Phoenix Bird


By: Warrior Woman

And other creative hiking techniques

We hike just about every day - and hiking to us is more than just a walk in the park. It's a training exercise - how you walk can mean the difference between evasion and detection, not to mention the safety considerations. There are a number of different types of terrain we cross over in the course of a single afternoon - hard pack, grassy, brush, swampy-muddy-mush, woodland.... and all of them present their own special brand of training experience. As you've probably already guessed, the first kind of hiking I'm going to talk about is swampy areas...

Swamp Thing

Walking through a swamp or wetland area requires more than just tucking your pantlegs into your boots. The idea is to keep your boots from getting sucked off your feet by the muck, while making as little noise as possible when lifting your feet out of that gooey vacuum. Here are a few things I've learned about making a relatively quiet and uneventful march through the marsh:

Creekbed Walking

Another wet stroll, but this one is cleaner. From an evasion standpoint, it's also much safer. Not only are there no footprints to follow, but small trees, brush and undergrowth tend to be extremely dense near creeks. It's not the kind terrain that infantry or motorized troops want to fight in - which means you're less likely to meet up with them there. Since dehydration is one of most serious dangers facing hikers (and armies), walking creekbeds is tantamount to a guarantee against dehydration. You should find lots of edible plants along the creek banks too.

A Walk In The Park

As I've already mentioned in previous articles, we live on the edge of a large state forestland. There are a number of marked paths cleared for horseback riding, snowmobiling and hiking. Aside from the occasional mud puddle, these paths are so 'civilized' compared to the swamp or creekbed that it's easy to get lulled into complacency - right before you catch you toe on a tree root. Remember - this isn't the sidewalk down main street or the bicycle path through your town park. You're in the woods - a living, dynamic environment. The trail you've walked 50 times before can change over the course of a week into an obstacle course - always stay alert.

Field Patrol

Night field patrol is one of my favorites. This involves covering an open field by patrolling along the woodline on both sides of the field, crossing over and meeting in the middle at some point, then continuing along the perimeter to the top center of the field. The patrol then covers the center of the field in a V-formation heading downhill. *


The Rest of the Story

Walking through other types of ground (either soft grassy areas or ones that are covered with last year's dead weeds, dried twigs, crackling leaves, and other debris designed to announce your presence miles ahead of your arrival) in the course of your hike could take up a few more pages. Suffice it to say that you need to adjust your speed, stride length, and other controllable aspects of your movements to the situation at hand; for example, you need to tread lightly in noisy spots whereas you don't need to be overly concerned with this in soft grassy meadows. Watch out for (and avoid stepping on) branches, twigs, and dead leaves if you're trying to move quietly. When possible, avoid the occasional wet spots that lurk in low areas of hiking paths - there's no sense in leaving footprints behind and, unlike grass, mud doesn't "spring back" after your feet have vacated the premises.