hiking in lake district boots

As we made our way to the top of the peak, after a rather steep ascent up slippery, loose slate, with the wind howling and the driving rain turning to hail, I had a sudden realization:

Jeans, a wool sweater, a non-waterproof jacket and rain boots are not appropriate apparel for a hike of this intensity.

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The story of our inability to be properly equipped for hiking is not new. At this point, I now consider us chronically unprepared for most hikes and walks that we undertake. We have learned along the way, and we have gradually become better, but a false sense of our abilities and consistently misguided decisions have allowed for some rather humorous endeavors down trails we are ill-equipped to handle.

Our first real misadventure was back in 2011, when we embarked on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, a fabulous national park along the Maine coast, a few hours north of our home at the time.

Our first hike was on a recommendation from Julie, who had read about the “Ladder Trail,” which was short (a little over 3 miles) and easy to access from where we were stationed in Acadia. We pulled the car over, hopped out, and began what we thought would be a quick, 45 minute hike. Because hiking always happens at a normal walking speed, right?

90 minutes later, we were gasping for air, sweating through our clothes, and not even close to finishing the hike.

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Why, you ask? Well, for starters, over 90% of this trail consisted of granite steps. That’s right, it was essentially 3 miles of walking up, and then back down, stairs. There were even real ladders to climb (which sounded fun!), fastened into the sides of boulders, when the trail became too vertical for stairs. While it was certainly not an impossible walk, we made a two critical errors.

For one, we brought no water, simply because we thought it would be a quick walk in the woods. The vertical climb and the warm August sun meant our mistake was soon obvious. We drank a whole bottle of water when we made it back to the car. Oh yeah, that’s right, we had water, but we just knowingly left it in our parked car. Smart.

Secondly, our footwear decision would make seasoned hikers, or just most intelligent people in general, laugh in amusement. I was wearing casual sneakers, which weren’t necessarily a bad idea, except that they had no treads on the bottom. Julie had it far worse though, as she was wearing flip-flops. You heard that right. Flip flops.

I can only imagine what the other people we passed on the trail thought of us and our sporty, beachwear attire that was soaked in sweat and regret.

We learned from our mistakes and have rarely forgotten water since. However, we did not learn from our mistake of underestimating the difficulty of a trail.

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Last summer, our skills were tested once again on a loosely marked trail in the Piatra Craiului National Park in Romania. As we zig-zagged our way up the incline, heading towards the mountains that loomed above us, we planned to take the easy-moderate trail that ran along a side ridge of the mountain and would deposit us near a church.We had solid footwear and multiple bottles of water for the sweltering Romanian summer heat this time around.

We felt prepared. Although, now looking at the picture above, I retroactively question our choice of cute nautical skirt and khaki shorts. Amateurs.

Fast forward two hours, and we were crawling on all fours up a vertical slope, covered in large, loose rocks, that seemed to go up forever. Julie got stung by some stray stinging nettles, so that added a nice twist to the climb. The white arrows that we were following to our easy-moderate trail also seemed to be leading to the peak of a serious mountain. Or maybe they were light pink? Or pastel yellow? Who knows – our GPS map stopped working far down the hill.

Knowing our limits, we eventually gave up, sliding back down the trail to walkable terrain. On our way down, we said hello to two older men with a printed trail map and full hiking gear, as they passed us to begin the trail we had just abandoned. Outhiked by two people 30 years our senior. Ouch, my pride.

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That brings us so this past weekend. We spent the Easter holiday up in the Lake District of the UK, one of the most beautiful parts of England. We were excited for some fantastic walks, since that is the main activity in this region, with hundreds of marked trails, from simple walks around the many lakes to more strenuous ascents up the hills.

From a newly purchased book, dedicated to Lake District walks, Julie picked out a pleasant sounding 5 mile walk, called Coniston Old Man. We felt prepared, because the weather was decent, we had brought our wellies (an essential for walks in the English countryside), and we had on clothes we didn’t mind getting a little dirty.

The first half hour was fine.

But then the clear weather quickly dissipated as we climbed the mountain (or ‘fell’ as it is called in the Lake District), and the mist and fog increased dramatically. The higher we climbed, the less visibility we had. The gentle rain soon turned to a downpour which drove sideways into our faces thanks to the increasing wind. We were convinced that we were near the top, although we couldn’t actually see it, because we had been walking for hours.

We walked and walked. Then the rain turned to hail. And then we abandoned yet another hike.

