Sam Bauman: Happy hiking for seniors on Tahoe’s trails
The snow is mostly gone from Slide Mountain, and the lower hills are mostly dark with forests. So having backed down our ski bindings, we can switch the hiking boots.
Well, maybe not boots. If you’re a senior and don’t plan on hiking lofty Mount Tallac, you might be comfortable with sneakers. They don’t offer lateral support but are light with gripper soles. I’ve worn sneakers on such as Carson’s Riverside Park, flat with well-groomed trails.
But I would not wear sneakers for either side of Prison Hill, where the trails often include rocks or small stones. There also are worn paths where things can get slippery or flat stones, same periled.
For Prison Hill, boots of some kind that offer lateral support are pretty much the better choice. You don’t have to spend $100 for them. I use a pair from Walmart that are at least 10 years old and have held up well. (No plug intended.) I’ve seen plenty of $50 boots around that would be fine for seniors going up the slopes.
Try to avoid the boots with very stiff sides. If you’re a pro, that’s fine, but for most seniors a moderately stiff side will do. I hike a lot alone, and I’m always aware that a turned ankle could be a serious problem. I’ve never had a twisted ankle hiking, but I have skiing.
Another help when hiking is a pole. I’ve got an old tree limb about 6 feet long, tapered to a sort of club foot. I wrapped tape around the upper-end handle, and it has worked for for again at least 10 years.
What else do senior hikers need?
Well, a water bottle, first off. I have a belt that has pockets for snack bars, a folding knife, a compass for wandering unclearly marked trails. I also pack a small emergency first-aid kit.
I also make sure my smartphone is charged. Of course, often on the trail there is no connection with a tower, but the phone is often helpful. Besides, it’s nice for taking photos that I can then send once I’m in tower range.
One thing highly recommended for hikers, single or group, is to make sure that someone knows where you are going to hike. I have failed to do that without any serious consequences, but now I make sure a friend knows where I’m going to be on the hill on the hill and when. At one time there was a plan to set up a website where one could advise of a hike, but that never came about. It’d be nice if some agency would step up and arrange it.
There are plenty of good, easy senior hiking trails around Carson City, including Washoe State Park off Eastlake Boulevard south of town. There’s an admission fee to the park, but it’s less than a movie ticket and even if you’re not planning to hike, there are plenty of camping sites, restrooms and water fountains. It’s a lovely park and seems to be underused.
South Beach has a nice wetlands wildlife viewing area, and there’s a group-use area with facilities. Heading west from the park entrance, there are plenty of hiking trails as well as campgrounds. Farther along are equestrian trails shared by horses and hikers.
Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.