SAFETY: Warwick’s 10-mile section of the Appalachian Trail is spectacularly beautiful, easily accessible and fairly safe. But that doesn’t mean that hikers can’t get in trouble out there.
Because they could.
Most emergency calls around these parts involve injuries to legs and feet. Most safety information begins and ends with “use common sense.”
So let’s start right there.
USE COMMON SENSE:
+ Never hike alone. (Really!)
+ Bring proper equipment. (See our EQUIPMENT section.)
+ Know where you are going.
+ Know when to come back. (Before sunset would be a good idea.)
+ Check the weather forecast first and don’t hesitate to delay or cancel an outing.
+ Bring plenty of water. (A liter of water per person, per hour is recommended.)
+ Have the proper maps. (Download them to your smartphone.)
+ Always have a back-up plan. (Always have a back-up plan.)
+ Let someone know where you are and when you are expected to return.
+ Bring some basic gear.
Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere. It is estimated to affect 300,000 people a year in the United States.
And, bad news, 2017 is projected to be the worst year yet. Why? An explosion of the mice population.
Turns out the mild winter allowed the rodents to survive in greater numbers. And mice, it seems, carry ticks in greater numbers than deer, who usually get most of the blame.
AVOIDING LYME DISEASE:
+ Use insect repellent (20-30 percent DEET is recommended.)
+ Wear long, light-colored sleeves, pants and socks. (Easier to spot the ticks.)
+ Treat clothing and gear with Permethrin.
+ Mosquito-proof your tent.
+ Use mosquito netting when appropriate.
+ Check yourself AND have someone else check you for ticks when you get home.
HOW TO DRESS:
+ Dress in layers and avoid cotton fabrics. (“Cotton Kills” because once it gets wet, it stays wet.)
+ Stay on the trail.
+ Keep dogs on a leash. (Not everyone likes your mutt.)
+ No alcohol.
+ No firearms.
+ Never climb on waterfalls. (Because water is not the only thing that falls.)
+ Don’t expect cellphones to work in the wilderness. Sometimes they do (up high) – sometimes they don’t (down low.)
+ Always wear bright colors – never wear camouflage. (See below.)
+ Everyone in your party should bring a whistle.
+ Always know when it’s hunting season. (Different states have different dates.)
+ A small first-aid kit is a good idea.
+ Just in case your smartphone actually DOES work in the wilderness, call 911 when necessary.
+ Activating that “tracking app” on your smartphone will make your phone even smarter.
+ Stay put.
+ Make shelter.
+ Stay warm and dry.
+ Be visible and heard.
+ If helicopters are searching overhead, seek an opening rather than thick tree cover. Lie down so you look bigger from the air. (This would be why you should wear bright clothing and NOT camo.)
HIKING WITH CHILDREN
+ Attach a whistle to their clothing.
+ Talk to children about what to do if they become lost, no matter what the location.
+ Teach children that they won’t get into trouble for becoming lost.
+ Reassure children that people (and possibly dogs and helicopters) will look for them if they become lost. Do not hide from searchers; answer their calls.
+ Do not run. Instead, “hug a tree” and make a comfortable “nest.” This prevents wandering even further.
+ Do not be afraid of animals or strange noises. If something is scary, blow the whistle.
+ Come up with a password that a child will respond to if a stranger needs to pick them up. Searchers can use this password.
+ Bears: This is bear country – black bears, not grizzlies. Now black bears are mostly shy creatures who will skedaddle when they encounter humans. Making a lot of noise while hiking is a good plan of action, so singing, clapping, talking, banging your hiking poles together are all smart moves when hiking in the woods.
You should know that the topic of how to avoid and chase off a bear is becoming tangled up in controversy as various experts weigh in on the subject. (Hey, it’s the Internet age – everything is tangled in controversy.)
Shouting, clapping and yelling “NO” have previously been recommended practices if you encounter a bear. Making yourself appear larger by waving your poles overhead was also suggested in the past. Never turn and run away, the experts used to say, because backing away slowly is better.
And never, ever get between an adult bear and her cubs.
In my opinion, these are all still good ideas and concepts. But you and I are not experts on the subject and apparently no one is an expert any more. (It’s all opinion, all the time.)
Bear mace in a can is widely available and “sound grenades” are coming to the market. Either one are highly recommended over firearms.
But do your own research and come up with your own plan of action before you head out. Heavy emphasis on the “before you head out” part. (This one’s on you.)
+ Snakes: There are only three types that should concern you in these parts. Both Eastern timber rattlesnakes and copperheads are out there and are considered venomous. However, both are shy and will move away as you approach, so you may never see them in the brush. Personally, I haven’t seen a snake in years – but I have friends who see them every time out. (So maybe it’s just me.)
Rattlesnakes will warn you by rattling – so if you hear a “buzzing” sound, stop, find the source and move away. Copperheads have no such warning system and are camouflaged much better – they blend in with the leaves – so potentially they are more dangerous.
Black rat snakes are also out here slithering around but are not considered venomous. However, they will bite if cornered.
The best advice is to leave snakes alone – both for your safety and because the rattlers are a federally-protected species. Don’t throw rocks, don’t poke them with a stick, don’t be stupid, don’t show off. (Just leave.)
I once read that 95 percent of all snake bites involved alcohol and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the snake that was drunk.
Snakes are also a very good reason to keep Fido on a leash.
Riding an ATV – or any off-highway vehicle – is banned in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut except on land that the rider personally owns, land whose owners have given permission, or a public off-highway vehicle park.
Which doesn’t stop some riders from riding on trails in the area.
But the general advice is this: If you come across an ATV rider on local trails, leave them alone and report the issue to local police and the New York / New Jersey Trail Conference.
This is no time to begin playing trail sheriff.
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