Editorial: Take precautions before spring hikes

April 9, 2014

By Staff

It’s one of those rare spring days on the Eastside when it’s both sunny and warm. And, since you live just a short drive from numerous gorgeous hikes, you decide to tackle a trail.

With places like Mount Si, Little Si, Rattlesnake Lake, Twin Falls, Franklin Falls and Olallie State Park, the Valley is a haven for beautiful hikes. Unfortunately, these can also be havens for accidents. Particularly this time of year, when hikers are out of shape, their packs haven’t been used since last year and trails are still muddy from our wet February and March.

If you decide to go on a hike, keep in mind a number of things. Good preparation can ensure your experience is memorable in a good way.

Before you leave:

  • Tell someone where you are going. If you get lost, this step could be the simple act that allows you to be found.
  •  Check conditions. Look to see if a storm is on the way. Also check to see what the conditions are at the top of any mountain to which you’re hiking. Snow-capped trails require different preparation than ones that are dry. Even if the snow is gone, with the last couple of wet months, expect mud and water-filled creeks and streams.
  •  Pack the 10 essentials recommended by the Washington Trails Association. They are: a map, a compass, water, extra food, rain gear and extra clothing, fire starter and matches, a first aid kit, a knife or multipurpose tool, a flashlight and extra batteries, and sun screen.

During the hike:

  •  Don’t go beyond your abilities. The majority of hiking accidents are a result of hikers attempting feats they are not experienced enough for. If a crossing or a peak of a hike appears too difficult, don’t feel bad about turning back.
  • This is early in the season and unless you’ve been working out a lot during winter months, those up-and-down trails will give your calves a workout. Remember to turn back before you’re exhausted.
  •  Be wary of ledges. While it’s rare, natural ledges are not always solid and could give way. Be careful not to get too close to the edge. Think about the Oso mudslide — what was stable last year may be saturated this time of year. Be doubly cautious.
  •  Be aware of other hikers. During good weather, the most popular hikes can get crowded. Hikers who decide to run on trails or dogs off their leashes can be hazardous.

Finally, pack out your trash and any extra you see along the way. All good hikers do, and Scouts always leave the wilderness better than they found it.

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