TIPS & HACKS
Allegheny River Trail
Tips from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:
Plan! Do not overestimate your abilities. If you are a beginner or haven’t been active in a while, don’t take a long, grueling climb to the top of a mountain. You’ll simply sustain injuries. Start short; start level. Stick to a trail that suits your taste and level of fitness. Planning the route for your trip can help prevent you from becoming lost and ensure a grand adventure. Be aware that in some areas, cell phones and GPS units may not work. It’s always a good idea to carry a map of the area and a compass. Being able to read a map and use a compass are good skills to have.
Bring a friend. Although hiking can be a valuable solitary escape, many times the enjoyment and safety doubles when you hike with a friend.
Check the weather before you go. Don’t go hiking if severe thunderstorms or tornadoes are in the forecast. The National Weather Service provides free weather forecasts. If you happen to get caught by a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately. If no shelter is available, avoid open areas and head to a small group of trees. Squat down to minimize your height and keep only your feet in contact with the ground.
Leave an itinerary behind. List your route and expected time to return. If you are late, people can use your itinerary to find you.
Stay on the trail. Wandering off the trail can have serious consequences. You could become injured or lost. Some trails have also been built through very delicate habitats. Wandering off the trail could disturb and destroy parts of the habitat you came to see. Some trails do not originate within state park boundaries. As a result you may occasionally be hiking through some private land.
IF YOU LOSE YOUR WAY
If you do lose your way, remember the acronym S.T.O.P.:
Stop: When you realize that you’re lost, stop immediately. You should have a whistle handy, and now would be a good time to use it.
Think: Try to remain calm so you can think through the steps of the plan your group has in place. What are your options? Think again before you take any action.
Observe: Identify what you have with you that could be useful, as well as taking a look around the area. Are you still on the trail? Is it safe to remain where you are?
Plan: If you have a plan set in place with your family members, follow through with it if you can. This is also the time when you’ll decide what you will do until you are found.
Remind children that if they are lost, it is best to stay in one place, someone will come looking for them.
WHAT TO WEAR FOR HIKING
Dressing appropriately can help protect you from the sun, insects, thorns (briars), and branches.
Hats do more than highlight your favorite sports team. They provide protection from the sun and keep things out of your hair. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are an easy way to protect your skin against bugs, like mosquitos and ticks, as well as scratches from thorny plants and tree branches.
Proper footwear, like boots and sneakers, give the best footing while hiking. Sandals and flip-flops are not hiking friendly. They do not provide good support and traction on uneven surfaces. They are also open, exposing skin to insect bites and scratches. According to park managers at Ricketts Glen State Park, flip-flops were responsible for many of the carry-out injuries on the park's popular Falls Trail.
You should carry:
First aid kit -- a blister can turn a nice hike into a painful trek
Bug repellent -- waving your arms like an orchestra conductor makes for a long hike
Compass and know how to use it -- GPS units are great, but may not work in remote locations. We recommend that you stay on the trails, but should you get lost, a compass may help you find your way to safety
Map of the area -- a map will help you know where you are and where you are going
Water -- do not drink from lakes or streams unless you treat or boil the water first
Snacks -- just being outdoors uses up lots of energy so bring high energy snacks
More snacks -- kids need to refuel more than adults so bring lots of snacks when hiking with little ones
Sun block -- sun burn can sneak up on you, even on a cloudy day. Better sunblocked than sun sore
Medicine -- bring along any required medications, like an EpiPen or diabetic serum
Fire making tools -- in a real survival situation, fire can help keep you warm and alert rescuers to your position.
Kids should carry:
Whistle -- to make noise, voices tire quickly but using a whistle is easy and loud
Poncho -- can keep you warm and dry which is very important
Snacks -- got to keep your energy up while you’re adventuring
Water -- don’t drink from lakes or streams
Flag -- have something bright with you to help rescuers find you if you get lost
Bring extra socks - and change them every 2-4 hours. This will keep your feet dry, and reduce blisters.
Know how to recognize poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, stinging nettle, and other poisonous or irritating flora
Sunscreen is essential at higher altitudes, so slather up.
