Saturday, May 16, 2015

Be prepared for spring and summer hiking

Posted By on Sat, May 16, 2015 at 6:55 AM

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Spring is here, summer is coming and there are more hours of sunshine in the day. We’re all spending more time outside on the trails. It’s a good time to talk about being prepared for warm weather hiking.

Afternoon rainstorms here are common. The best way to prepare for them is to plan your outdoor activities so that you’re off the trail before the rainstorms typically show up. If you can’t be off the trail, bring some kind of rain gear. Even a cheap disposable poncho is better than nothing when you need to stay dry. A rainstorm here can dramatically lower the air temperature. If you’re soaking wet because you didn’t have any rain gear, you can become hypothermic - even in the summer. I also highly recommend waterproof footwear — ignore all that stuff about your feet getting hot and sweaty in them. Gore-tex repels water while letting your feet breathe. Trust me, wet feet will make you miserable.

Speaking of rainstorms, they usually come with lightning, a lot of lightning. Online searches often result in contradictory information but lets start with the most obvious thing: Don’t be outdoors when lightning is around, or likely to be around. Plan your outing so that you’re done before lightning comes. If you’re caught outside, get indoors — a tent is not indoors — or into a car. But if you’re truly stuck outside, with no shelter, and lightning is all about, follow this advice from the National Weather Service: Run like hell to a safe location.

What about good weather? Use sunscreen —at least an SPF 30 is recommended — and drink water. A lot of water. If you’re new here, let yourself get acclimated to the altitude and semi-arid conditions. You may have been the fittest person around when you lived near sea level, but you’re starting out way over a mile high here.

If you get nauseated, a headache, dizzy, lose your appetite, and start vomiting when you’re exercising, you’re showing signs of altitude sickness. Slow down or stop, get some rest in the shade, drink some water, and then head down to a lower elevation as soon and as quickly as possible.

Watch for wildlife. I’ve seen fresh bear prints in the last few weeks, one of them in the rather busy Red Rocks Canyon. It’s true that the wildlife really is more scared of you than you are of them. But if you see a bear, keep clear of it. Give them wide berth and don’t try to get closer to get a picture. Be aware of bear cubs that may be nearby, too. An adult bear will usually leave you alone unless they feel you’re a threat to their cubs. Don’t run from the wildlife. Make yourself look big and yell loudly if you feel threatened, in most cases they’ll run away.

Watch for rattlesnakes, especially in Garden of the Gods, Palmer Park, Ute Valley Park, Pulpit Rock and other lower elevation parks. During the warmer times of the day, they will be under rocky outcroppings, or under bushes to avoid the heat. Be careful where you or your kids put your hands or feet. It is a myth that they’ll always rattle before striking — I can tell you firsthand this isn’t the case. If you’re bitten, stay as still as possible and call 911 immediately.

And don’t forget the basics: Hike in groups and tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Carry maps of the area you’ll be in. Keep your cell phone charged — but understand that there’s a good chance it won’t work. Bring a first aid kit, snacks, water and a flashlight. And dress or carry layering clothes.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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