Professional credentials may not be the basis for bonding on the hiking trail, but the activity offers plenty of chances to build camaraderie. "I've learned that you don't need to know someone super well in order to support them," says Jacob Wildfire, A&S '12, a member of the Johns Hopkins Outdoor Explorations Affinity Group, which organizes nature trips for alumni, students, and friends of the university. "As a group, we can cheer each other on."
Recent Maryland-based excursions for the group include rock climbing and wine tasting at Sugarloaf Mountain, stand-up paddleboarding in Annapolis, and whitewater rafting along the Potomac. Johns Hopkins Magazine asked members of the group to give their tips for making the most of a hiking expedition—and making friends along the way.
1. Sock up
Keep extra socks in your backpack or car. Releasing worn-out, sweaty feet from your hiking boots is a "rejuvenating experience," Wildfire says. Keya Anderson, Ed '12 (MS), recommends wool or synthetic socks that wick away moisture and prevent blisters.
2. Bring enough water for others
Some of your fellow hikers may underestimate how much fluid they'll actually need. Says Wildfire: "I've seen friends or random strangers bring far too little water (or none!) and try to grin and bear it through an exhausting and thirst-producing day. Don't let them." Anderson suggests keeping a hydration bladder in your daypack, along with some electrolyte chews from an outdoor gear store.
3. Break bread
"A great way to make a quick friend outdoors is to share a sweet or savory snack," says Anne Hobson, A&S '12. Her favorites include gummy bears, beef jerky, and gorp—good old raisins and peanuts.
4. Say hi on the trail
"No one likes that hiker with his or her head down, or worse, the one who just looks at you but doesn't say anything," Wildfire says.
5. Go your own speed
You risk exhaustion and potential injury by pushing yourself too far, too fast. Hobson advises finding people at your level and sticking with them.
6. Check the forecast
When hiking in Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park, Anderson recalls, the temperature plummeted from the 80s into the 60s with torrential rain. If she hadn't been prepared with a rain shell, she "would have been soaked."