In the last five years I have realized just how much I love being in the outdoors and that hiking is one of my favorite ways to escape, exercise, and refresh. As with any new hobby, one has to learn how to do the hobby in the best way. Hiking includes some additional pressure and needs for safety, comfort, and planning.
While it’s easy to plan on “a walk in nature” what many fail to realize is that a walk in nature can turn into a deadly situation without planning ahead. Every year people die in National Parks and Forests around the nation from freak accidents, injuries, and sometimes poor planning. The most important thing to remember is that even “experts” and “active” hikers and trekkers end up in bad spots.
I had this lesson reinforced just this week. I had planned on hiking and camping BY MYSELF near Vail and Aspen, Colorado. Somewhere in the planning my doctor recommended I go with a friend and I followed through with a buddy that is moving and who I wanted to take a trip with before that time. Boy was I glad that I did.
The first morning out we went to Booth Trail near Vail. While the trail is not considered dangerous in the dry months (before snow and ice) it ended up causing me the worst injury I have had in outdoor recreation. About half way up the trail I snagged my foot on a rock and toppled over like a cut pine tree. I landed almost all of my weight on my right wrist and my hands. While my fall wasn’t even “bad” by injury standards, it was enough that getting through my trip alone would have been impossible. Luckily I could get up and back down the trail without issue, I got ice, I bought an elastic wrap in Vail, and I rested the injury. My friend, luckily, was able to take care of some of the tactile needs we had with camping, allowing us to journey on. A few days later a doctors appointment confirmed it was just bruised and tender, but I was told to take two days extra off work to allow it to heal.
The point of the story is that if I had been alone, I would have had to come home and not continue my trip, which would have been a bummer. The other lesson of the story is that the injury could have happened anywhere and could have been much worse. I will now carry more emergency supplies for this reason.
Later in the trip my friend busted her hand on a hunk of wood while we were making a fire (in regulation), and burned her arm on the fire as well. We can laugh it off as our clumsy bull shit, but it was also valuable to have gauze, sterile wipes, and basic first aid knowledge to work through the injuries.
In this summer alone I have heard of too many deaths and injuries from people in the wilderness to sit well with me. They weigh heavy on my heart. Some have even happened to people directly linked to family and friends. The rewards of sports in nature are high, but so are the risks.
If you are new to hiking, take the stories of danger seriously. Build yourself up to exploration. Plan ahead. Ask questions from experts. Don’t let your ego put you in danger. Bring a friend, or at the VERY least tell people where you are going. Bring a few survival items. Pack a first aid kit. Be smart and listen to your gut.
Stay safe out there, and happy trails!