Welcome to the AMC’s Delaware Valley Chapter. We look forward to serving you and hope to meet each of you on a hike or on another activity in the not too distant future. This guide provides some basic information to assist you in getting started. Most people get started with the Chapter with a day hike. Don’t feel intimidated or scared to join us. We were all in your position at one time. Our Chapter leaders are always willing to assist new members and you’ll find participants on our activities to be friendly and congenial. This guide provides you with some basic information and answers some of the more widely asked questions. Read this guide and you’ll talk and act like a seasoned veteran. Talk the talk and soon you’ll be walking the walk.
How do I find out about hikes? Activities can be viewed on our Chapter website at www.amcdv.org. Click on the Activities Calendar link, select the date you’re interested in and away you go. There is also a very useful link on the calendar page that will provide you with directions to common meeting locations. Our members receive a chapter newsletter, Footnotes,which lists the scheduled activities for the quarter. Members also receive AMC Outdoors magazine six times per year, which includes activities of our chapter along with all the other AMC Chapters. The new AMC Member Center www.outdoors.org/membership/member-center.cfm allows a member to log in and select a personally configured Activity Digest which they can receive weekly or monthly.
The Chapter also maintains two email lists for notification of last minute activities. Leaders often post short-notice activities that do not appear in our published schedule. There is a general DV Hotline activity list along with a Young Members (20’s and 30’s) Hotline activity list. Our Chapter newsletter Footnotes contains information on how to subscribe to these “Hotline” lists.
Getting Started. Hiking is a good form of exercise. You’ll burn 300 to 400 or more calories per hour, depending on pace and type of terrain. It’s great for your cardiovascular system, not as hard on the knees as running and doesn’t require technical skill such as with skiing. But if you haven’t been on an exercise program lately or are not comfortable with your physical condition, we suggest you check with your physician before starting to hike.
How do I know which hikes will be within my ability? Use the hike rating system listed at the end of this document to determine which hikes appeal to you. If you are unsure, don't hesitate to contact the leader to discuss what the hike will be like, and if there are dropout points. It's a good idea to start below where you think your ability may be and work your way up. Be aware that our hike ratings are just a guide. You could experience considerable variation in difficulty within a single rating, particularly in the “C” terrain rating. If there is any question in your mind regarding hike difficulty contact the hike leader. Contact information is provided for every hike on the DV schedule.
How do I sign up for a particular hike? Many of our hikes are "show and go". This means the starting time and location are provided in the hike description and you can just show up for the hike. Other hikes do not provide this information, or specifically say that you must register; simply contact the leader of the activity to find out about participation. You should always feel comfortable contacting the leader for more information. Just remember a “show and go”, like any activity is subject to cancellation or change because of weather or some other condition beyond the leader’s control. If there is a weather related concern we suggest you contact the leader but on occasion you may appear at the trail head and find the hike canceled. Also, if you do sign-up for a hike but find out you cannot participate let the leader know as soon as you know you cannot attend. Leaders at times limit the number of participants or count on certain numbers because of hike logistics. It’s bad form to register and not show-up.
Who will lead the hike? All leaders are Delaware Valley Chapter volunteers who contribute their time and skills to the club. Leadership training is available and most leaders are experienced hikers who know how to handle most trail situations. Always feel free to contact a leader before, during or after a hike.
What should I bring with me on the hike? You should bring water and a snack on every day hike you go on. Proper hydration is very important. You must drink water or other suitable liquid during the hike to maintain hydration, even during the coolest day. Longer hikes may include a lunch break. You should also bring any medication that you may need (i.e. for bee sting allergies) and a small first aid kit. Other items you should consider bringing are insect repellant, sunscreen, personal first aid kit, whistle, flashlight, a small roll of bathroom tissue and daypack to carry it all. Along with any clothing you may shed during the hike. It doesn’t hurt to carry a space blanket. It’s also advisable to bring rain gear, just in case. During urban hikes you don’t need all these items but in the backcountry it could become a life saver.
Some terrain may call for walking poles. We’re advocates for using poles on most off-payment hikes. It helps save your knees and as a side benefit provides a little upper body workout.
None of the items mentioned need be expensive. Most are readily available at discount department stores or from discount e-retailers.
What should I wear on the hike? We definitely are not out to make a fashion statement. Don’t worry about color coordination or matching socks. Comfort is the key.
We suggest that you avoid cotton. Cotton doesn’t wick moisture and doesn’t dry well. At the very least cotton could make you uncomfortable and under some circumstances can lead to hypothermia. We suggest you dress in layers. When you are hiking you generate considerable heat and will want to shed the outer layers, especially during climbs. When you take a lunch break, hike downhill or become exposed to wind, you’ll likely want to add a layer. We suggest you wear something that is breathable and will serve as a wind barrier as an outer layer.
Proper footwear is a must. When walking on rough terrain we recommend you wear hiking boots that provide ankle protection. Also hiking boots have thicker soles than sneakers or ordinary shoes. Many of our hikes in the Northeast are on rocks and rough terrain. Hiking boots make a big difference in comfort and help prevent ankle injuries. On A and B coded hikes, sneakers or comfortable shoes are adequate. Sneakers and walking shoes can also be worn without undue risk on some C rated hikes, though we recommend that you check with the leader beforehand. Many hike write- ups recommend the type-of-foot wear that should be worn. What is specified is at the discretion of the hike leader. If you do elect to purchase hiking boots we suggest you do so in person. You really need to try them on, and hopefully the store has a ramp that allows you to simulate a hill. Boots that feel comfortable on a flat surface often feel entirely different when hiking a hill, especially in the descent where your toes can really get crunched up.
