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Beginner Skills

The 6 Best Ways to Trip and Fall on the Trail

Everyone does it. But it takes a special kind of hiker to make tripping look good.

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We all slip, trip, tumble, and topple every once in a while. We say: own it. Impress your trail pals and earn style points with these top-tier tripping techniques. Just make sure to have some gauze handy.

The Trail Obstacle

On perfectly coiffed trail, one covered with a spongy patina of impact-absorbing pine needles spread evenly atop a base of soft soil, stub your toe on a firmly set rock or remnant stump in the middle of that trail. Try to catch your balance in huge, arcing leaps, but inevitably land directly on your face. (Silver lining: You don’t break your wrist.)

Staff Meeting

Moving your hiking staff forward intentionally and purposefully like the stable hiker you are, you hit a trailside barrier—usually a boulder—that sends your pole ricocheting back into your stride. Usually, the fallout consists of nothing more than a light smack on the side of your knee. No harm. But if the gods of hiker mirth have been attentive, the staff’s recoil lands it directly between the calf of the planted leg and the shin of the leg that is moving forward.

The Rake

Step on the front end of a stick that is inconsiderately lying in the middle of the tread and its back end (which is almost invariably sharp as a Clovis-era spear tip) will pop up to greet the most tender part of one’s leg.

The Soccer Rock

Sure as the sun rises, when you inadvertently kick a rock forward, you will trip on it four paces later. This trail form of kick-the-can actually has the ability to continue unabated for about half a mile.

The Toe Tap

Slog up near-vertical, aerobically challenging sets of steps that have been constructed by sadistic trail crews who apparently are unfamiliar with the concept of gradual switchbacks. Before long, catch a toe on the lip of one of those steps. It is amazing how quickly the ground can rise up before your splayed-wide eyes under such circumstances.

Newton’s First Law

Stop to ogle a vista or to catch a sip of water, not realizing that you have planted your feet adjacent to a protruding piece of bedrock that would not give way if you hit it with a sledgehammer. When you are done ogling or sipping, begin to walk, only to realize that neither of your feet can move because they are both obstructed by a slab that is anchored clear down to the Earth’s mantle. Your upper body starts moving under the inaccurate assumption that, very soon, there will be a foot stepping forward to arrest its momentum. Under these circumstances, this assumption is not correct.

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