Bring a quality knife, and sharpen it before you get on the trail
Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, and if you will be out for longer than 4 hours, take a fully charged power pack with you, too.
If you forget your rain poncho, a 30- or 45-gallon garbage bag will keep the rain off. Just remember to cut holes for your head and arms!
If you run out of bandages or moleskin to treat hot spots or blisters, use duct tape instead
Put a cork on your keychain so it will float if you accidentally drop it in a stream or deep puddle
If you forget your compass, or planned to use an app on your phone and now the battery is dead, you can still find south, but you'll need an analog watch to do it! Just line up the hour hand with the sun, and then find the halfway point between the hour hand and 12 o'clock. That is south.
To find out how much daylight you have left: with outstretched arm and fingers together, put your pinky finger on the horizon - count the number of fingers between the horizon and the bottom of the sun. Each finger is approximately 15 minutes of daylight.
For easy, waterproof firestarters, dip cotton balls or cotton makeup pads in wax, or cover them in petroleum jelly.
For a quick change on the trail, wear convertible pants - pants that are designed to become shorts. Just make sure you put the legs in your pack where you won't lose them!
If you don't have salve in your first aid kit, you can use Orange or Yellow Jewelweed from the trail to treat poison ivy/oak/sumac, or for minor scrapes, cuts & rashes. Break open the stem and spread the sap over the affected area.
Skywalk, Kinzua Bridge
State Park, Mt. Jewett, PA
NCT - SR 268, near Bear's Mouth bridge, Parker, PA
LINKS TO OUTDOOR SAFETY QUIZZES:
Poisonous Plants Quizzes:
The Ultimate Poisonous Plants Quiz
Can You Spot the Poisonous Plant?
Outdoor Safety Quizzes:
How to Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors
NCT - Walnut Flats, Ellwood City, PA
West Gorge Trail-Lanterman's Mill, Mill Creek State Park, Youngstown, OH
Lily Pond Circle Trail, Mill Creek State Park, Youngstown, OH
WEEKLY HIKING TIPS
(From our Facebook Page, @HikeWithoutDying):
August 24, 2018: When choosing your hiking buddy, make sure the person is trustworthy. Do they follow through on promises? Have some hiking experience, or at least are good with "trial and error" on the trail? Will they bail you out if you get yourself into a sticky spot on the trail? Can you count on this person to help in an emergency? Most importantly, do they have a good sense of humor when things don't go as planned?
August 17, 2018: Don't let rainy days get you down! Proper rain gear will keep you happy on the trail.
August 10, 2018: With the Perseid Meteor Shower hitting its peak this weekend, consider taking a night hike to better view the sky. Check local regulations for being on the trail after dusk; take a red light if you feel the need to have any light (usually, it's unnecessary); hike "noisy" to scare off the nocturnal critters; and always use the buddy system.
August 3, 2018: You never know what you’ll encounter on the trail, so put a bear bell on your bag, keep pepper spray handy, and stay vigilant while you enjoy the outdoors.
July 27, 2018: To avoid contact dermatitis from unknown plants, rashes from poison ivy, or even possible insect bites around your ankles, wear high-rise socks.
July 20, 2018: Learn how to read a trail map. Knowing how to find landmarks, follow contour lines, and identify land features are key to knowing where you are on the trail!
July 13, 2018: to reduce the opportunities for ticks, throw your hiking clothes in the wash and yourself in the shower as soon as you get home from the trail.
July 6, 2018: When stopping to adjust the socks & boot on one foot, adjust the other one, too. #firsthandexperience
June 29, 2018: Be prepared for cobwebs across the trail, especially when hiking in the morning. You can often use your hiking staff as a “cobweb catcher,” mostly when you see the sun glint off it just ahead of you.
June 22, 2018: Check out local vendors and organizations to help you get more information on where to go, especially if you are traveling away from home.
June 15, 2018: Comfort rules on the trail, but don't be unsafe. Footwear that covers toes & heels, a pack or daybag that comfortably carries your 10 essentials, and clothing that matches the weather will keep you going for as long as you want!
