I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thursday! Mine is fantastic because I am on Day 1 of my four day weekend/Fall Break. There are perks to being a school teacher
Look what I got for an anniversary present. Despite the fact that we said no presents, I woke up to this little gem yesterday morning. Do I have a keeper or what? The good news for all of you is you can look forward to better blog pictures now!
Did anyone catch the news story about the two backpackers who were lost in Glacier National Park? They were on an overnight backpacking trip in the park, and their families became concerned when they failed to catch their flight home. A search effort was mounted, and, thankfully, both men were found alive and uninjured Monday afternoon.
John and I always follow the news of missing hikers, and this one especially got my attention because of our recent trip to the park. I was even more intrigued when I read the entire story of the two men’s survival on the trail. They were prepared, and did everything they could to ensure a positive outcome.
I immediately started thinking about trail safety, and the basic precautions everyone should take whether your heading out for a short day hike or an extended backpacking trip. Some of these may seem pretty obvious, but you would be amazed at some of the things I’ve seen people do on the trail. That’s not to say I’m an expert, but these are tried and true tips that can help everyone have a successful outing!
1. Always tell someone where you’re going
This one is really important. I feel like many times it’s the experienced hikers that forget this one. Have you seen 127 Hours? Aron Ralston set out alone in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, and had a horrific accident before the day is out. The accident was amplified by the fact that no one knew when and where he was going. Fortunately, because of his experience he was able to stay alive and eventually get help, but not before having to amputate his own arm. It’s both a horrifying and triumphant tale, but for me it was cautionary. Many members of our family always know our route and tentative itinerary whenever we head into the backcountry. On many trails, you’ll find a trail register so that forest service professionals can keep track of who’s out and about. The important thing is to tell someone! That way if an accident does happen, someone will know where to find you.
2. Be Prepared!
Yes, I’m going to go all Boy Scout on you. When I say be prepared, I mean you must have a plan. Familiarize yourself with the trail you plan to hike, bring a map, study weather conditions. Spontaneity is great, but being unprepared can be dangerous.
3. Have plenty of food and water
This tip can fall under the “Be Prepared” category, but really deserves a mention of it’s own. I know that I always underestimate my water and food needs when I’m in the back country. Fortunately, we usually hike in places that have plenty of water resupply points so that hasn’t been an issue. However, there are many hiking destinations where this is not true. Dehydration is a serious issue, and there is no more precious resource on the trail than water. Food, too, is vital, and a good rule of thumb is to have one additional day worth of food when your hiking. The backpackers that were missing were able to ration there food for four days even though they had only planned on being out overnight.
4. Wear proper clothing/footwear
Nature is volatile. The weather can change almost instantly, and it seems like it does so a lot more frequently in the back country. Having the essential clothing and footwear can make or break a hike. You almost always need a rain jacket. I’m sure this isn’t true for dessert hiking, but in the mountains summer afternoon showers are an almost daily occurrence. Sturdy hiking boots are also a must for longer backpacking trips. You are carrying a lot of weight and you need shoes that can withstand it. Even for day hikes, I think a good pair of trail shoes are important although you will find those who would disagree. Whatever you do, don’t wear flip-flops. Seriously. I’ve seen it more than once.
5. Be Alert!
It goes without saying that there are all kinds of dangers in the wild. This doesn’t have to detract from your outdoor experience, but you do need to aware of these dangers. Staying alert and in tune with what’s going on around you could make the difference between a serious accident and a pleasant hike.
There are so many other tips and tricks of the trade, but I feel like these 5 will get you started on and lead to a wonderful outdoor experience. As a side note, I’d also encourage you to employ the Leave No Trace philosophy if you’re ever in the outdoors. Every time I go out into the back country, I’m keenly aware that I am simply a guest, and I try to behave in the way I would in anyone’s home. And on that note, get outside today! It’s a great day for it!
Any safety tips you’d like to add? Where are you going on your next big adventure?