March 4, 2009

Trail Safety in the Great Outdoors

by Kimmie Dillon
The snow is melting and spring is calling. Most of us have had enough of winter and are ready to get outside.

Ok, let’s face it…we have a bit of cabin fever and are craving some fresh air. If you are looking for a great way to get outdoors, lose weight, or spend time with others-take a hike!

I’m writing this to encourage you to dust off your hiking stick and start planning your mountain trek. As with any outdoor adventure, preparation is the key. Here are some tips to help make your outing enjoyable and safe:
Springtime hiking is a thrill but can also be wet. While our days may be bright and warm, many trails will still be muddy. It’s important to check your local conditions by visiting Always remember that spring rains can make for some hazardous water crossings.
Summer-like conditions can lead to snow melt and mud on many trails. During this mucky period, it’s often best to look for trails at lower elevations with southern exposure. Hikers should seek out areas with well-draining soils. In general, until the leaves return, hardwood forests receive more sunlight than coniferous forests and will usually be the driest of the trails. Be aware of bridges and sections of trails that may have washed away with adverse conditions. If you plan to cross a creek, unbuckle your waist belt and loosen the shoulder strap of your pack.
By the way, creeks are usually at their lowest levels in the early mornings.
Before heading out, be sure to grease up your hiking boots so they’ll shed water efficiently. Gaiters are a good idea to help keep muck out of your boots and socks. A hiking stick will help you with your balance at times. Sun block and bug spray can be priceless. I admit that it’s obvious, but food, water and a mini first-aid kid should always be packed.
It’s refreshing to go out and get lost in the woods…but not literally. Even if you only plan to follow well-marked trails, it’s wise to have some navigational skills. Getting lost can be a very scary and possibly dangerous situation. Even if you’re familiar with the area, it’s a good idea to have a local map. A compass is a must-have and will keep you headed home on the right course. A modern GPS device is also a good investment if you plan to very far into the hills. Along with a good topo map, a GPS can pinpoint your exact location. Finally, do you have memories of learning how to spot the big dipper? Remember to find north, look for the clear star at the end of the big dipper.

Finally, for some up-to-date information on trails, here are some helpful links:

Sounds a lot better than that stair walker, doesn’t it?
Have fun!