June 8, 2018: Hiking Etiquette - the larger group yields to the smaller group, but the group going uphill ALWAYS has right-of-way.
June 1, 2018: Always pack at least one extra pair of socks. Always! #firsthandexperience
May 25, 2018: It's the Holiday Weekend!! Trails are likely to be full of unprepared hikers. Be careful, be considerate, and be prepared!
May 18, 2018: When hiking with pets, remember these two Leave No Trace Frontcountry Guidelines: #3-Trash your trash & pick up poop; and #7-Share our trails & manage your pet. Get more information on Leave No Trace and frontcountry guidelines here: https://lnt.org/teach/outdoor-ethics-frontcountry
May 11, 2018: Yes, it's about ticks again. They are ferocious this year - make sure you are wearing protection (DEET, Picariden, permethrin-treated clothing); check yourself, kids and pets when you are done hiking; wash your clothing and take a shower when you get home to prevent these hitchhikers!
May 4, 2018: Know basic First Aid for the injuries you are most likely to encounter on the trail: bruises, scratches, abrasions, poisonous plants, sprained ankles, hypothermia and heat illnesses. Find all that, and more, in our book, "How to Hike and NOT Die!"
April 27, 2018: when hiking over rocks (scrambling), make sure you know where your hands and feet will go next BEFORE you make your next move.
April 20, 2018: As the weather turns warmer, don't get overzealous on your first hike, especially if you haven't hiked through the winter months. Set a time limit rather than a distance, and enjoy the beauty of the woods!
Apr. 13, 2018: Be prepared! Mother Nature is finicky this time ofyear, so keep rain gear handy, and have an insulation layer (sweatshirt, hoodie, long-sleeve t-shirt, etc) ready to go in case the temperatures turn!
Apr. 6, 2018: It's OK to let the kids run ahead a little bit on thetrail, as long as they are in sight. It is NEVER OK to leave them behind you! Slow down, and enjoy the time on the trail with them, rather than pushing for distance.
Mar. 30, 2018: When hiking with kids, walk at THEIR pace. Keep them interested on the trail by letting them stop and look, and take the time to practice Leave No Trace by staying ON the trail.
Mar. 23, 2018: Bug Spray. With DEET. And Permethrin treated clothes. These items will help keep theticks, chiggers, black flies and mosquitos away from you as people get back out on the trails and the weather warms up!
Mar. 16, 2018: Spring is notorious for rapidly changing weather. Before heading out on the trail, check the "hour by hour" forecast for the area you will be hiking, and dress accordingly. Don't forget to pack "extras" if you aren't wearing everything you may need - rain gear, extra socks, sweatshirt, etc.
Mar. 9, 2018: If you are thinking of trying out a new trail, do some research first:
1. Get a map of the trail, and read/review it closely.
2. Search for blogs and other write ups of the trail.
3. Review pictures of the trail conditions.
4. Talk to friends who may have been on the trail recently.
5. If the trail has an associated organization, check out their website for more information, or contact the local chapter.
Mar. 2, 2018: Unhappy feet make for unhappy hikers. Wear boots that fit properly, have good tread, are waterproof, and have the necessary insulation for the time of year you are hiking.
Feb. 23, 2018: New hikers shouldn't hike alone. Use the buddy system to stay safe on the trail.
Feb. 16, 2018: Check the trail before you go. Melting snow and ice, plus heavy rainfall, can wash out or flood sections of trail near creeks and streams, or fill dry riverbeds, washes and arroyos. Know before you go!
Feb. 9, 2018: Trail conditions vary considerably during a thaw. Inexperienced hikers should only take familiar trails until the snow is completely melted.
Feb. 2, 2018: Layer, layer, layer! You can remove clothes you have on, but you can't put on clothes you don't have.
Jan. 26, 2018: Always carry a first aid kit, and know how to use what's in it! At a minimum, carry: adhesive bandages, moleskin (for blister relief), antibiotic ointment, tweezers, and aspirin. Add cleansing wipes (alcohol wipes or baby wipes) for less-than-sanitary conditions on the trail.
