Hi from your usual writer Jaime C. Laya – Final questions from virtual hiker me and answers from genuine hiker Bambi Guevara.
* * * * * * * * * *
Having been mostly indoors sitting down looking at walls and fence going on 14 months now, I need to see if my legs and brain are still functional. Walking in fresh air with nice views seems like a great idea. Are there any nearby easy hikes that I can do and be back at home in bed the same day?
I suggest starting with La Mesa Nature Reserve, the nearest trail with shade from a tree cover. It’s part of the La Mesa Dam watershed. Entrance is along Quirino Highway in Novaliches, about five kilometers further on from La Mesa Eco Park near Batasan. The place is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and allows visitor groups a maximum of three hours’ stay. Guide fees are P1,000 for up to four people or P200 each for five to 10 persons. The Reserve has a Facebook page that lists its telephone numbers: 8938-2540, 0928-259-8944, and 0910-799-5620.
Is Mount Makiling a good hiking destination and are there guides who know about the trees, vegetation, birds, etc. so the hike can also be a learning experience?
The Makiling Botanic Garden and the Makiling trail are interesting and are just a bit more than an hour from Metro Manila. Located within the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) campus, the Botanic Garden features native and non-native trees and lesser-known plants and flowers. It’s a special treat for plantitos and plantitas. The Makiling Botanic Garden Facebook page says that it is a 300-hectare facility in the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve. Aside from the main garden, there are endless trails inside the forest. The garden and trails are still temporarily closed, however.
The UPLB website has a link where visitors should make appointments. You can also call their Public Relations Office at 049 536 3604. When they open, it would be a good idea to call and arrange for a guide who is familiar with the trees and plants in the garden. They should be able to find a knowledgeable forestry student or staff as guide.
La Mesa Nature Reserve and Makiling have the only easy tree-shaded trails within or near Metro Manila. Caution: You have to take into account the time of year. It can get really exhausting in the dry season with the hot sun beating down cloudless skies and exposed countryside. Trails with no tree cover are for early morning or late afternoon hikes.
Are there any hiking clubs or groups I can join to learn and participate in hiking?
Mountaineering clubs started in the late ’70s with most members single and in their 20s. They usually had training programs and attracted quite a few members. By around 2005, however, more and more young people got jobs in the BPO industry and had less time for hiking. There were fewer club applicants and outings were more difficult to organize.
Nowadays, day hikes and weekend climbs tend be organized over the internet, on Facebook. People can sign up for outings that leave Manila late Friday night, be on the road on a van, and begin the hike on Saturday morning. These are too hectic for me and I’ve joined only one, organized by a local in Antique to climb Mt Madjaas, the highest point of Panay. It’s possible to get them to organize a hike exclusively for your own group and schedule. You can get together with friends to do climbs on weekdays when trails are a lot quieter.
What stuff do I need for a one-day easy hike and where can I buy these?
To do a day hike, I recommend you bring the following:
- A hiking daypack. These are usually 20 to 30 liters in volume and weigh from half a kilo to 1.3 kilos. Packs with hip belts put the weight on your hips and away from your shoulder. I am partial to Deuter or Osprey packs. For the pack, I would recommend a Deuter trail 26. Cris Sports that has stores in most major malls carries Deuter products. You can ask them to show you the Deuter catalog to check out the models and colors available.
- Hiking shoes or trail running shoes. These should be worn with thick socks and you should therefore bring thick socks when you try them on for size. Hiking shoes usually have a stiffer sole than regular sports shoes to protect your feet from stones and the like. I like using the Merrell brand. Sizing tends to be bigger because of lining and thicker hiking socks. Merrell Shoes have their own store in many malls and are also available in SM and Robinson’s Department Stores as well as sports shoes retailers. I prefer their Moab or Moab fst models. They have shoes with a waterproof membrane like Goretex or their own proprietary brand, but I prefer the ones without this because your feet will breathe better. Anyway, if it rains your feet will get wet from above.
- Water. You should bring some either in bottles or the more convenient water bladders. You will need from a half liter to one liter per hour depending on how sweaty you are. Deuter has three-liter bladders.
- Trail food. For hikes of three hours or more, you ought to bring snacks for energy boosts. Trail mix or trail bars are convenient to carry.
- Trekking pole. This is an adjustable walking stick made of aluminum or carbon fiber. It usually comes in three sections so you can have a short pole going uphill and a long one going downhill. This helps stabilize you and takes a bit of the load when on uneven terrain and on slopes. Cris Sports may have trekking poles but ROX will surely carry several brands.
- Hat. You need this to avoid sunburn or worse, sunstroke. Simple work gloves available at Japan Home will also be helpful when you have to hold on to tree branches along the trail.
- A mobile phone or a real camera. It would be good to have one or both so you can shoot interesting things and scenery along the way, and selfies too.
The US-based REI.com carries well-known brands online and offers expert advice on its website. This is a good starting point to learn what is available. ROX on Bonifacio Global City High Street has most of the hiking, backpacking, and other high-end sports gear. A wide range of clothes, shoes, and hats bear the Columbia brand, sold in their stores in most Malls. Decathlon Philippines stores in Alabang, Pasig, and Masinag in Antipolo carry its own brand for tents, packs, clothes and other items. Decathlon prices are moderate and are also available online.
* * * * * * * * * *
Last words from Jaime C. Laya, your usual writer. Needless to say, you’ll impress everyone when you show up at La Mesa or UP-Forestry ready for Mt. Everest. Many thanks, Victor “Bambi” Guevara, Jr. for inspiring and educating indoor types a.k.a. couch potatoes like me.
Happy hiking everyone – keep safe!
Comments are cordially invited, addressed to [email protected]