No matter where you go, make sure to check local conditions and weather forecasts before your hike. Do not assume that weather and trail conditions will be OK or easy. Think conservatively and make sure you will be hiking in conditions comfortable for you. Summer and early fall are generally the best time to hike in the mountains because winter snow can bury most higher elevation trails from around October into early July. Temperatures and trail conditions in low-lying areas are most pleasant in spring and fall. To conserve your energy and be more comfortable, avoid the hottest time of day if you can— usually 11 am to 3 p.m. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Remember that cell phone service may not be available in back country areas.
Gather Supplies and Proper Equipment. When considering what to stuff into your day pack, let common sense be your guide and include at least these 10 essentials: map, compass, flashlight, knife, water, food, clothing, first aid kit, matches/firestarter, sunglasses. Carry your things in a pack that fits you well and watch the amount of weight in the bag to avoid back, shoulder or neck strain. Be sure to wear comfortable socks and shoes that you’ve already worn a few times to avoid any lower extremity aches, pains and blisters. Trekking poles might be helpful for hiking on rocky trails. Hiking gaiters can keep your pant legs dry and free from briars and thorns. If you’ll be in snake country, snake gaiters can help provide protection and peace of mind. Keep lower legs warmer and dry with fleece-lined snow gaiters if you're hiking in wintery conditions. Don’t forget water for your furry friend if you bring them along. Although trails might seem to be dog friendly, check local regulations to be sure, and always carry a leash.
Listen to Your Body. Stay hydrated and take breaks. Remember to progress your activity levels safely and appropriately to avoid any “weekend warrior” injuries. There’s plenty of spring/summer time to start off with easier trails and work your way up. Also take along a sense of humor and a positive attitude. That way if you hike doesn’t go as planned, you’ll keep your sanity until the situation improves. Remaining calm and level headed is important in a serious situation and being able to laugh it off later is just as important.
Hiking is an activity that can be done year round. Deciding what season and time of day is best for you to go hiking will totally be up to you, your schedule, and simply what sort of climate and terrain you would like to hike in. Once you have decided and prepared, go for it! Take advantage of all that the great outdoors has to offer. Have fun!
Keep in mind that snakes of many species are done hunkering down now that the weather is warmer, making human encounters more likely with ALL types of snakes. You might even see snakes in more northern areas where you’ve not seen them before. “It may have something to do with climate change,” says a wildlife ecologist. “There has been a lot of range expansions of a lot of animals and plants with climate change, and if that continues, they may end up moving north.”
To avoid accidental encounters with snakes, watch where you place your hands and feet when roaming fields and woodlands, especially in rocky areas. Most bites occur by accidentally stepping on or near a snake and startling it. Wear snake gaiters to protect your lower legs. Poisonous pit vipers such as copperheads and rattlesnakes have triangular heads, vertical pupils, and prominent heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils. These characteristics can be difficult to see from a distance, but don’t take a chance — keep your distance. If the snake is within five to six feet of you, make slow movements and move in the opposite direction of the snake. Though copperheads are more common and widespread than rattlesnakes, their bite is much less dangerous. That’s because copperheads are smaller, they deliver less venom, and their venom is weaker than rattlesnake venom. Generally, rattlesnakes are considered the most venomous and the most likely to cause death. Treat any snake bite seriously whether you know for sure what bit you or not! Keep calm and get to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.
If you are bitten by a snake, the Mayo Clinic advises:
• Call 911 immediately or get yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.
• While waiting for medical help, stay calm and position the body so that the bite is at or below heart level.
• Remove jewelry or tight clothing before swelling starts.
• Do NOT apply ice or a tourniquet on or near the bite.
• Do NOT cut the wound or attempt to suck out the venom.
• Do NOT drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed the body's absorption of venom.
