Category Archives: Hiking Tips

Learn great tips about hiking outdoors.

Winter Hiking Tips

Snowflakes and Bootprints

Even though the weather has turned colder and the snowflakes are starting to fly, that doesn’t mean that your hiking trips need to wait until spring. Winter is a wonderful time to hike. There are usually no more crowds of people and a lot of trails take on an entirely different look under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.

Wearing layers is the most important thing to remember when hiking in the winter months. Although it feels cold at the trailhead, your body will start to generate heat after just 10 to 15 minutes of walking, especially if you are hiking on a particularly difficult trail. Layering is important to staying warm and maintaining a constant body temperature throughout the hike.

When you layer:

  • Start with a base layer to wick moisture off your body.
  • A fleece jacket is next for insulation and warmth.
  • Finally, a shell keeps you dry and shttps://www.yaktrax.com/tops the wind from penetrating.
  • Remember to avoid cotton. Once wet, cotton will no longer insulate you from the cold. Also, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk for hypothermia.

Other winter hiking garments include:

Ice flow seen near the bottom of the steps leading up to Hawk Rock.

Tips for Preparing for a Successful Day Hike

Hikers walking through the woods of PennsylvaniaWe are fortunate to live in an area that offers many different opportunities for a day hike. We have the Appalachian Trail which can be accessed from several different trail heads, Fort Hunter Conservancy, Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area, Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area, and Little Buffalo State Park, just to name a few.

Regardless of which area you select for a hike, a successful day hike depends on taking the time to be prepared. Anytime you step on a trail, you should be prepared with the basics, which includes: appropriate clothing, footwear, food, and equipment.

Clothing should protect you from the cold and the rain. In summer time temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations. Avoid cotton clothes which will retain moisture and opt for synthetic fabrics which are more “breathable”.

Shoes should fit well and be broken in. On a day hike, a pair of broken in sneakers can be a better choice than brand new hiking boots.

Food and water are indispensable, even on a day hike. Apples, oranges, energy bars, or whatever foods you like should be part of every hike. Just remember, be sure to pack out all of your garbage, including apple cores and orange peels, and wrappers.

Take a few minutes before you head out on the trails to pack the following items:

  • Map and compass (make sure you can use them)
  • Water (1 quart minimum per person, 2 or 3 quarts on longer hikes in hot weather)
  • Food
  • First aid kit (with tweezers to remove ticks)
  • Whistle (three blasts is the international signal for help)
  • Garbage bag (to pack out trash)
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Blaze orange hat (in hunting season)
  • Insect repellent
  • Trowel, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer
  • Cell Phone

Proper planning and preparation will make your trail experience as enjoyable as possible.

DOC Feb. Hike: Leave No Trace and Hiking Etiquette

Our hike on the Stoney Valley Rail Trail was a leisurely 4 mile hike, two in and two out.  The weather was  perfect, almost reaching 60 degrees. While the air was warm there was still the remnants of snow and ice underfoot.  It was a tad scary driving back to the trail head on a snowy, icy dirt road.  At the last section if one did not stay in the tire tracks the risk of  a sudden drop off the road into the forests was evident.   Fortunately we all made it without incident.

Prior to the hike we had a discussion on Leave No Trace and Hiking Etiquette.  A 10 question quiz started us off on an interesting talk on the do’s and don’ts of hiking.  Take the quiz below and then check your answers to see how well you do.

HIKING ETIQUETTE AND LEAVE NO TRACE – TRUE OR FALSE?

    1. It is okay to leave apple cores and other food items in the woods for animals to eat.

2. Defecate 200 feet and urinate 100 feet from a trail, shelter or water source.

3. Hikers should yield to mountain bikers.

4. Pass another hiker on the right and let them know you are passing.

5. Hikers stay on the uphill side when horses are passing on an incline.

6. Cairns are acceptable as a means of marking trail heads since they are made of natural material.

7. Hikers going downhill should yield to hikers coming uphill.

8. Since flora and fauna are so prevalent in the forests it is permissible to take small samples.

9. You may veer off the trail to bushwhack or follow a path that proves an easier way to traverse to conserve your energy.

10. Make all fires in a fire ring and use small diameter wood found on the ground.

Answers:

#1 False – Leaving food items will attract animals and insects into the hiking areas exposing hikers to rabies or other diseases.  It also disrupts the animals’ natural foraging behaviors. Other hikers do not appreciate looking at your garbage.  (Incidentally, orange peels last forever, and to my knowledge I do not know of any animal that eats orange peels!)

#2 True – Defecate by digging a cathole 6″ x 6″ x 6″ (some say 6″ x 8″), removing the dirt plug and putting it to the side.  Do your duty in the hole and replace the dirt plug.  Take any toilet paper and hygiene products with you. Urinate 100 ft. away from a trail, shelter, or water source, again taking any toilet paper or hygiene products with you. (When on an expedition with Outward Bound in North Carolina we rated our toilet areas.  A beautiful view with a log to sit on over your cathole and a cool breeze was rated 5 stars.  When you returned from your duty you were required to kiss the shovel as proof that you dug your cathole properly, YUCK!)  Another tidbit of info, when brushing your teeth move 200 feet away from water sources and broadcast your spit from your mouth in a half-circular pattern to spread out the toothpaste scented water.  The same holds true for disposing of waste water.

