Preparation

Read the hike announcement thoroughly. Using your best judgement, assess whether this hike sounds like it is appropriate for your level of experience and physical condition. A group hike is not a good place to challenge your abilities!

Preparing for a PATC Hike

Get conditioned or stay in condition by walking as much as possible, and try to climb as many steps as possible. Stairs are excellent conditioning tools. Remember to walk down, too, as those muscles are just as important.

Acquire comfortable, well-fitting hiking shoes or boots, and break them in by walking daily, preferably up and down hills. Note any "hot spots" on your feet that the boots are causing. You will want to pad these exact same spots with Moleskin on the morning before your hike. Poor fitting or inappropriate footwear are the leading cause of hiker discontent. Don't wear brand new boots on a hike! Hiking boots or shoes will have soles that protect your feet much more than tennis, running, or street shoes do, and will support your ankles and weight much better.

Stay hydrated and well rested the night before a hike. Don't attempt a hike if you are hung over, sleep-deprived, ill, or just getting over an illness. You need to start the hike feeling good, rested, and in good condition.

It is amazingly enhancing to your endurance to stretch thoroughly before a hike. Stretch your arms, shoulders, back, and especially your leg muscles. Consult an experienced person for advice how to do this.

During tick season, typically April through September, familiarize yourself with where they are more likely found, how to reduce your exposure and to check yourself after the hike. Tick Information link

When

Hikes are held every Saturday. The last Saturday of the month is usually a trail maintenance hike (check the Hike Schedule). We meet at 9 o'clock Saturday morning, in front of : Albemarle High School, Hydraulic Road, Charlottesville.

Where

The most common areas are in the Southern and Central Districts of Shenandoah National Park. Other areas are George Washington National Forest, Ranger Pedlar District (south of I-64), Deerfield Ranger District (west of Staunton) and Massanutten Mountain. Most of our hikes are shown on PATC Maps 10,11 and 12 which can be ordered from the online PATC Store.

Our Chapter Webpage lists the Hike Schedule and Charlottesville's Daily Progress carry a brief notice. In bad weather, like continuous rain, threatened snow or ice, the scheduled hike may be changed. Closure of Skyline Drive can also change plans.

Usually the drive to the trail head is one to one and a half hours, and sometimes car shuttles are used between trail head and trail end.

For information about Shenandoah National Park, click here.

What

Commonly hikes are eight to ten miles long. Most hikes involve significant altitude change; a 2,000 feet total climb is not uncommon. The climbing may be concentrated in one or more steep sections of the hike. The hike may be a circuit (many are in the PATC guidebook Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park), an out-and-back route, or a one-way trip with a car shuttle.

Why

Quite simply, it's what we do!

Who

In bad weather, six or fewer people might show up, but in good hiking weather, 20 or more people may go. Hikers range in age from their early 20s to late 70s.

Time

We meet at 9 AM and usually return to Charlottesville between 4 and 5 p.m. However, we do not guarantee a return time. Anyone who has a mandatory commitment close to the time we anticipate to be back should not hike with us that day, since unforeseen delays can derail our best-laid plans. Stops for refreshments on the way home may add to the length of some trips. We can occasionally predict a later-than-usual return time on certain hikes because of the travel time or hiking distance involved. Refer to the Hike Schedule.

What to bring on a PATC Hike

Adequate food and water, appropriate clothing and footwear, enough time to spend hiking, and car pool money. Bringing chocolate or other delicacies is a way to win popularity.

These general guidelines may be superceded by instructions given by your hike leader:
    *at least 2L of drinking liquids, in non-fragile containers (nalgene bottles are best) *comfortable, broken-in hiking boots or hiking shoes *lunch *energy snacks *rain gear *flashlight *trail map *compass or optional GPS *knife *fire starter *whistle *first aid kit *emergency blanket *toilet paper *duct tape *extra layers of clothing  *extra shirt to change into if you wear cotton (synthetic fabrics are much better for hiking in the mid-Atlantic) *spare clothing to leave in the car *spare shoes to wear before and after the hike *sun protection (cap, hat, sunscreen) *insect repellent (spray, lotion, mesh head net) Permethrin Tick Repellent link *sitting pad (in winter) *water shoes or sandals for fording creeks (ask hike leader if these are needed for the hike) *trekking poles (optional but can be very advantageous for a variety of uses and benefits). 

While on a PATC Hike

Listen carefully to the hike leader's instructions at the trailhead. Ask questions and provide helpful comments. Inform the leader privately about any medications that you might need for emergency treatment of bee stings, blood sugar highs or lows, that you might need someone else to administer during the hike. Show the leader where you are carrying these medications.

The most common mistake of inexperienced hikers is to begin at too quick a pace, getting winded and exhausted early in the day. What would happen to marathon runners if they tried to run at the pace of a 100-meter dash? Hike very slowly at first, especially if going uphill. Try to find a pace that you could maintain indefinitely if you needed to. Hiking fast and stopping, fast and stopping, is actually slower overall than hiking slower and not stopping.

If you get ahead of the group, wait at every trail intersection, regardless of whether it is marked or unmarked, for the group to catch up.

If you need to answer the call of nature, tell the "sweep" hiker stationed at the back of the group that you will be making a visit to the woods. The sweep hiker should wait for your return. Take your pack with you; you may need your "10 essentials", as going off trail to experience a biological activity is one of the most common ways to get mixed up and lose your way.

Do not let the "sweep" hiker get in front of you! This will keep the group together and safer.
If you are having any health issues, from the minor (feet starting to develop a hot spot) to the major ( dizziness, clamminess, unusual pains), stop immediately and inform the hike leader. Do not try to "tough it out". The sooner these issues are addressed, the better. Do not succumb to the powerful social pressure to keep going. The hike leader will be very grateful to know that you are not feeling well and that he/she gets a chance to assist immediately. It is better for everyone.

Use your best judgement after assessing the group you are hiking with whether it is appropriate for you to stop to photograph flowers, observe wildlife, identify birds, or other optional activities that would slow the group down. It is usually best to note those places where you would like to spend more time and return on your own at a later time.

Assist the hike leader any time you notice something curious that needs pointing out. If your common sense is telling you something, chances are that it is correct.

Be prepared with additional dry clothing for putting on during long stops, such as lunchtime. Wear either synthetic clothes (which are warm when wet and dry quickly) or bring a change of clothes (especially a shirt) if you are wearing cotton.

Enjoy yourself, but always keep in mind that you are in a group. The overall good experience for the entire group is the goal. There will be a natural variation in the abilities of the group members, so you may need to sacrifice some personal goals (hike speed, opportunity for a rock scramble or a foot soak, etc.) in order for the group to stay together.

After a PATC Hike

To reduce "car stiffness" during and after your drive home, stretch thoroughly again after a hike.

Give the hike leader your thanks. It's a very appreciated gesture that is often overlooked.

To be courteous, make sure that all participants' cars will start before everyone else departs.

Passengers have the important job of keeping the driver awake and engaged during the drive home. If everyone is tired and wants a nap, find a quiet parking lot and do so, don't keep driving.

Leave No Trace Principles

The PATC has adopted the following Leave No Trace Principles for all activities. Please follow them and all other instructions from the hike leader.
    1) Plan and Prepare Ahead
    2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 
    3) Dispose of Waste Properly
    4) Leave What You Find 
    5) Minimize Campfire Impacts 
    6) Respect Wildlife 
    7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Risks

This is a volunteer organization and we make no guarantees about the safety of the hikes; see the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. Leaders are unpaid, and rely on their knowledge of previous trips on the trails we hike, thus a casual atmosphere prevails in the organization of the hikes.