Jan. 19, 2018: Leave your hiking bag packed with everything except your snacks and water. This will make it faster to get on the trail if you have a last-minute opportunity to hike!
Jan. 12, 2018: Oops! We missed a week!!
Jan. 5, 2018: Bitter cold temps, but you still want to get outside for a hike? No problem! Layer with polyester or silk thermal layer, synthetic blend warmth layer, waterproof and wind proof outer layer; nylon liner socks and wool over socks (think: hunting socks); waterproof boots (snow boots with good tread if you don’t have insulated winter hikers); double up your gloves, scarf, and hats; and wear a balaclava or other face protection. Take water and a light snack, and keep your hike less than 2 hours. Once you warm up, start opening layers to avoid sweating, or slow your pace. Also a good idea to have a change of clothes in the car, in case you sweat whilehiking.
Dec. 29, 2017: If taking a spur-of-the-moment hike, make sure to text or e-mail a friend of family member to let them know your last-minute plans. Make sure someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back, in case you run into trouble on the trail.
Dec. 22, 2017: Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, especially if you plan to use it to track mileage, as a GPS, or as a camera. If planning to be out longer than four (4) hours, take a fully-charged power pack with you, too.
Dec. 15, 2017: Winter hiking is fun, too. Added benefit - no bugs! Layer clothing: moisture-wicking base layer (silk, merino wool, synthetic or synthetic blend), synthetic/natural blend insulation layer (merino wool, down, fleece), and waterproof outer/shell layer (jacket, coat, or shirt). Here are two links for more info: https://www.thehikinglife.com/gear/clothing-2/
Dec. 8, 2017: The holidays are a great time to get your outdoorsy friends some gear they may not buy for themselves. Take your buddy to an outdoor retailer, note what interests them, then get it for them!!
Dec. 1, 2017: When trying on new hikers (boots, shoes, or sandals), try on BOTH in the pair, and walk around the store for a little bit before deciding. Sometimes, one shoe fits, and the other may pinch toes, rub the Achilles, or crease the bed of the toenail.
Nov. 24, 2017: Know BEFORE you go! Do some research on thetrail before you get there, so you can prepare for the trail conditions
Nov. 17, 2017: Before stepping on the trail, check your compass to determine which direction you are heading on the trail. This way, you know which direction you need to go to get back to the trailhead, and you can leave this information with your trail plan in the car, in case you run into issues on the trail.
Nov. 10, 2017: Themed hikes add a new level of interest, especially for kids. Try to find something along your hike that starts with each letter ofthe alphabet; something you see for each color of the rainbow; or identify trees by their bark instead of their leaves!
Nov. 3, 2017: If you get lost, STOP and SIT DOWN. Blow your whistle (3 short blasts at a time is an international distress signal). Trying to find your way back to the trail or trailhead will make it more difficult for rescuers to find you, since you might be walking away from them!
Oct. 27, 2017: Wear bright colors on the trail (fluorescent green or yellow, blaze orange, hot pink, etc), especially during hunting season. Hunters wear orange; you should, too.
Oct. 20, 2017: Break in your boots by walking around the house or yard for a few days (or weeks) before wearing them on the trail. Wearing brand new boots for a hike is a recipe for sore, blistered feet!
Oct. 13, 2017: Shower after you get off the trail to reduce the risk for ticks or other insect hitchhikers.
Oct. 6, 2017: Keep a mirror in your pack. If you get stranded, you can use it as a signaling device to rescue planes and helicopters.
Sept. 29, 2017: Check your equipment before you get on the trail to assure everything is in proper working order.
Sept. 22, 2017: Add garlic as a staple spice to your diet as a natural insect repellent. Caution: it may also be a PEOPLE repellent, too!
Sept. 15, 2017: Carry duct tape in your pack - it can be used as a bandage, sling, splint (with twigs or magazines), and to tape the sole of your boot back on if necessary!
Sept. 8, 2017: Cut your toenails BEFORE you go hiking.
Sept. 1, 2017: Make sure you take plenty of water. More water for hot or humid days, or for low humidity days in the winter.