Did you know that not all snakebites are equal? Some snakes deliver a bite with a small amount of venom and others can deliver a great deal. So-called dry bites contain no venom at all. If you are bitten, even if it doesn’t feel worse than a bee sting at the time, you won’t know how much or how little venom was injected, therefore, it’s imperative you get immediate medical attention. Don’t apply ice, don’t use a tourniquet or constricting band, and don’t attempt to suck out the poison. Constricting blood vessels near a bite can lead to amputation. According to a recent report, a person who suffers a bite from a venomous snake could wind up paying upward of $50,000 in medical bills due to extended hospitalization, treatment for tissue damage, and antivenin treatments. Get to an emergency room as quickly as possible to ensure the best possible outcome!
If you’re wondering how to deal with snakes you might find in your own backyard, keep in mind that nonpoisonous snakes are harmless. They eat mice, rats, and other pesky rodents you don’t want around. Having them near the house is a good thing. When disturbed, these harmless snakes usually just slither away. They prefer to avoid contact with humans. Because you never know what type of snake you might encounter, wear gloves when weeding ground cover around the house. If you know rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes are in the area, wear snake gaiters to protect your lower legs, and leather gloves to protect hands when working outdoors.
In general, rattlesnakes are most active from March through October. In the spring, they are active during daylight hours. As days become increasingly hot around early May, rattlesnakes become more active at night and spend the day in a spot of shade or a cool shelter. Don’t take a chance! Be vigilant and take precautions to be safe— whether that be in the desert or the woods.
Trail running, at its core, is no different than any other kind of running. It takes a lot of determination, dedication and desire to run on any kind of surface. Add in obstacles such as tree roots, rocks, sand, hills, and more, and you’ll need an extra dose of those qualities on the days when running feels particularly hard. Friends who are already avid trail runners might tell you to go do and hour or two on a trail that you don’t know. If you are just beginning, that is probably not very good advice. The greatest risk that a new trail runner will face is to have a bad experience. Above all else, you have to enjoy yourself. Whether that means you enjoy the challenge of the terrain, beautiful scenery you wouldn’t find running on the streets of your neighborhood, the feeling of improving your fitness, or a combination, figure out a way to make trail running enjoyable.
It really does matter how you feel on the trail. Run when you can and don’t worry if you have to walk, some terrain is runnable and some just isn’t – knowing that really helps. It can take 45 minutes to do a mile if you are climbing uphill and only 5 minutes to come down, but it will all work out. Since all trails are different — some hilly, some flat, some rocky, some smooth — covering a certain distance on a trail will take varied amounts of time. Even the same trail can run faster or slower on any given day, dependent on trail conditions (rain + mud = slow).
A common mistake road runners make when switching to trails is comparing road running times (how long it takes to cover a mile) to trail running times and get discouraged. Running for a certain amount of time instead of a certain amount of miles can reap the same gains on the trail. Just know that unlike road running – where a consistent pace is ideal – the pace will fluctuate on trails.
Add appropriate accessories to your running routine. Although many trails provide shaded routes, it’s still wise to wear sunscreen. Sunglasses not only block harmful rays and glare, they also protect your eyes from tree branches and bushes. Wearing a hat and bug spray will help prevent insect bites and ticks. Grabbing some trail running gaiters will keep the dirt, gravel, and briars out of your shoes that can cause hot spots and abrasions. A neck gaiter gives you a little style on the trail, and is handy for keeping the sweat out of your eyes and preventing a sunburn on your neck. And it doubles as an instant face mask should you need one due to Covid-19 concerns. Most of all, extra hydration on a trail run is a must!
While you’re out there, listen, smell, and feel the ground under your feet. If you’ve gone to the trouble of running on a trail, and not on a treadmill or a track, don’t forget to reward yourself by taking in the beauty of your environment. It may seem a little “unprofessional” compared with focusing on your watch or your cadence or your position in the race. But a nice deep gulp of nature can make the whole thing seem worthwhile, and result in a boost to your morale.
• Be consistent, but don’t over-train
• Take it easy to begin with and give your body the chance to adapt and recover
• Don’t expect too much of yourself too soon
• Focus on the experience, not your speed
• Adjust downtime training to accommodate for different terrains and new challenges
• Build up your endurance over time
• Avoid injuries as best you can (even minor ones)
• Remember to take in your surroundings
It’s all worth it. Little by little trail runners get fitter, faster and stronger!
