Go hiking? Don’t forget these safety tips. – The New York Times | Gmx Pharm

The summit of Hawksbill Mountain in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park offers sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. On a clear day, miles of lush forest and valleys can be seen in all directions. It’s the kind of view that begs for a spot on Instagram, isn’t too hard to reach, and gets millions hitting the trails.

While the vast majority of treks end without incident, strenuous physical activity combined with extreme weather and a lack of preparation have recently resulted in a spate of injuries and fatalities. At least two hikers have been found dead in the United States this month, one near a lake outside of Kansas City, Missouri, and another in White Sands National Park in New Mexico. In June, a hiker died with hypothermia after being rescued in freezing temperatures and high winds near Mount Clay, New Hampshire.

“Sometimes going out without the skills leads to bad circumstances,” said Jennifer Pharr Davis, who has hiked more than 14,000 miles long trails and is the owner of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company. Kate Van Waes, executive director of the American Hiking Society, added that hikers should learn to find their adventure within their expertise, which can always grow with experience.

Before you head out, here are some safety tips and reminders, no matter your skill level.

Have a realistic plan. Hikers should know something about the route they intend to take, including the nature of the trail – whether steep, rocky or slippery. Hikers should also check the weather forecast and their mood on the day of the trek. “You may be an experienced hiker but you have an upset stomach that day or a headache,” said Ms. Van Waes. “Or your knee is going crazy. Don’t push it through.”

She also said that failing to alert family or friends to your plan is one of the biggest mistakes made by hikers, whether they are beginners or experienced. “Make sure someone who isn’t on the trek knows when you’re going, where you’re going, and what time you expect to be back,” she said.

The American Hiking Society has compiled a list of 10 essentials every hiker should have before setting out, including a paper map and compass to replace phones and GPS devices. Rainwear, knives, and sunscreen are also important. Visitors to national parks can download maps to use offline.

Ms Davis said a first-aid kit and prescription medication, if needed along the way, should be packed along with more than enough food and water.

Yes. Ms. Davis says that just hiking brings her instincts to life and that she feels more confident because she listens to her intuition and her fear faster. “The only thing I notice about solo hikers and female solo hikers is that the closer you are to towns or roads, the more conscious you have to be aware of your surroundings and other people,” she said. “When I’m traveling alone, I don’t give out a lot of information to people I don’t know.”

But share your information with park officials when you can. “Report to the ranger station and tell them I’m a woman hiking alone or I’m a person of color hiking alone and I’m concerned about this or I’m trans,” Ms. Van Waes said. “Unfortunately, there are a number of compromised identities on the trail.”

Make room as soon as possible. “The best thing you can do is get yourself to a safer situation and get help,” Ms Davis said. “You want to get yourself and your group to a safe place when you’re out with a group and then ask for help and report the incident as soon as possible.”

No panic. Remember, the mistake isn’t lost, but how you react to it when you’re off course, Ms Davis said, adding, “Don’t immediately rush in the direction you think the ‘right’ Gone.” Instead, take the time to regain your composure and create the best plan possible.

When she finds herself in an unintended place, Ms. Davis says she follows a brief routine. “I always like to take a deep breath, sit down, have a snack, drink water, and then pull out all my available navigation tools: guide book, map, compass, GPS, etc,” she said. “I ask myself where and when I last remembered being on the right track, and then I use the resources I have at my disposal to create a plan to get back to that place.”

Be ready to adjust your plans. If there is lightning, avoid standing under a tree. “You should try to get into a low spot, like a ravine, and wait,” said Ms Van Waes, or take shelter under a rock. Heavy rain can wash out trails and flood streams, she said. Hiking poles can be useful in such situations.

When extreme heat is forecast, listen to your body. If you’re hiking with a group, Ms. Davis suggests sending someone who feels okay and has enough water to fetch more. Sit in a nearby stream if you’re feeling overheated, she said. “If not, at least sit in the shade until someone can get help. If you’re hiking alone, bring lots and lots of water with you.” She recommends taking a liter of water for every two hours of hiking, and increasing that to a liter and a half in extreme heat. “We also encourage people to pack some extra salty snacks to help keep their sodium and fluid levels replenished and balanced,” Ms. Davis said.

Avoid being on the trail at dawn or dusk. “That doesn’t mean you can’t see animals at other times, but they’re most active at these times and you can’t see them either,” said Ms. Van Waes.

It’s also useful to have a bell on your backpack and speak up in your group or sing out loud when you’re alone. “Usually you’re fine as long as you haven’t startled or frightened them or gotten between a mother and her babies,” she said. “If they know you’re coming, they can somehow avoid you.”

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