This being the land of hearty hikers, we were impressed by the number of adventurous folks who continued to charge up the fell as we slowly made our way down. Without fail, they were wearing full, waterproof clothing, hardcore hiking boots, walking sticks and waterproof sacks. I was wearing jeans, a Barbour jacket, and wellies. Apparently, they had read the ultimate packing list for UK hiking, something we did not!

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hiking

A note on the rain boots: we purchased them specifically for UK walking purposes, after another disastrous walk a couple years back in a small pond that was supposed to be a field. We hauled the wellies all the way up to the Lake District, convinced that we were bringing our pro gear with us. We started this 5-miler feeling seriously prepared.

But once again, we were wrong. Apparently, our wellies are meant for casual walks in the Cotswolds, not climbing a 2,500ft peak in driving rain. I can honestly say that I have been drier swimming in a pool than I was after that hike. My multiple layers were all soaked through, and our single waterproof items, the special boots, were literally filled with water. Julie poured out the water from her boots when we eventually got back to the car.

Maybe, at some point in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future, we will set out on a hike fully prepared, in the right clothing and with all the necessary accessories. Maybe we will walk past some youngsters, setting off in jeans with no water. Maybe one day we’ll be the seasoned pros.

Maybe.

Have you ever gotten in over your head on a walk or hike? Leave your stories or comments below!

Hiking

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  • March 31, 2016

    Ha, I love this post! I’m starting to get more into hiking, because I’m from a completely flat country and I’d like to be fit enough to hike up steep hills (/mountains). I find that I’m always unprepared though. The most unprepared I was, is almost embarrassing to admit. A few years ago, I visited Costa Rica and a friend and I decided to climb up Arenal to see the volcano. We were wearing tank tops & short & Converse. It was pouring down rain. We didn’t have any rain protection so were were lucky enough to get one of those disposable ponchos. We also found out Converse get slippery when it’s rainy and muddy. Last but not least, we didn’t bring any sort of light and it was a night hike. Again, luckily we could borrow a light. I’ve never been so unprepared and I’m ashamed to admit this could still happen to me today 🙂
    Dominique recently posted…Bonaire – Diving Klein BonaireMy Profile

    • April 1, 2016

      We certainly know the feeling! We have now really, truly, promised ourselves that we will be ready for the next hiking adventure. Though I get the feeling we will still forget something!

  • April 1, 2016

    this cracked me up! i feel like you’re improving with each go, so one of these days you’re bound to get it right. right? and maybe ask people on social media if they’ve done it before and what their tips are? i look forward to an update in a few months to see how you guys are coming along 🙂
    veena recently posted…weekly roundup 13 // 2016.My Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      We are hoping that some day everything comes together for a seamless hiking experience. That would be a nice change!

    • December 25, 2016
      January

      I’m not wothry to be in the same forum. ROTFL

  • April 2, 2016

    Hahaha! Well, you got great pictures, so there’s that! 🙂
    Amelie recently posted…A VEGAN-FRIENDLY WEEKEND IN BOLOGNAMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      We did manage to bring all of our video and photo equipment of course, but neglected the big things, like say, proper hiking boots!

  • April 2, 2016

    Please do take more care! I’m really passionate about travellers ensuring they are adequately prepared for hiking, following a nervy experience involving unprepared hikers in Hawaii: http://goo.gl/41y2tH
    Shannon Colman recently posted…Views of the Afternoon in Szeged, HungaryMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      We think we are being more careful each time, but we still manage some major missteps. Luckily, we have had no serious incidents so far, but hopefully, we have fully learned our lesson now.

  • April 2, 2016

    Thanks for sharing and being honest! We all know at some point we have been the hiker who dressed totally wrong for the journey ahead, or judged someone we’ve passed on the trail doing that as well 🙂 (I am definitely guilty of making fun of hikers in heels). I haven’t had too many terrible experiences (beyond just being out of shape!) but I did get lost on a trail in Tennessee, which was mildly terrifying!

    • April 3, 2016

      I think if a hiker wears heels on a trail, she deserves to get made fun of. At least I was wearing wellies this last time!

  • April 3, 2016

    Omg, I loved this post! I feel your pain. When I was living in Colorado I tried going on a couple of hikes, because, you know, that’s what they do there. I was so unprepared! By the time I got to the top I was freezing because I was drenched in sweat and hadn’t thought of the temperature difference. And I’d twisted my ankle a couple of times because I was wearing regular sneakers. Maybe one day we’ll be the experts!