A boot with a much sturdier sole, designed for tougher conditions, are a must, especially if you’ll be wearing crampons or snowshoes. The correct sock choice is also paramount. Merino wool is a good choice as it is supremely warm. Silk sock liners will provide much-needed extra warmth without bulk. Make sure you have sufficient room in your boots to move your toes around. Sunglasses with UV400 protection or goggles are essential for winter walking as snow glare can be seriously hazardous. Equally important is lip balm to protect your lips.
Timing is everything. Sunlight hours are limited in winter, so make use of the available daylight. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day as ice and snow can make trails much trickier. A realistic target is 2 to 2.5 miles an hour. At least 48 hours in advance of your hike, check the weather forecast, and keep checking regularly for updates. Knowing the predicted conditions before you set out will help you adequately prepare. Never be afraid to cut your day short or even cancel if conditions are worsening. You can always reschedule when Old Man Winter calms down!
Take sufficient food and gear. Always pack more water and food than you think you’ll need so you have enough for emergency rations. Boil in the bag food is ideal, as is soup and hot chocolate to keep you warm. You will also need something to cook on, fuel for the stove, headlamp, hand / feet warmers, first aid kit, multi-tool, a compass, and map of the area. Be prepared to spend the night even if you’re intention is only a day hike.
Communication is key. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. This is true whatever time of year you choose to hike, but is even more important in winter since weather can change suddenly. Ensure your cell phone is fully charged and you are able to make calls. Make sure you know how to contact mountain rescue and that you have the means to attract attention if you need to be found.
Turtles wind up at the hospital for many reasons— from injuries due to boat strikes or becoming entangled in nets or monofilament fishing line, to ingesting fish hooks and plastic bags that cause intestinal blockage (trash in the water can look like jelly fish to turtles who eat almost anything). Once a turtle’s digestive tract has been impacted it will usually lead to starvation if not removed. Turtles at the hospital are first treated with very human-like remedies—a combination of Metamucil, fiber and vegetable oil. If that doesn’t work, surgery is performed to remove the blockage. Sea turtles are also prone to fibropapillomatosis, an aggressive herpes-like virus that causes tumors to grow. No one knows exactly why, but over 50% of the sea turtles in the Florida Keys and around the world are infected. Pollution is thought to be the main culprit.
One of the most common reasons green sea turtles need to be rescued is because of a floating problem called “Bubble Butt Syndrome” (no kidding). Floating in the wild is not normal and can be hazardous if turtles cannot dive to escape predators or catch food. At the hospital, lead weights are attached to their shells so they can submerge. Eventually those weights fall off, but by that time if their injury or sickness has not been cured, that turtle will mostly likely become a permanent resident at the Sea Turtle Center. If they lose a flipper, they probably cannot be released back into the wild either. The Turtle Hospital has successfully treated and released over 1500 turtles since its founding in 1986, but it’s comforting to know if turtles can’t return to the sea, they have a “forever home” in Marathon, Florida. When you visit, take water and wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a protective neck gaiter. That southern sun can be fierce every day of the year!
You don’t have to go it alone. Grab a friend, neighbor, or family member for more fun on the trail. Hiking with a friend can improve the strength and health of your relationship, or it could be an opportunity to see if the friendship has run its course. Exercising together can produce special feelings of closeness—and a sense of safety.With all the social distancing, cancelled events, and closures as of late, now more than ever we need to connect with real people in person whenever possible. Doing so out in the fresh air is ideal! On the flip side, if too much quarantine togetherness has you craving alone time, just be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return — just in case. And for anyone who spends a lot of time caregiving for other people, it can be rejuvenating to let go of that responsibility for a bit and take to a trail. After all, it can’t help but refresh you when you give yourself a break, making you more emotionally available to others afterward.
It’s a scientific fact: going for long, serene hikes is ridiculously good for your brain. In fact, walking through mother nature exercises your mind just as much as it works out your body. Being in nature can boost your mood and improve mental health. Spending quality time in the great outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression. Keep your phone in your pocket. No screen time on your hike. No news. No negativity. Just you (and perhaps a friend or pet) communing with Mother Nature for a while. Break free from formalities and deadlines and enjoy what’s around you. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Notice the plants and animals you encounter. Notice the smells and sounds that are unique to being outdoors. In short, unplugging from technology and engaging with mother nature can be a powerful (and even necessary) activity for your brain. Plus, it also just makes you feel happier.
