By Bob Schneider
Now that the weather is starting to cool off, we can all get outside and start hiking again! I am really looking forward to revisiting my favorite trails in the region — including the recently opened trail leading to Berryessa Peak.
In our enthusiasm to hike, though, it is important to remember to plan and be safe to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. But sometimes accidents do happen.
We are truly fortunate to have dedicated public safety men and women who take time away from their families and incur personal risks to aid those in need. But let’s be sure that we take personal responsibility to avoid unnecessary rescues and do our best to let them enjoy their time at home.
Top 10 safety pointers:
1. Know where you are going — and let others know. There are maps online and trail books at outdoor stores. Plan your trip and let your family and friends know your plan. I suggest that new hikers first take trips with hiking groups in the region.
2. A whistle? Signal mirror? Cell phone? It’s nice to be able to call for help when really necessary but keep in mind that trails often can be well out of cell phone range. Before you make that “rescue me” call, ask yourself: Is somebody injured? Is this a life-threatening emergency? Do I really need help or can I figure this out for myself?
3. Take a hat, dark glasses and sunscreen with you — and use them.
4. It is good to have some basic first-aid supplies. Super glue and duct tape are invaluable but you can also purchase small first-aid kits at outdoor stores.
5. Keep up your energy level. A sandwich, nuts, dried fruit and energy bars can give a quick boost and make for a happier hiking experience.
6. Mountain lions: Attacks are extremely rare but it’s wise to be particularly aware if you’re walking with pets or children at dawn or dusk. I have not seen a mountain lion in our region (yet) but I vividly recall seeing footprints on two frost-covered steps at Cold Canyon. It was exciting and just a bit scary!
And, yes, there are also rattlesnakes out there. They don’t always rattle and will generally avoid us unless startled, provoked or stepped on. Personally, I do not recommend getting closer for a photo.
7. Starting your hike late and getting “be-nighted” is not a reason for rescue! Flashlights or headlamps can allow you to hike during those unplanned nights out.
8. Take adequate water; at least a quart or two for a day hike. I use a water bladder and hose for sipping. Whenever I think of water or thirst I always take a sip to stay hydrated.
9. Weather can change dramatically on the trail so be prepared for everything. If the forecast calls for rain you’ll need to dress in layers with poly pro or other wicking material close to your skin. Your outer layers can be Gore-Tex, but in our area you’re often better off with a waterproof raincoat and rain pants.
10. Lastly, stay on the trails. Trails are built through careful planning and with the landscape in mind. Cutting switchbacks causes erosion and habitat destruction … and ultimately someone has to pay to repair the damage caused by inconsiderate hikers.
As an added precaution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that the western black-legged tick can carry Lyme disease, an illness caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Since most people don’t feel tick bites when they happen, it’s essential to check yourself, your clothing and your pet for ticks when you get home from your trip.
I want everyone to enjoy our region and to do so safely. Our first responders want to help when really needed but let’s avoid all unnecessary call-outs. When hiking, have fun, be smart and keep safe! And, as always, don’t litter; pack out what you take in.
— Bob Schneider is senior policy director for Tuleyome, a nonprofit conservation organization with offices in Woodland and Napa. He has climbed and hiked over much of the planet but now focuses much of his exploration in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region. Tuleyome Tales are published monthly.