Take a hike — just be sure to do it safely
Solitude, rugged Sierra scenery and the unknown: The very things that draw you to our majestic outdoor gym are precisely the elements that could get you into trouble if you hit the trail without the proper tools.
Careful planning and common sense go a long way toward ensuring a safe and enjoyable hike. With several weeks likely left in the Sierra autumn hiking season, area trails still are bustling with locals and visitors wanting to see the fall colors and take advantage of every last beautiful day before winter sets in.
First, know where you’re going. Learn about the area by reviewing maps before you go — preferably topographic maps. What kind of wildlife might you encounter? After you plan your route, let someone know where you’re going and when you will return.
Is water available? You can go for a long time without food, but hypothermia and dehydration are two killers. Plenty of water is essential. You may need to carry two to three quarts per person per day if there are no safe sources of water on your route. If you do drink backcountry water, always use a purification system such as a filter or water tablets.
Next, follow that good old Boy Scout maxim and be prepared. That means being up to the challenge physically and knowing your limits.
Always plan for bad weather — even if it isn’t in the forecast — by carrying rain gear and extra clothing. Synthetic or silk fabrics work better than cotton for regulating body temperature. I always carry a small emergency kit that has waterproof matches, a mirror for causing reflections and an emergency blanket.
Break in your boots or walking shoes by wearing them around for several days.
Hiking burns lots of calories, so take plenty of energy-dense snacks such as nuts, dried fruit and energy bars. Plus, take an extra day’s worth in case of emergency.
Take a well-stocked first-aid kit and know how to use everything in it. Ideally, you or someone in your group should have first-aid training. Barton University offers CPR and first-aid courses. Call (530) 543-5549 to register.
Remember, it is one thing to be cold; it’s another to be cold and wet, so stay dry. Cold and wet can equal deadly. Also, keep in mind that a simple injury on a basketball court is a simple injury. A simple injury in the backcountry can mean being airlifted out, which can cost you up upwards of $10,000. And never hike alone.
(Sources: American College of Sports Medicine; American Hiking Society; American Red Cross)
— Dr. Stephen Bannar, a team physician for the U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team, is in practice at Tahoe Fracture & Orthopedic Clinic. He also serves as chief of staff at Barton Memorial Hospital.
What you pack for your trip ultimately will depend on where you are going and how long you’ll be out, but the following essentials can ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable hike:
Map and compass or GPS (global positioning system)
Well-charged cell phone (just in case you can get reception)
Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
Whistle and mirror
Waterproof matches or lighters
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Hat for warmth or sun protection
Long pants and long-sleeved shirt and wind breaker
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