    • April 3, 2016

      I’m holding out hope that one day we’ll be experts, but I’m not holding my breathe. I’m sure we will still forget something!

  • April 3, 2016

    I know what it isto hike without the proper gear, especially shoes. This last summer we visited 8 National Parks and the Milennials we traveled with insisted on hiking long, long ways. They had hiking boots. We finally arranged to meet them at the trail heads!
    Elaine recently posted…Tested! Banish jet lag on your long haul flightMy Profile

    • April 3, 2016

      Those dang milennials!

  • April 3, 2016

    Haha, great post! I love hiking but always take too much. Raingear without exception, too much food and too much water. My bag is always way too heavy but I’ve learned to be better safe than sorry. My husband is always freaking out if we forget something, so I have him to thanks for that!
    anto recently posted…Confessions: Cities I wouldn’t mind livingMy Profile

    • April 4, 2016

      I would say that I totally agree with being over prepared. So far though, we have only excelled at being under prepared.

  • April 3, 2016

    Your post had me laughing the entire time because I can so totally relate. My first couple of hikes left me dragging my Louis Vuitton purse through the mountains with me and in totally unappropate shoes that left me slipping and sliding or just plain soaked to the bone. Funny stuff.

    • April 4, 2016

      We know the feeling, that’s for sure!

  • April 3, 2016

    You’re obviously more experienced hikers than I am, but I would totally make that mistake of thinking it would be an easy 45 minute walk. I’m not sure about those stairs! I think I would have turned back.
    Laura recently posted…Never Forget Where You Parked Again With ZUSMy Profile

    • April 4, 2016

      it seemed like an adventure, so we carried on, which clearly was not the best decision. So many stairs!

  • April 4, 2016

    Omg, your mishap on the ladder trail sounds like something that would happen to me! Heavy breathing, flip flops and all. Been there done that actually! Forgetting water is the worst! I love your writing style, it’s really funny. Hopefully others learn from our hiking fails!
    Francesca @onegrloneworld recently posted…10 Things You Need to Know About Dominica!My Profile

    • April 4, 2016

      Thanks! We feel that our next hike we will be fully prepared. Though we have told ourselves that in the past and still been unprepared. Oh well…

  • April 4, 2016

    I agree, waterproof jacket and shoes are a must for hiking, especially waterproof shoes though because there is nothing more miserable than wet socks haha! I loved your video this week by the way, hiking in the Lake District, shame about the weather but the hotel and meal looked lovely 🙂

    • April 5, 2016
      Julie

      Thanks Melissa. We must be slow learners when it comes to hiking protocol 🙁 You should have seen us trying to pull off the stupid wellies in the bathroom back at our hotel. A major undertaking!

  • April 5, 2016

    Your bad hiking experience sounds almost similar to mine when I first tried hiking! (I also had a bad pair of shoes on and I suffered blisters thereafter haha) Anyhow, this post is golden and it would really help the first-timers!
    Aileen Adalid recently posted…How I Can Afford to Travel Around the World. You Can, Too!My Profile

    • April 5, 2016
      Julie

      Thanks Aileen – we got lucky this time around with no blisters (amazing since we were totally soaked!) but haven’t been so lucky on other hikes. Although we’re nearly two weeks later and those boots still aren’t try (I just checked!)…haha!

  • April 14, 2016

    Proof that usually the worst experiences make for the best stories later! I hike a lot,and by now am almost the opposite to where I won’t go for even a short stroll without water, snacks, etc. I’m always the Girl Scout of the group…overprepared 🙂
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted…The Dining Room at Kendall CollegeMy Profile

    • April 15, 2016

      Definitely better to be over prepared than under-prepared!

  • May 25, 2016

    I grew up doing a lot of hiking in Australia, so have generally been properly prepared. I will admit I have done some short hikes in the tropics in thongs, but have gotten away with it.

    On hike to swim at a waterfall in Indonesia on a famil trip, I was luckily the only one with a poncho, when it started pouring rain. I was wearing impractical Cons-type sneakers though, so ended up skipping putting them back on (there were creek crossings) and doing the 45 minute hike in bare feet! (It was mainly a smooth path, and I grew up by the beach rarely wearing shoes in summer.)
    Shandos recently posted…Sydney Street Art: Photo EssayMy Profile

    • May 25, 2016
      Julie

      I feel like most Aussies we meet are always well prepared! We are really, really working on our general lack of preparedness and hope to become pros soon 🙂