No Special Equipment Needed
Other than dressing appropriately for the weather and wearing a comfy pair of shoes (although hiking gaiters or snake gaiters or snow gaiters are wise when necessary), you don’t need special gear for hiking. Take water and a snack. If venturing into true wilderness, you’ll want a backpack that contains these 10 essentials: map, compass, flashlight, knife, water, food, clothing, first aid kit, matches/firestarter, sunglasses. A good rule of thumb is that whenever you venture into the woods, be prepared to spend the night. Of course you hope you never have to, but in case of an emergency, you’ll be OK.
So there you have it — many reasons to get out and take a hike this season. Grab a few items you probably already own, and, if you want, a friend, and head out on the trail. You won’t be sorry you did!
Looking for some ghostly fun this October that allows for social distancing? Visit a ghost town! If you also have an interest in gold mining history, so much the better. It is estimated that about 3,800 ghost towns are still standing across the USA, mostly out West. Some of the buildings are in great condition, others are quite literally falling down. Some towns have become well-known, easy-to-reach roadside attractions, others are quite remote. Each town has its own boom-to-bust story that makes a visit both interesting and educational. Whether you’re a ghost hunter or a history buff, please leave everything as you find it. Take lots of photos, but no souvenirs, and be sure to wear appropriate snake gaiters or hiking gaiters and a neck gaiter / face covering for extra protection in harsh climates and conditions.
Rhyolite, Nevada. Winding throughout the rich and colorful Silver State, Nevada’s highways and byways are ideal for discovering America’s history. Route 374 is a prime example and leads to the much-photographed ghost town of Rhyolite. As far as boomtowns go, Rhyolite is a “newer” ghost town, having been born and busted between 1904 and 1920. What’s also special is that its crumbling yet photogenic buildings are mostly made of concrete, not wood. Since lumber was scarce in the desert, one creative miner even built his home out of mud and 30,000 assorted liquor bottles! But perhaps what is most unusual here is that you are guaranteed to see ghosts as you head into Rhyolite— yes, even in broad daylight! That’s because on the same gravel road heading toward Rhyolite, you’ll find a 15-acre outdoor sculpture park— Goldwell Open Air Museum. Among the unusual pieces of art are life-size ghosts, a 25-foot high pink woman made of cinder blocks, a 24-foot high steel prospector posing with a penguin, and much more. More about Rhyolite here.
Bannack State Park, Montana. Although the old-time prospectors are long gone, many mining relics and over 60 buildings remain in Bannack State Park. Most are so well preserved that you can actually go inside them— a rare treat when it comes to ghost gowns. Bannack’s rich history began 150 years ago with John White’s discovery of placer gold along the banks of Grasshopper Creek. In July 1862, Mr. White filed one of the first recorded mining claims in what was later to become the state of Montana. Good news traveled fast and by fall of that year, “Grasshoper Diggins” was home to 400 prospectors. By the following spring, the population had swelled to 3,000 — the Gold Rush was definitely on! On the southeast end of Bannack, the Bessette House is believed to be haunted by the children who died here during an epidemic of scarlet fever. The site is nicknamed the Crying Baby House because of the sounds some visitors have reported hearing. Visit the Bannack State Park website.
Bodie State Park, California. When a little girl writes in her diary “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie” you know her destination isn’t a pleasant one— not in the 1880s anyway when she penned that entry. The child’s name is unknown, but her words have became famous throughout the West to describe her family’s move to Bodie, California— once known as the Wildest Mining Camp in the West. Today, the lawlessness is long gone. Now a State Historic Park, Bodie is the nation's biggest unreconstructed ghost town, and provides an authentic look back into California’s mining history. What's left of Bodie—about 170 buildings and the Standard Mill— represents just five percent of what was standing in its 1870-1890 heydey. There are no re-creations or restorations here. Everything is officially in a state of "arrested decay," meaning only minimal repairs are made on the remaining structures. The weather is really unpredictable here, so consider having snow gaiters when you visit. More info on Bodie here.
