Winter can be a tough time for backpackers and hikers. Sure we can still go out in the woods but probably not as often. It takes a special kind of hiker to pull their boots out of sucking mud or be on the constant lookout for the next patch of treacherous ice. Some of us are not that special. We miss the outdoors, the trees, the glimpse of little woodland critters and the joy of discovering a quiet spot to commune with nature.
Here is a flash of reality! Every city is part of nature. Man is part of nature. Man built the cities. Cities are part of nature now. Beavers build dams that are considered part of nature. Man builds dams. Birds build nests high in trees. Man builds skyscrapers. Squirrels store nuts away for the winter. Man goes to stores to buy stuff for the winter. Might not be the most compelling rhetoric but stay with me.
Out there in the urban environment there is nature just waiting to be found. It can range from the critters that populate the city parks to examples of human nature. In St. Louis we have seen a raccoon right at our front door. Walking to the local library I’ve had a possum scamper across the sidewalk in front of me. Downtown we photographed a roaring lion (Pic #1).
Gearing up for an urban hike is a lot easier. Dress appropriately for the weather but leave your hiking boots at home in favor of a comfortable pair of walking shoes. You will not need that big internal/external frame pack, a small day pack or just your pockets will hold enough.
What to carry? Just like wilderness hiking you will want a camera to document your adventure. Make sure it is fully charged or has fresh batteries and film. Take some cash or a debit card because urban hiking is the perfect time to check out a local coffee bar or deli. Those are the essentials. Use you imagination from there. We like to carry a small pair of binoculars and a pen and notebook.
Where to go? For your first urban hike go to an area you are familiar with. You will be astonished at what you see that you never noticed before. That was how we found the lions in pic #1. Years of walking right under them and they had remained hidden until that day. Your first urban hike will spark ideas of other parts of your city to explore.
You might find art left by the new generation of artists (Pic #2). The Buddha might be seen protecting a gated entrance (Pic #3). You can discover The Universe in a fountain (Pic #4). Even looking out your kitchen window an urban critter might be looking back at you (Pic #5). That last one is Pickles the squirrel who spends a lot of time in our urban backyard.
Time to touch on another benefit of urban hiking for backpackers and hikers. In order to be ready to hit the trails come spring our legs and lungs must be ready. Walking around your city is a great way to stay in shape. It is a lot more fun than working out in the gym.
Get out and explore your city, town or hamlet. See things you did not even know were there. Get some exercise and experience your urban environment. Feel the excitement of discovering things that will thrill and amaze you.