hikeSafe: There and Back
“Hiking at Sam’s Point Preserve is a pleasurable experience - an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Shawangunks and nature’s solitude,” says Sam’s Point Preserve Manager Heidi Wagner. “On occasion, visitors find themselves either lost or injured. In most cases, these potentially dangerous situations could have been avoided.”
“Search and rescues are extremely costly and volunteer searchers are often put at risk,” adds Wagner. “Cell phones lure visitors into thinking they can call for help instead of relying on their own outdoor skills to return safely. Hiking safely means being prepared for any situation, including emergencies.”
hikeSafe, a program developed by the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department helps educate hikers on the inherent risks of hiking and offers hike preparation guidance.
Wagner shares the following tips to ensure a safe visit to the preserve:
1. Listen to weather forecasts closely before your hike. Weather can change in an instance and is generally colder and more severe in higher elevations. Pack waterproof clothing and an extra layer for warmth. Hypothermia is a year-round possibility, and not just confined to winter months.
2. Study the Sam’s Point trail map carefully once you have determined your route. Become familiar with landmarks, such as streams and changes in terrain before you set out. Sign in at the Sam’s Point Conservation Center. Include your license plate number, cell phone number and number in your party. Once on your hike, do not go off the designated trail. Many of the rescues at Sam’s Point are a result of this mistake alone.
3. Avoid being caught atop the ridge during lightning storms. If you and your group do find yourselves in this situation, spread out and squat down, and remove your pack if it has a metal frame. Minimize direct contact with the ground. Position yourself on a foam pad or your backpack, if it does not have a metal frame.
4. If you do find yourself lost, hikeSafe recommends S.T.O.P. -- Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Decide on a plan and stick to it. Backtrack to a recognizable landmark and begin again from that point. If you cannot find your way – stay where you are. Search and rescuers have a difficult time locating a moving target.
5. Pack sufficient equipment for not only an afternoon walk, but for an emergency overnight. Essential items include a cell phone, flashlight, first aid kit, matches (preferably waterproof), a whistle, extra water, food and clothing. Bring along a compass and know how to use it.
6. Wear a bright piece of clothing so you are visual to rescuers on the ground and in the air. Blow your whistle or shout at regular intervals. Vegetation can easily camouflage your location, even close to a trail. Remain hydrated and protect yourself from the elements. If night is approaching, carefully observe the topography and landmarks around you so you can help rescuers pinpoint your location. Do not waste valuable cell phone time and use your cell only for emergency contact. Emergency officials now have the capability of determining GPS coordinates through your phone.
For more information and to view the Hiker Responsibility Code, visit www.hikesafe.com.
July 12, 2011
Heidi Wagner is the Sam's Point Preserve Manager.