My wife and I started hiking after we moved to Maryland. Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and DC have a lot of hiking paths and sights to see. This hobby dovetails with my photography hobby and I'm getting my money's worth out of my camera. We started out as complete amateurs. A typical hike consisted of driving to a desired hiking path. Hike the trail and take pictures. Return to car and drive home. We started hiking longer trails and trails with some mountain climbs. After we climbed up 500 feet to chimney rock on Catoctin mountain we discovered that we were going to start carrying water. At the top of the mountain I would have paid a pretty price for a bottle of water (and maybe a hotdog)! We bought one small insulated back-pack that could hold 3 bottles of water. Eventually we bought a day-hike backpack and I still use that pack. The reason for a larger pack was to carry some food (aka snacks) as well as more water. That worked pretty good until we hiked Bob's overlook on a very hot and humid day. That was a brutal hike. We ran out of water and it was inconvenient to stop along the path and dig out a bottle of water. That's when we got serious.

After some research (all thanks to my wife Michelle) we bought another small backpack from Walmart with a water bladder and an extra water bladder to fit my day-pack (the day-pack already had a pocket for the bladder and a hole for the tube). The bladder packs held 2 liters of water and they were good for up to a 6-mile hike. Recently, we noticed that we ran out of water by the time we reached the car and that is just annoying. That prompted the purchase of the 3-liter bladders. This brand is a top-load model with an insulated tube. Which makes it easy to load ice from the dispenser.

In July of 2016 we took a vacation to the Four-Corners area of the South-West U.S. My wife researched hiking and parks in that region and we managed to hit about 6 parks in 7 days. You can view the photos at my hiking blog by clicking here: Recreational Hiking and Sight Seeing As you look at those pictures keep in mind that it was no cooler than 95 on any day that we were there. The weather was dry but that just tricks your body into thinking that it's not too hot out. I'm used to dripping in sweat when it's hot, indicating that I need to drink. In a dry heat, the sweat evaporates quickly and I learned that you must be conscious of how much water your drinking (or more to the point, not drinking). We both suffered from heat exhaustion and it was difficult to get our energy back to normal. Salt intake is just as important as water and we started taking beef jerky and at least one bottle of Power-aid/Gator-aid with us.

Another type of hike we do is the rock scramble. We have a path near our house called the Billy Goat trail. We've hiked that path several times, but on our first time the rocks were hot and there is one spot where you need to climb up a rock face. To keep from burning our hands and prevent scrapes and cuts, we bought some crag gloves (from black diamond).

I would recommend this brand and style for any hiker who plans to do a rock scramble. They're about $20 a pair and they grip rocky surfaces really well.

Why do we hike? Exercise. Yeah, ok, not really. Exercise is not the main reason why I like to hike, but it is a great benefit. I hate the treadmill and it's too easy to stop and end my workout whenever I want. Walking 6 to 8 miles up 2,000 feet and seeing the landscape from a lookout is exciting. Once you're committed, there is no other way to get back to the car, except to hike the remaining miles. Also, many of the sights we've seen cannot be seen from the road or a park view point. The trails provide access to much more. Natural Bridges park is a very good example of this. The lookouts are nice, but the hiking trails go under the rock bridges. You can walk right up and touch the rock.

Photography is another excuse to go hiking. There's blogging. I post the pictures on my hiking blog and describe my experiences. Hiking is an excuse to get out of the house and breath some fresh air. It's a challenge to see if I can make it up a mountain side to an altitude that I've never hiked before. Chimney rock was a 500-foot elevation gain and the first time we did it was hard! Earlier in 2016 we hiked the entire 8-mile loop of Catoctin park. It was tiring, but not as difficult as I remember the first time. When we hiked overall run falls at Shenandoah National park, our elevation gain was 1,700 feet and 6 miles. Now we're contemplating hiking paths like South Kaibab and Bright Angel at the Grand Canyon.

This type of hike will require camping. Not really my thing, but I'm willing to tough it out to see the sights. The Kaibab trail is about 6 miles long with a descent of 4,780 feet. We plan to go down that trail. Then the Bright Angel trail is 9 miles long with the same altitude going up. There's a connecting trail at the base of the canyon that is about 4 miles or so. The Bright Angel trail has water along the way, which is why we want to hike up that trail.

Before we attempt this hike, I want to know what it will feel like to hike something that big. We're going to plan a local hike involving a trail that has some altitude (1,500 - 2,000 feet or so) and we'll need to hike it up and down at least 2 or 3 times in two days. This will indicate how much food and water we'll need to pack and we can test any camping equipment we decide to purchase. This will also take some research and we will probably find another large trail that will test our abilities before we return to the Grand Canyon.