Autumn’s cooler temperatures and colorful foliage draw many hikers to the trails, but slips, trips and sudden changes in the weather can put a stop to the fun. To prevent a safety misstep along the way, plan ahead for your outing.
“Hiking is a very healthy activity and it’s good for people to get out and explore nature,” says Jim Nepstad, superintendent for Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. “To maximize chances of a safe hike in the woods, prepare in advance.”
Stay safe with these tips:
Gear up. Because the weather can change quickly in the fall, Nepstad recommends packing an extra layer of clothing. “It’s beneficial to have the capability to add or remove extra layers,” he says. Also bring a map and compass with you, in addition to your cell phone, because “cell phone coverage can be weak or nonexistent in some areas,” he says. And even if you don’t think you’ll be gone a long time, a snack and some water will help if you begin to feel fatigued.
Practice the buddy system. There is safety in numbers—especially if you get lost, fall and injure yourself or spot a dangerous wild animal. If you don’t have a hiking buddy, consider joining a hiking club.
Be informed. “Educate yourself on what’s in the local area so there are no unwelcome surprises,” Nepstad says. Talk to park rangers before heading out on the trail. Ask for their recommendations on hikes that are of the length you’re looking for, what you should take with you, and what you might encounter along the way.
Also investigate the following ahead of time:
Plants, animals, and bugs you might come across
Inform others. Always communicate your hiking plans to others. Let them know where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and what time you anticipate returning. That way, if you run into trouble, they can send help in a timely manner, Nepstad says.
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