Take a Hike, Kansas City!

For a healthy and inexpensive way to enjoy the natural world, look no farther than your neighborhood conservation area. There's plenty of fun afoot when you hike nature trails in the Kansas City area.

Hiking is for everyone in the family. You can go as fast as you want, as far as you want, whenever you want and with whomever you want. But whatever your hiking ambitions, keep in mind a few common sense points before you set out on the trail.

First consideration goes to essential gear. Dress comfortably and for the weather. Sensible shoes are a must. Boots that provide ankle support and good traction make sense. A hat will help keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Since ticks, chiggers and poison ivy are common throughout Missouri, consider wearing long pants and long sleeves. At the least, protect your skin with insect repellent and keep a sharp eye out for the distinctive three leaves of poison ivy.

Along with the essentials, bring along a canteen of drinking water.

It will provide welcome relief any time of the year, especially if you are hiking with children. A map of the trail will help you appreciate it more and let you gauge your progress. Maps are available at local Conservation Department offices and at some of the larger areas. You might also want to bring along a compass.

Binoculars and a pocket magnifier let you peer into the natural world. Guidebooks about flora and fauna will deepen your appreciation (and give you a chance to pause if you are feeling a little winded). Don't forget a lightweight but sturdy hiking stick. It's like having a best friend along when you hike.

Enjoying the trail carries a responsibility. Hiker's etiquette is just as important as any other item you bring along. Consider yourself a guest in nature's house and act accordingly.

First of all, stay on the trail. Not only will this help preserve the natural beauty for your next visit, but it will keep you from getting lost or hurt. Hiking off the trail can also contribute to erosion.

Don't leave anything behind. Drop gum wrappers in your pocket, not on the trail. Recycle the soda can when you get home, rather than tossing it into the woods. You might even consider bringing along a small trash bag and having the kids help clean up the trail as they