Accessories – It was a bit sad not to bring my backpacking guitar along anymore, but that extra three-and-a-half pounds were significant.   Instead, I bring a harmonica, or just enjoy the music of nature.  Likewise, I no longer bring my hefty journal from home, replacing it with a tiny waterproof version. And if I’m reading a big novel, it doesn’t come on the trail.  When you come across a lightweight paperback, save it for your next big hike.

Let Someone Else Go Through Your Stuff

It’s easy to think that we need everything we’ve brought along on a trip, but someone else may disagree.  When we pack for a road trip, we logically bring an outfit for each day.  But on the trail, if you’re not wearing it, you’re carrying it, so two shirts for four days may be plenty!

Before stuffing your pack, spread out everything that you’re bringing and let someone else inventory the items and question you about their purpose.  Ask them in advance to be ruthless in their cuts.

Your muscles (and knee ligaments) will thank you, and you’re much more likely to be thanking your friend after a tough climb than to be sitting beside the trail cursing them over that fifth pair of socks they convinced you to leave behind.

Stratton Lawrence is an outdoors and travel writer, as well as a regular contributor for

Trail Tip: Sudden Stops are Dangerous and Inconsiderate

May 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

Do you have hiking buddies who stop suddenly in the trail?

A favorite hiking buddy of mine has a delightful childlike sense of wonder when outdoors –  she is a joy to hike with – EXCEPT when I’m directly behind her.  She stops suddenly to admire this or to adjust that.  Sudden stops on narrow trails, cause everyone behind to stop and wait while she photographs/admires/adjusts, etc.    Several times lately, I’ve almost plowed into her.

Sudden stops – especially on the uphill – interrupt a hiker’s rhythm which can interfere with heart rate management.  Fat-burning occurs when the heart is elevated for a sustained period of time.  Recovery occurs when you stop.  Sudden stopping on the trail allows the heart to recover which interferes with fat burning.  I hike to exercise, socialize and be outside.  Hiking up hill is HARD – especially post-chemo and it’s great (and essential for me) exercise.

I don’t mind slowing down as a way to “wait” while others stop for adjustments, photos, whatever – but I do like to keep moving – even if it’s at a slower pace.  This allows me to keep my heart rate elevated and to scout ahead quietly and maybe even see things I might not otherwise see or hear.

Solutionif you’re going to stop in the trail, do it in a place where others can pass.  Pick your spot if you can or at least call out that you’re stopping so your buddies behind you have a fair warning.

Lupine at lake (Large) Oakland Star Tulip (Large) Red Maid (Large)
Purple (Large) Larkspur (Large) Mariposa Black Diamond

Injuries on the Trail

April 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

Treatment for injuries – you’ve heard it a thousand times – RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation  Exactly how many of these can you do while out on the trail

A buddy falls and bumps or scrapes – leg, knee, hand, elbow – you’re hours from the trail head.

  • You cannot walk with your leg in the air – elevation is OUT.
  • Where’s the ice pack?  At home in your freezer 🙁
  • Rest?  Short of ordering up a helicopter, that’s not an option.
  • You can only realistically accomplish one of the 4 treatments recommended for acute injuries – Compression
  • Do you have what you need for compression?  Swelling is painful and impedes healing.

Over a year ago, a buddy slipped and banged her knee.   It was abraded and started to swell.   Not one of us (including a retired nurse) had an ace bandage.  Our injured hiker was deeply uncomfortable for about 3 hours as she hiked back.  That night, I went home and put an Ace Bandage with Velcro closure in a plastic bag in my pack.   2 weeks ago in Yosemite, our buddy tumbled down some stone steps (at the TOP of Yosemite Falls) and landed on her back – OUCH.  Her knee was scraped and her shin was banged up.

After holding onto her for a moment so she knew she was safe, we sat and assessed.   We then got to a safe place on the trail and sat her down.   The compression bandage came out and we wrapped her shin – tight enough to provide some compression, but not so tight as to cut off blood flow.  It felt very snug to her at first, but as she started walking, it was fine.   In other words, it felt a bit too tight – only initially.  I used a zig zag pattern  starting from the bottom, with slightly less pressure towards the top so the fluid would move up the leg, not down it.

She hiked all the way down with that bandage and left it on for the long drive home.  Her shin never swelled and did not cause problems.   Had we not used compression, she might still be nursing that injury.