Hiking boots are also suitable for urban walks and walks on towpaths. Over a distance they will be more comfortable than sneakers. Also many hiking boots are waterproof which is important in some situations, especially in colder weather. Even in warmer weather, if your feet get wet, blisters can easily form.
Blisters are the nemesis of hikers, runners and long distance walkers. Though not life threatening they are very painful and can make you miserable, to put it mildly. Just about every hiker suffers from a blister at one time or another. With properly fitted boots along with a sock liner covered by a wool outer sock you can reduce the incidence of blisters. Again, a cotton sock is not recommended. It will hold moisture as you perspire and, in turn, greatly increase the risk of getting a blister. We also recommend that you carry a strip of second skin or moleskin which you can apply during the hike in the event you get a blister. These items take pressure away from the blister area and lessen the pain.
We also recommend your hiking wardrobe include an orange reflective vest. You’ll be more visible to hunters. Hunting seasons are varied and it is the law in PA that you wear a vest. Again, a vest is not expensive and is available in area discount department stores in the sporting goods section.
What happens when I arrive at the trail head? You can usually spot the AMC by the friendly group of people at the meeting spot, passing around a clipboard. You will sign in on the liability waiver, and then everyone will form a circle ("Let's circle up!"). The leader will go over a few things. Everyone introduces themselves. Then the hike begins!
Do I have to sign the liability form? The liability form serves to protect our many volunteers, and to inform you of your responsibilities. You are required to sign it to participate in any activity with the AMC. When you leave an activity early, you must sign out by initialing the form next to where you signed in. You should familiarize yourself with the text by reading it in full.
Trailhead Etiquette. Hiking with a group has many benefits. It provides a measure of security, and allows you to meet people who share your passion for the outdoors. Because it is a group activity certain actions will make the hike go much smoother and provide people with greater enjoyment.
What are hiker miles? The liability form you signed also helps us track the miles you hike during the year. Anyone who hikes over 100 miles in a calendar year qualifies to earn an award at our annual activities social, and is recognized in Footnotes.
What else can I do with the AMC? A lot! Bike, backpack, canoe/kayak, snowshoe, trail work, volunteer your time, attend an educational meeting, participate in a workshop, attend social events, go on a trip, stay in a hut, camp, make new friends, meet great people, and so much more! Sounds great, doesn't it?
*SEPARATION: This is when men and women separate into two groups, with one group moving ahead on the trail. Once separated, the two groups are free to relieve their physiological urges. If you need an unofficial separation during a hike, make sure you tell someone so you don't get left behind.
*SWEEP: A person assigned to stay at the end of the line of hikers, particularly on hikes with a lot of people. The leader knows that when he or she sees the sweep, everyone on the hike is accounted for, which is particularly important at trail junctures.
*BLAZE: A rectangular marking of paint or metal disc fully visible on a tree or rock to mark a trail at somewhat regular intervals. The Appalachian Trail, for instance, is blazed in white.
*CAR SPOT: When a hike is linear instead of circular, it doesn't end where it began. Therefore, cars need to be at the end of a hike to provide transportation back to the cars at the beginning. Arranging the correct number of cars at each end can be a time consuming process.
*DROPOUT POINT: A point on the hike where you can leave the hike and easily get back to your car. You must sign out if you leave a hike early. Many hikes do not have drop out points; contact the leader if you are unsure.
*HOTLINE: An on-line service through which last minute additions and changes are posted and sent to subscribers via email. Information about select club events and opportunities are often posted here as well. You must register with the Hotline administrator to receive these emails. To sign up for the Hotline e-mails, simply send an email to: email@example.com with your name and DV AMC membership number.
*AT: The Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia. Nearly 300 miles of the trail run through Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
*LNT: Leave No Trace is a program designed to minimize our impact on the environment through responsible use of the outdoors. See www.lnt.org.
*BUSHWACKING: Hiking without the benefit of a blazed trail, or possibly any trail.
*GORP: Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Or any mixture of dried fruit, nuts, grains and chocolate that can give you an extra energy boost on the trail. Be creative!
Hike ratings consist of a number-letter-number system indicating PACE-TERRAIN-MILEAGE. All Chapter hikes and backpacks include a rating.
1 - Leisurely (nature walk)
2 - Moderate (steady, comfortable pace)
3 - Brisk (firm pace)
4 - Fast
5 - Extremely fast
A - Solid pavement/sidewalk
B - Soft ground/sand/carriage trails
C - Hiking trails/gentle rolling hills
D - Steep hills, scrambling possible
E - Rough terrain/exposure/ thick brush
F - Extremely difficult terrain/possible sustained exposure
Estimated mileage, plus or minus 1 mile.
EXAMPLE: A very fast six-mile hike on a paved path would have a hike rating of 5A6.
I still have questions! You can find more information online at our chapter website, www.amcdv.org and at the overall AMC website, www.outdoors.org . Feel free to contact any Chairperson, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
This Guide is also available as a downloadable MS Word document: download.