Monday, January 31, 2011

Safety on the Trail

Enjoying the PCT Kick Off Party-Many Solo hikers and Partnerships Gather to enjoy some food, connections, and water cache information. Read my journals at
I know there are many people who can't fathom why a person would ever take the risk of hiking alone for weeks and months at a time.

There is much fear due to media mania when a hiker or backpacker becomes lost, injured, raped, or murdered.

Yet, these same things happen many times daily all across America, and no one stops going out alone.

There are some very basic precautions I've learned over the years. Some we know instinctively, some are just good reminders.

A Non Gender specific trail name is especially important for women. Only your trail friends will know that it is a woman signing the trail registers. I think its good to sign them every once in awhile because if you need to be found due to family emergency, there will be some clues.

Post to your online journals after you are long gone from the area. I met trail "groupies" who would track a specific person, then calculate how fast they were hiking, and surprise them at a shelter. This is unnerving. Two male strangers, having kept track via online trail journal posting site, appeared at a shelter in Pennsylvania and gave accurate data concerning some trail friends of mine. Although they would be arriving that evening to camp, I told them I had no information.

Do not be too predictable, or give too much information.

I find dogs are more threatening than any other creature you'll find in the woods or on trails. They are not afraid of humans, have a protective mode, and kill more people than bears do. Especially when they are with their families, or appear distressed, I always have my hiking poles ready if they can not be restrained.
I appreciate families holding their pets when we must cross paths.

Trust your instincts. If someone is giving you bad vibes, don't show any fear, but ditch them as soon as possible. Say nothing of your plans. Follow the same rule if you're hitch hiking.

Trail heads are much more dangerous than five miles in. This is where abductions take place. As you approach civilization and trail heads, look around and note anything that seems off. I turned down a beer party of trail magic while on the AT for that reason.

When the tread becomes slick from a lot of hiking on your shoes, replace them. You can easily wear out the tread before the tops are trash. Good tread is essential on wet ground, logs and wet leaves.

Bring enough food, and ration it. The only day you're going to feel stuffed is the day you leave town, or run across a very good cook-out trail magic.

You are more likely to pick up giardia from sharing gorp bags with people who don't practice good hygiene on the trail. Bad hand washing after pit stops contribute to spreading the bug more than bad water. Always carry chemical treatment for water, even if you have a water filter because water filters will break or become clogged.

Dehydration is a killer. Drink plenty, drink often. Eat salty snacks.

Hypothermia leads to bad decisions. If you're cold, do something about it. Put on the rain jacket, get something hot to drink, snuggle with a partner, exercise. Even in summer, the mountains make their own weather. You can see snow any day on the Pacific Crest Trail. Cold rain on the Appalachian Trail can chill you in higher elevations, especially the Whites in New Hampshire. The Colorado Trail has some of the highest elevations you'll ever hike. We camped on ice after a hail storm in July.

If you need to road walk, take special care. Several hikers have been killed by inattentive drivers.

These are just a few of the tips I would like to share. By being alert, and thinking ahead, we can hike safely. Know your limitations.

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