Trekking Poles expand your Hiking Horizons, Utah Part 3

Bob is 65.   He works hard so ends up being a weekend warrior which puts him at increased risk for injury. On our Thanksgiving trip to Utah, we hiked 6 days in a row.   We would not have even considered doing this without our poles.

People are always asking – POLES? Why????  They seem surprised when we answer – Poles feel good – it’s great whole body exercise.  They get us places we want to go,  for instance,  Part 3 of our journey:

I remember the lady in sandals who had driven to the top of Mt. Tam’s East Peak asking me, as I had just climbed to the top of the mountain,  if my poles were canes.  Can you imagine?

Let’s talk about improving power on the up hill.   Hauling yourself up with small muscles in your shoulders is not only inefficient, it’s also potentially harmful to your shoulder joint.  Why NOT use big muscles in your back – the ones that support and elongate your spine?  (uh, the ones that keep you tall and reverse the aging process).

Notice the angle of the poles.  Click on any picture to enlarge and click back button to return to post.   Notice how Bob’s arms are relatively straight.  The latissimus dorsi muscles are attached to the humerus.  Elbow pumping does not engage the lats only the whole arm movement does.  This also engages your obliques.  Imagine someone walking behind you squirting WD-40 into your spine as you walk.  That’s what optimal technique feels like 🙂

What about down?  Do you have knees?  Photo #1 above – Remember, if you flick the poles out in front of you on the down, they’ll support your lower body joints and engage rectus abdominus, pecs and biceps.   The steeper the hill, the smaller the steps.   Photo # 3 above – If I had $300 to casually spend, this vase would be in my new living room.  We found it at the visitor center of Grand Staircase Escalante.

Photo #1 above, Bob using plant push technique – power at 8,000′ on the 6th day of hiking…thank you VERY much  🙂

Photo #2 above is me in front of Calf Creek Falls – a lovely and easy 6 mile hike (in and out) at Grand Staircase Escalante on the way to Bryce.  Driving from Moab to Bryce is one of the most stunning road trips if you go via Torrey.   Make sure to stop in at the Red Desert Candy Company in Torrey and get some of their Red Desert Jellies and Truffles as well as a cup of chai or a latte for the road.  You’re hiking – what better time to splurge?

Photo #3 is a really great example of the swing assist for making time on downhill.  Join us on a practice hike to learn/practice this wonderful technique.

Photo #4 is from the Nature Center at Zion.  We took the scenic route back towards Vegas from Bryce through Zion – another amazing road experience.

So, will learning optimal use of poles really make a difference? YES!

Enjoy the outdoors, enjoy your poles 🙂

Hiking Utah National Parks, Part 1

November 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Pole Tips, Trail Tips, Travel

Weather manages our outdoor activities.  Our journey to Utah parks was flip-flopped (again this year) so we could enjoy clear roads and excellent hiking weather, skipping snow, rain & ice in Bryce in favor of  50-ish degree perfect hiking weather in Moab.

Day 1:  Our first hike was the Neck Spring Loop, a LONG 5 mile hike in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.  This loop was an excellent way to start the trip.  It’s an easy hike to find and has such a variety of terrain and features – it’s definitely one of our favorites.  From there we drove a short distance to hike a short distance to see Upheaval Dome.

Day 2 was also Canyonlands – we drove south to the Needles District to repeat an awesome hike we did 2 years ago.

Photos 1 & 3 show Neck Spring Hike & #2 is our first sight of the Needles after climbing up and down 2  ladders.  These new ladders were a huge improvement over what we encountered previously.   Thank you National Park Service!

Below are photos of the famous Landscape Arch and the fins in Arches National Park during our Devil’s Garden hike.  Part of this hike involved walking on top of one of those fins.  Often the direction you do a hike is critical.  Devil’s Garden is one of those – do it counterclockwise.  3rd photo is Elephant Canyon in Needles District.

Click on any photo to enlarge and click the back button to return to post.

We used our trekking poles every day.  Our rubber tipswhich we always carry with us – went on and off the poles.

When on slick rock, we either used poles with rubber tips or no poles.  The tips are more grippy (technical term).

At the end of the main trail at Devil’s Garden is a huge vertical rock called Dark Angel.  As we walked around the rock, we saw 2 climbers on the top edge heading for the top.  We watched them climb and, by the time we were walking away down the trail, they were enjoying lunch at the top of the rock.

Stay tuned for the 2nd half of our journey.

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