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Winter hiking tips, and the Gold Camp Road closure 

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Though it doesn't officially arrive until next month, for all practicality, it's winter — and a good time to go over the basics of safe winter outdoor recreation.

Warm days are followed by cold nights, and the shorts you might still get away with wearing while the sun's out aren't going to cut it once it goes down. Dress appropriately and plan ahead.

The days are shorter, too, and paying attention to the time is important. (Speaking of, this weekend also marks the end of Daylight Saving time, so don't forget to set your clock back an hour when you go to bed Saturday night.) Pack a flashlight in case you get stuck out on the trails in the dark, which can happen as early as 4pm in December.

No one likes to get caught outside in bad weather regardless of the season, but bad winter weather can be particularly dangerous. An incoming winter storm can not only blot out the sun that had been giving you just enough heat to stay somewhat warm, but can also bring in winds and moisture that can quickly lower your body temperature. Check the weather forecast before you go out, watch the skies, and carry extra layers of clothing — preferably of the wind and waterproof variety.

Don't forget your feet and hands — I don't know about you, but nothing makes me more miserable than frozen fingers and toes. Insulated, waterproof hiking boots will keep your feet warm on those cold hikes, and traction aids that fit over your boots will help keep you steady on ice and are easy to pack. As for gloves, you may not always need big ski type gloves, but you should have them available. Thin gloves are usually sufficient until it really gets cold. Gloves with conductive fingertips that allow you to operate the touch screen on your cell phone without taking your gloves off, are really handy. Lastly, wear a hat of some type. While it's a myth that you lose the majority of your body heat through your head, you do lose heat from any part of your body that is exposed to the elements.

And of course, all the other basic, year-round rules apply: bring water and a snack. Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. Have a map so you can find your way. Bring a fully charged cell phone. In the winter, when cold weather can really sap the strength out of your phone's battery, a spare battery or portable external battery pack is a wise piece of equipment to have.

In outdoor news, the dirt portion of Gold Camp Road, from pull out #7 just past Point Sublime to North Cheyenne Canyon Road, will be closed from 9pm Sunday, November 4th, to 5am on Thursday, November 8th for road maintenance. The closure includes the "4 corners" parking lot, which serves as a jumping off point for St Mary's Falls, 7 Bridges Trail, Jones Park, Mt Buckhorn and other popular hiking, cycling and running destinations.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 26 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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