#3 False – ATV’s yield to everything, hikers and bikers yield to horses, bikers yield to hikers.

#4 False – When passing another hiker you pass on the left notifying them of your intentions by saying something like, “Passing on your left.”  Greet people you meet.  This will help them remember you if something should happen and a search for you is necessary.  If hiking and you meet someone that gives you those creepy vibes and you are ahead of your group or worse yet, hiking alone, it is wise to say something like, ” I must be ahead of my group etc.”

#5 False – Hikers stay on the downhill side when yielding to a horse on an incline since horses usually run uphill when spooked.

#6 True or False – This question led to a lot of discussion.  Some of us felt it was true while other had the opposite opinion.  Upon further research it was found that cairns, piles of rocks to indicate a path, have been used since the 1800’s in the Northeastern United States, usually above the tree line.  According the the Center for Outdoor Ethics it is permissible to build authorized cairns and they should not be tampered with.  Otherwise cairns should not be constructed since they lead to rogue trails and confuse other hikers.

#7 True – Hikers going downhill should yield to those coming up.  Still, many hikers who are climbing may yield to provide a short respite to their labors.  When yielding or stopping for a rest step off the trail selecting a used area or a durable surface.  When hiking in a group, it is the groups responsibility to yield to single or pair hikers.  Since it is harder for a group to get of the trail often times the other hikers will let you pass first,  It is their call.

#8 False – Go by the saying, “Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.”  If every hiker took plants and other items with them their would be nothing left to see,  Good foragers, people picking edible plants, on the other hand will pick plants knowing to follow the policy of a sample here and a sample there leaving behind plants for regeneration.

#9 False – When you bushwhack you kill additional plants and create rogue trails which often lead to erosion.  Hikers want to see nature, not a series of trails in all directions.

#10 True – Leave standing dead trees, called snags, and fallen trees alone since they provide a source of food and habitat.  Do NOT cut live trees!   Do not build fire rings when you can use those which already exist.  Make sure you are in an area where fires are permitted.  Clear all leaves and debris away from the fire ring.  Make sure your fire is under control at all times and do not leave it unattended.  Make sure the fire is out when done.  Forest fires are most common in the late fall and early spring when there are no leaves on the trees prohibiting the sun from hitting the leaf litter on the ground and drying it out.

So how did you do?  One bit of info left unsaid was the importance of keeping your noise level down in respect for other hikers, and please do not play music for others to hear.  If you wish to read more about the 7 principals of Leave No Trace go to http://duncannonatc.org/leave-no-trace/.

Works cited:

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics/LNT.org “The Leave No Trace and Cairns,” 2014 Web. 20 Mar,. 2016

Leave No Trace

Looking North from Duncannon's Hawk Rock on a misty morning.If you have ventured into the wilderness to bask in the beauty of nature or if you have visited a local park to enjoy some time outside, then you are in good company. According to U.S. Census Bureau data for the year 2011, a little over 90 million people over the age of 16 (about 38% of the over-16 U.S. population) participated in outdoor related activities such as hunting, fishing or wildlife watching and even more to the point, 4 million of those people are in Pennsylvania and sharing the same resources as you (94). When you combine those numbers with 2011 National Park Service data stating that there were 278,939,216 recreational visits to national parks, it is easy to see that a massive amount of people are heading to the great outdoors for a little rest and relaxation.

People are drawn to places of outdoor recreation as a means of escaping the negative aspects of high-density living found throughout modern society. Unfortunately, as more people in densely populated areas visit the natural resources in their nearby geographic locations, the problems associated with elevated population levels such as traffic, waste disposal, criminal activities and noise pollution are tagging along for the journey. It’s not that there is a shortage of wilderness in the United States – there are 1.45 million acres of state game land in PA alone (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 14) – but as you approach more populated regions, the number of outdoor recreational areas rapidly decreases while the amount of people visiting them increases. This puts undo stress on our popular getaway locations and the people who visit them.

Fortunately there is a simple common-sense strategy to combat the overuse of shared outdoor recreational resources. It’s called the “Leave No Trace” program and it has seven key concepts to make the time you spend in a natural setting more enjoyable for you and those who follow in your footsteps.

7Principles1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave What You Find
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Plan Ahead and Prepare: Being prepared and planning ahead are the best ways to keep out of trouble or emergency situations so taking time to learn about the area you plan to visit and the rules that govern it is always beneficial. Dress appropriately and carry the supplies necessary for whatever adventure you might take. If you think ahead, you are less likely to find yourself in a compromising position like the unfortunate boater who got lost in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and had to chop down four utility poles, disrupting power to hundreds of people, so the power company would investigate and find him (Stranded Man).

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: The reason you should travel on durable surfaces Continue reading

KTA Hiking Tips

Hiking Tips from the Keystone Trails Association

Winter weather is upon us, and for animals and people alike, that means hibernation. If you love hiking, don’t let the winter months deter you from enjoying all the beauty the season has to offer. Winter creates a whole new set of challenges, so never overestimate your ability even on familiar hikes. Take the appropriate precautions by following these winter hiking tips, and you won’t have to miss out!