When you are out hiking, you are at the mercy of nature. That means that there are a lot of variables that could affect the safety of your hike, no matter how experienced you are and how much you prepare in advance. Some of the dangers that show up while hiking don’t reveal themselves until you have already set out. So the question remains: how do you know what dangers lay ahead?
Keeping your eyes open and staying alert is the key to spotting any changes that may occur while you’re on your treck.
We all look at the weather forecast before we venture out into the wild, but that does not mean that the weather agrees with the forecast. This is especially true for longer hikes that take several hours or days.
If it is a shorter hike, you can easily look to the sky and see if there is a thunder storm looming, but that is not always true if you are out on a longer hike.
Watch for darker clouds building or rolling in. If the humidity has increased, and the clouds have darkened, you may be facing a thunder or lightning storm. Lightning can be especially dangerous in the summer as it runs the risk of starting wildfires.
Ideally, you should find shelter during a severe storm to keep yourself safe. Likewise, if you smell or see smoke that perhaps is getting thicker along your hike, you may be approaching a wildfire. In this event, it is safest to turn back and get as far away as possible.
You can look up which animals live in the area that you will be hiking before you set out. Most animals avoid humans in general, keeping to themselves and hunting for food at night. Sometimes, however, you may run into animals unexpectedly. Startling an animal is often what makes it react unpredictably, resulting in injury to you or them. Some signs that give warnings of animals you may want to avoid are:
- Posted signs: If there have been bear or wildcat sightings, park services will often post that the animals have been seen in the area recently, letting you stay more on guard.
- Animal dung: Bear dung is especially easy to spot out on a trail. You will be able to tell if there has been a bear on the path recently, letting you keep your ears open.
- Sounds: You may hear rustling in the brush surrounding the track, letting you know something is moving there. It is best to keep moving in this event. Some animals, like a rattlesnake, will alert you to their presence, ensuring you steer far away from where they are.
If you do come across an animal, the best thing is to move away from it in a normal fashion. Running can incite an animal to chase you. Approaching an animal could result in a fight and put you both in danger. Do not ever offer food to wild animals.
The best thing you can do out on a hike is stay smart. Know what you are getting into before you get out there. Do not try to copy reality television shows about being without supplies in the wild. You will not have a television crew following you around to make sure you do not get hurt.
The best way to avoid danger is to keep your wits about you and really plan for a hike. Even preparing for a short day hike will not only keep you safe, but will also ensure that you enjoy your hike.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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