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Hiking in Colorado is a unique experience

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“I can’t even begin to explain the feeling of being on top of the world; when you look around all you see is a never-ending sky. The journey up is a beauty of its own. You get to see the first signs of spring, the animals everywhere, the smell of the moist ground, the cool breeze blowing through the trees, and if you look closely you can almost see the receding snowline up top,” said avid hiker, Lisa Marquez.

Marquez, 18, was born and raised in Colorado and has hiked nearly all 54 peaks that are over 14,000 ft. in the state. Marquez claims, “I think I learned to hike before I learned to walk!”

Like many people who visit or live in this state, Marquez enjoys the natural wonders found here. Home to some of the most active lifestyles, people flock to Colorado to appreciate the wonders of nature.

“I love cleansing my minds and breathing the cool, crisp air as I hike,” Marquez said. Hiking is a great outdoor sport that offers a great workout and involves getting out and enjoying the nature and great outdoors, she said.

With blue skies in view, planning an outdoor adventure can kick off the spring season. Coloradoans have over 54 peaks that are at least 14,000 ft. or higher to choose from. This may come as a challenging height for a novice hiker; however, there are many courses and hikes outlined from experienced hikers that can be found on Web sites like www.summitcountyexplorer .com.

There are three mountain ranges in Colorado recognized by hikers for their “14ers” (peaks that are at least 14,000 ft. in height) and also admired for their beauty. The Front Range tends to be considered the beginners’ course, then there is the Tenmile-Mosquito Range (mid-range hikers), and finally the Sawatch Range (experts only).

“I have hiked quite a few of the peaks in all three ranges, and they all offer different levels of difficulty for the most experiences to the beginner hiker,” said Randy Gutenkunst, a member of a group of people who have hiked 10,000 miles or more over their lifetime.
Hiking can be a very enjoyable experience for all, however the seriousness of traveling out into the wilderness must be the first though in a hikers’ mind.

“Dangers lurk around nearly every corner. You need to watch out for avalanches, mountain lions, other animals, cliffs, falling rocks, and most importantly getting lost,” Marquez said. Respecting Mother Nature and her existence makes every hike safe and enjoyable, he said.

Before heading out to the mountain, spending a few days planning is advised. Weather, food, gear, shoes, first aid kits, and learning the basics of hiking should all be reviewed. Below is advice from local “14er” hikers that will assist in planning an exceptional spring hike.

Food: Once the hunger pain is felt after a long day of hiking, it is crucial to prepare a meal quickly. Throughout the week before your adventure, save small packets of honey, ketchup, mustard and other condiments that will help add flavor to any meal quick. Also bringing dried goods such as pasta, rice and cereal that are easy to heat up over boiling water is encouraged, to keep a lighter load in a backpack.

Apparel: Most hikers abide by the three-layer system. Dressing with a minimum of three layers makes it easy to stay warm or shed clothes if the temperature rises. Layer one consist of a sheer breathable fabric that will fit under the second and third layer of clothing. Next, the insulation layer, which is the most crucial, generally fleece is recommended as this layer, due to its ability to keep a person both warm and dry. A coat or vest made of a breathable material is an advised third layer.

Beating the Blisters: Single handedly, a hikers’ worst nightmare is a blister . However, they are easily avoided by wearing boots or shoes that fit properly, changing socks frequently to keep feet dry and wearing heel guards.

AMS: Acute Mountain Sickness can be very common for inexperienced hikers in elevations of 8,000 ft. or more. According to Medline Plus, www.nlm.nih.gov, AMC occurs when people rapidly reach a high altitude, varying in intensity based on the amount of energy used during the accent. At a higher altitude less oxygen is available and the air pressure changes. Symptoms range from mild to life threatening and include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coughing up blood, disorientation and in the most severe cases decreased consciousness. Knowing how to deal with all these symptoms and preventing them by not overexerting your body can ensure safety on a hike. Medline Plus reports that most hikers above 14,000 ft. are likely to experience mild symptoms. (insert word with link to video)

“Growing up my father always told me that when hiking, never spit into the wind, wet wood won’t burn, and fishing line is a double for floss. However, on a serious note, knowing the little things like tying a spoon and a pan to your backpack to keep bears and other animals away can make a big difference,” Marquez said.

Another way to minimize trouble and potential danger is to hike in a group or a pair, especially if the trip is overnight.

“One time I went hiking by myself overnight and when I woke up I had no idea where I was. During the night an animal must have snatched my pack and left me with the tent I was sleeping in and the clothes on my back. If I would have been with someone else I would have had a second set of tools and probably wouldn’t have panicked so bad,” Gutenkunst said.

Unfortunately many people visit Colorado and explore the great outdoors and find themselves in a great deal of trouble. By bringing the necessary tools to survive injuries, understanding the treatment of symptoms of acute mountain syndrome, using the three-layer system to regulate body temperatures and avoiding food shortages and blisters can help ensure a safe journey.