Couple walking in the woods

Be Safe During Outdoor Activities

We all love the accessibility of recording devices, until we find ourselves on the wrong side of the camera. If it weren’t bad enough to have to have our epic stunts end up in epic fails, falls, and face plants, now we have the added probability of someone with a quick draw on the camera ready to capture the moment and post it on social media. It’s spring and that means it’s time to dust off the skateboards, surfboards, roller boards, and whatever other boards that have been sitting in the cellar for the last few months. But if your don’t want to find yourself the subject of unwanted attention on You Tube, here are some safety tips you may want to keep in mind.

Pack Layers
Spring weather is known for its variability. Hot sunny days may give way to cloudy afternoons and vice versa. Prepare for every eventuality by packing extra clothing layers, including socks. Wet feet can be most uncomfortable.

Hiking Preparedness
If you are heading to the mountains, you’re likely to encounter snow, and when there’s snow on the mountains, there is a risk of an avalanche. Check the local avalanche reports before heading up.

Hiking in the spring is wet. Rivers rise and snow melts, making roads muddy and slippery. Be aware of stream crossings and wet surfaces and look out for flash floods and rising water, characteristic of spring. Pitch tents above the high-water mark, even if it means sacrificing an impressive view or a longer distance to the stream. Remember that even designated campground sites can be dangerous in certain conditions.

Cotton Is Rotten
Although cotton is hailed for its comfort and durability, it is not known to mix well with water. Wet cotton clothes can trap water and rob the body of heat. Choose synthetic clothes appropriate for the activity you’re planning.

Paddling
Paddlers need to be aware of the possibility of hypothermia. If the air temperature and water temperature do not exceed 100 degrees when added together, hypothermia can be a real concern. If you must paddle when conditions are less than ideal, be sure to bring dry clothes and a fire starter in a dry bag.

Warm Up
Keep in mind that your muscles, joints, and lungs are probably still in winter mode. Don’t take on anything physically taxing if you’re not ready for it. Make sure to warm up before engaging in physical activity and stretch out when your done. Work up to longer outings to keep your self from getting strained early in the season.

Check Your Gear
Remember that the gear that broke last spring has not gotten fixed by itself. Make sure to examine, clean, and fix gear before heading out, especially if children are part of the plan.

Share Your Expertise
If you see someone who looks as if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, don’t be afraid to make a suggestion to ease their situation. They may appreciate your advice about finding a safer place to camp or the offer of some water.

Let us know what you’re doing this spring to keep safe. We want to know your best tips for a happy healthy spring.

Woman applying ointment

Beware of These Poisonous Vines and Shrubs

Ah, hiking.  The wonder of nature, the beautiful sunsets, the communing with nature, a time for solitude and reflection.  A time for…..poisonous plants?  That’s a buzz killer.  How many have set off with the idealistic, romantic notions of transcendence, only to return with oozing blisters or nausea?  Well, don’t be daunted, Nature Boy or Girl.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  Just be prepared and learn to recognize the culprits, so you too can come home as beautiful and comfortable as you deserve to be.

First, let’s discuss the most notorious of the toxic plants: poison ivy, probably one of the most infamous threats to the common hiker. But take heart! Contrary to popular belief, if you merely touch this plant, it does not necessarily guarantee  an outbreak. This is because it is not the leaf of the ivy that is  poisonous, but  the sap, which is normally found only on the broken and bruised leaves. If you do not come into contact with the sap, you may be spared. Poison ivy can be identified by its three glossy,oval leaflets, ranging from 3/4″ to 4″ long.  It tends to be green in the summer, but changes to shades of yellow orange and red in the fall.

If you are exposed, symptoms, unfortunately, are not pretty. (Did you imagine they would be?)  Swollen, red, itchy skin and blisters can all pop up six hours to two weeks after exposure.  Seek relief with calamine lotion, cool baths and antibiotics to prevent infection.

A close cousin to poison ivy, poison sumac is  larger, ranging from five to twenty feet.  It will appear in the summer bearing green leaves, green flowers and white fruit.  In the fall, the plant will become very rich in color, with hues ranging from yellow to scarlet. (Sadly, as we are all too aware, it is often the most attractive ones that prove the most harmful).  Avoid all contact with this pretty poison, just brushing up against it will bring the symptoms associated with poison ivy.  Treat with antihistamines and oral and topical steroids.

Stinging nettles

The Stinging Nettles. Is there a punk rock band by this name? Stinging nettles are as unpleasant as their name would suggest.  Bearing triangular leaves which get smaller as they climb the stem, these plants grow from 3-6 and 1/2 feet tall and have leaves with linear bumps, but, the easiest way to identify them is by their green flowers, brown fruit and, you guessed it, stinging hairs. If these hairs break your skin, prepare for redness and severe itching. On the bright side, however, the symptoms are brief and can be effectively treated with a paste of water and baking soda.

Remember Socrates?  The character from the history books who was always asking questions?  Died from drinking hemlock juice?  Well, unless you want to end up like him, avoid this dangerous plant.  Although its flowers resemble parsnips or carrots , hemlock is probably the last thing you want to eat.  If ingested, it can cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, muscle paralysis and respiratory problems.  Head for the emergency room if this gets into your stomach.

But heroes and heroines of the outdoor, don’t let these evil plants keep you down! After all, where would Indiana Jones or Jane Goodall be today if they were scared of a little poison ivy?  He who dares wins. So just put on those long pants and keep the first aid on hand and get out there! Knowledge is power!