Hiking the Blues Away (Hiking Part 1)

Published April 12, 2021, 12:08 AM

by Victor P. Guevara, Jr.

Wala Lang

Hi from your usual writer Jaime C. Laya—Trudging the whole day from church to palace to museum (I don’t like shopping) plus the long and many halls of each used to be nothing to me.  Up and down Angkor temples and Mexican pyramids were child’s play. I enjoyed Disneyworld with apos from dawn till dusk, deployed vertically, horizontally, and upside down. A day at Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania was still okay even if I fell flat on my face on the way down. I had a taste of outdoor hiking (in California, mostly good—the last was epic awful).

Philippine trails have been terra incognita. They’re on my bucket list, but with misbehaving knees, virtual hiking is just about my limit. Victor “Bambi” Guevara, Jr. is the one real hiker I know and he was kind enough to write on the subject. The next words you read are Bambi’s.

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I discovered hiking 21 years ago and I still am doing it at 68 years old. Aside from its obvious physical benefits, it also brings an uplifting mind effect to be surrounded by nature. The Japanese have a term for it. They call it forest bathing. Hearing the birds and crickets, leaves rustling, and streams flowing enhance the experience. Physically, the uneven surface and gradient of the trails, add leg strength and balance. The core muscles are consistently being challenged to keep one standing straight. Seniors will thus find hiking an ideal fitness activity. There are no high impact movements to one’s joints that may result in injury.

Most city residents, however, will realize that the trails are not just around the corner. Most, if not all the trails in the country, are situated in the slopes of mountains, so perhaps a beginner can try the following for a one-day hike.

  • Makiling trail, Los Baños, Laguna. The trail starts at an altitude of 140 meters above sea level in the UP College of Forestry (UPLB). Google Maps shows a shaded 5.3-kilometer road and trail to a place called Aguila Base that is 520 meters in altitude. The rise is gradual and the surface is not difficult. The trail continues to the summit of Mt. Makiling at 1,100 meters if one has the energy and courage to encounter leeches along the way.
  • Manabu Peak, Sto. Tomas, Batangas. This is a peak in the Malarayat range just outside Lipa city. The starting point is also in Google maps. The trail starts at an altitude of 300 meters and the peak is at 700 meters. Guides and parking are available at the starting point. The trails will have steeper sections than the Makiling trail.

    AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH – The ‘Rockies’ of Mt. Maculot, Batangas overlooking Taal Lake.
  • Maculot, Cuenca, Batangas. This is the mountain you can see across Taal Lake from Tagaytay. The trail is steep but the 400-meter ascent will reward you with a spectacular view from a place called the Rockies. Guides are required. Parking and showers are available in a few establishments at the starting point (see Google maps).

For those who visit Baguio, you may want to hike these trails

AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH – Camp John Hay’s Yellow Trail.
  • Yellow Trail, Camp John Hay. This is a three-kilometer loop with big pine trees along the trail. It’s ideal for beginners.

    AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH – Mt. Ulap Trail, Benguet.
  • Ulap trail, Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet. This trail starts about 15 kilometers from the Camp John Hay entrance on Loakan Road. It has nice views but the well-established trail has no forest cover and the hike is a five-hour round trip to and from the top that is 2,000 meters above sea level.

The following are must-brings on day hikes:

  • Small backpack of a 20-35 liter capacity. A pack with a hip belt helps put the weight away from the shoulders and onto the hips, resulting in less load on one’s spine. The pack are for trail food, water bladder or bottle, camera/phone, and a light jacket. In my car, I leave a big plastic bag containing a complete change of clothes and shoes. The plastic bag will take care of wet clothes and shoes.
  • A water bladder is more convenient than water bottles as this will enable you to sip water instead having to pull out a bottle from your pack. Get the three-liter capacity bladder.
  • Hat or cap, simple work gloves, synthetic material tops and pants with enough sun protection (synthetics are better because cotton gets heavy when wet). A windbreaker of light jacket helps in higher altitudes in case of rain or wind. Waterproof jackets are not necessary in the Philippines because one will be wet with sweat anyway.
  • Hiking or trail running shoes and thicker socks are advisable.
  • Trekking poles are helpful in descents. These poles are usually sold in pairs but I prefer using only one. I would bring one to Mt. Maculot because of the gradient. It’s not needed for the Makiling trail going to Aguila base.

Happy hiking, once these trails reopen.

(To be continued)

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