Trail Tips

Go Early:  One key to a successful and satisfying hike is to start early. Most all open space and recreation areas in North Andover can offer several hours of hiking enjoyment on a variety of trails. Beginning your hike early in the day can mean an abundance of viewable wildlife at most all locations as each morning progresses. Another benefit of heading out earlier in the day is cooler weather.  Less heat means less sweating, therefore less water needed and a lighter load.

Go Light:  It’s simple: carry less, go further. A minimalist approach is suggested to food, clothing, and other items.  Each hike should be planned considering the risks involved. One advantage to extreme day hiking on well-established trails is the reduced need for survival items since its harder to get lost or hurt yourself. Survival equipment is not necessary for most day hikes in North Andover.

Food:  Trail Mix may not be the best food on the trail for a hike that has high levels of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.  Nuts and other oily, fatty foods are harder to digest when your body is using your oxygen elsewhere.  Also, fruit in excess can cause digestive distress.  The best foods on the trail are sport bars like Clif Bar, Promax, Balance Bar, etc ... and, for a sandwich that travels well and always seems to taste good: PB&J. 

Water:  Staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of a sucessful and rewarding hike. By studying the weather in advance, the area's water sources and the trail, one can carry the minimum amount of water; which is probably the heaviest thing one carries on a hike. Drink the appropriate liquids that will replenish your body as you sweat while hiking along the trail. Remember to always carry out any containers used or resulting refuse that you brought in.

Clothing:  If you have cotton or wool clothes don’t even think about hiking with them.  Cotton and wool clothing do not allow the body to breath efficiently creating a soggy wet feeling as you move along the trail. There are many high tech fibers that wick (transport your sweat into the air) and are warm (since not wet it feels warmer) and are incredibly light.  Some of these trademarked fibers are coolmax, utralight mircrofeece, microfiber, capilene, polartec, ultrawick, gortex, and lycra. Layering these materials makes it is possible to hike with incredibly light clothing

Hats:  This is easy. Wear the largest, lightest brim hat you can stomach. Yes, it’s dorky looking but do it anyway. It keeps you cooler and lessens the chance for wrinkles and skin cancer.

Sunscreen:  See the part of the last sentence on hats.  Higher altitudes and summer time are brutal to the skin.  Low altitude and any sun are brutal to the skin.  Put sunscreen on all days, cloudy or not.  Consult your local dermatologist.

Insect Repellant:  If you plan on going off the trails you are hiking always wear long pants and long sleeves. Remember that not only are there mosquitos out on the trail but ticks as well. Check your clothing periodically to avoid unwanted blood thirsty passengers. Always prepare yourself with bug spray or an insect repellant that you are familliar with.  Pay strict attention to the percentage of deet in the product before it is applied to the skin. Children can be extremely sensitive to products with high concentrations of deet which can result in nervous system and cardiovascular problems.  Please use caution and read the labels of all insect repellant products. Also remember that not only are there mosquitos out there but ticks as well. the presence of ticks are common in most all open space and recreation areas in North Andover. Avoid dry areas where tall grass and overgrown vegetation are present. Inspect your clothing on a regular basis to avoid having problems with ticks and Lyme Disease. It's better to be prepared before you set out for your hike by owning your own tick removal system. To learn more on Lyme Disease and it's prevention please vist The Lyme Disease Foundation website.

Poison Ivy:  Always pay strict attention to vegetation as you move down any trail. Poison Ivy in the north and in North Andover is a common nuisance species of plants that can cause a wide variety of problems to the recreational outdoor enthusiast. Information on poison ivy and adverse reactions to this plant can be found at this website

Footware:  The success or failure of an extreme day hike is tied to shoe selection.  Heavy, stiff hiking boots are at a decided disadvantage to a light, flexible, comfortable shoe.  Every pound of shoe is equivalent to carrying 7-9 pounds on your back. Minimize shoe weight by selecting a cross-trainer with ankle support, a trail-running shoe, or one of the lighter hiking shoes that are readily available.  It's not required that all hikers opt for more expensive boots. Go for comfort and the cheaper price.

"But I have weak ankles," is the lament.  Fine: use a walking stick or a trekking pole.  Foot specialists have suggested that walking on a very hard surface with a full hiking boot for a whole day is not comfortable for a lot of people.  The bottoms of your feet are in pain and blisters are usually not far behind.  Comfort rules on a trail.

Regarding weak ankles -  Consult your physician first, then consider this possibility:  Rigorous exercise may correct your perceived impediment.  Light jogging down hill or over a dry river bed full of smooth rocks may be just what the doctor ordered to get those ankles in shape.

Sox:  It’s amazing how important sock selection is when engaged in a hike of many hours.   The coarse threads of hiking socks will eventually begin to dig into your skin causing much discomfort and blisters.  Avoid this by wearing a thin nylon sock, a liner, as a first layer, or just on pair of light ones.  For extended hikes bring an extra pair for replacement half way.  There is something really refreshing about putting on a pair of socks half-way through a long and difficult hike. Most hikes in North Andover are considered intermediate and do not require an alternate pair of socks.

One more thought:  Before undertaking that marathon hike consider this - new socks, old shoes.  It's not a good time to see if those new shoes work.

Trekking Poles: This is the best-kept secret for success on the extended day hike.   Common in Europe, and mandatory equipment for mountain climbers, trekking poles give an advantage, which most people don’t understand until they try them.

It is estimated that the use of trekking poles can add up to 20% efficiency to the body by transferring some of the load to your arms.  Even more significant is the stability the poles provide, greatly reducing the need for leg muscles to continually provide balance.  The chances of a sprained or broken ankle, the bane of a hiker a long way from help, is greatly reduced by the use of poles.  Stream crossings, wet rocks or logs, ice, loose rocks, and steep areas are made safer.  Using a very light shoe that does not have much ankle support is made much easier to hike with a poles.

A single walking stick is better than nothing, but is more awkward than two lightweight trekking poles.  Additionally, telescoping poles can be stowed in your daypack at times when they are not needed.  Some models have shock absorbers built in which allows less stress on the wrists when stroking hard with the poles.  Another feature is a slight taper on the hand grips which make for a more ergonomical grasp.

Turn Around Time: A carefully planned extended hike must have an estimated time that you stop and go back to civilization no matter what.  Since you have no overnight equipment, food and water are minimal, and you are dressed lightly, it’s imperative to stick to a deadline for reaching your goal.  In most cases you should be on your way back by noon, at the latest- especially when when thunderstorms are probable.  Always check the local weather report before setting out for your hike. If you are hiking alone, always let a friend or family member know before you set out.

Hiking with Dogs:  Whenever hiking with pets always have your pet on a leash out of consideration to other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.  The Town of North Andover has a leash law for all dogs and the open space and recreation areas are not exempt.  Please respect your fellow hiker and always restrain your dog as you approach a single or group of hikers. Always dispose of animal waste appropriately away from what is clearly the regular path of travel or within locations considered as scenic viewing or rest areas.