In fact, it was a mighty river that indirectly led to the discovery of the park’s stone bridges. In 1883, a prospector wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search of gold. What Cass Hite found instead of nuggets were three spectacular spans that water had sculpted from stone. At first, these bridges were called President, Senator, and Congressman in order of height, but years later they were given much more appropriate Hopi names.
At 220 feet high and 268 feet long, Sipapu is the highest and biggest of the three natural bridges in the park. Despite its bulk, it is a bit hard to differentiate Sipapu from its natural environment— the beige sandstone is well camouflaged against the surrounding desert landscape. Sipapu means "the place of emergence," and was named for the entryway by which the Hopi Indians believe their ancestors came into this world.
While admiring Sipapu Bridge, don’t overlook the nearby Horse Collar Ruin—one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan archeological sites in the area. From the overlook, binoculars or a good zoom on your camera will bring the distant cliff dwelling into focus. The ruin is comprised of a rectangular kiva and two granaries with unusual circular doorways that resemble horse collars, hence the name. Native Americans last lived here over 700 years ago, but amazingly the kiva has a nearly intact roof.
210-foot high, 204-foot long Kachina was named for the rock art found on the bridge depicting dancing figures and symbols commonly found on kachina dolls. You’ll have to hike down to see the glyphs, but even if you don’t, the view of this bridge from the overlook is pretty impressive. Kachina continues to be enlarged by the floodwaters of White Canyon, but since it is 93 feet thick, it’ll probably take a very long while before there is any noticeable erosion—that is unless more rock falls off of it. In 1992, about 4,000 tons of sandstone fell from the inside of the bridge opening.
Owachomo is the oldest and smallest bridge in the park. Its Hopi name means "rock mound," a feature atop its east abutment. Owachomo is 106 feet high, spans 180 feet, and at only nine feet thick, is very thin compared to its neighbors. Streams no longer erode this bridge, but frost action and seeping moisture do.
Although Native Americans occupied the area off and on until the 1300s, the general public has only known about these three bridges since 1904, thanks to National Geographic Magazine. Over 100 years later, visitors continue to marvel at the two deep canyons, three massive sandstone bridges, and Puebloan archeological sites in Natural Bridges National Park. Only Mother Nature knows how long these treasures will stand the test of time, but hopefully they will remain rock solid for future generations to enjoy.
The Owyhee was named for three Hawaiian trappers who were sent in 1819 by a fur trading company to explore the uncharted waterway. Unfortunately, the men were never seen again, but others discovered this unique area soon thereafter and put it on the map. The headwaters begin in Northern Nevada. It is one of the few rivers that wind north instead of south to its confluence with the Snake River. If you like dramatic desert canyon scenery, you won’t be disappointed here. The surrounding geography— vertical walls in some places are over 1,000 feet deep, plus rock spires, needles, and arches— is similar to that found in Bryce and Zion National Parks.
The twisty Owyhee River has been manipulated by the Owyhee Dam, which created 53-mile-long Lake Owyhee. Along the eastern shore, you’ll find Lake Owyhee State Park. About 12 miles below Owyhee Dam, you can take a soak at the Snively Hot Springs Recreation site. This BLM day use site is quite picturesque, and quite popular, so you’re not likely to be alone here for long. The hot spring flows right into the Owyhee River. A “pool” created by a ring of rocks warns you to step lightly— the water is really hot!
Prepare to get your boots dusty (or wear hiking gaiters) as you wander as much of the 110-acre park as you care to cover. You’ll find a vast display of restored and preserved mining equipment as well as original structures—a grizzly (ore sorting house), an assay lab, the last remaining trestle from the Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad, hoist houses with all original equipment, and head frames. These are not “pretty” museum exhibits. They are safe to explore, but definitely sitting in a state of weathered decay. Take the underground burro tunnel that leads to a steel viewing cage suspended over a 500-foot mine stope (vertical shaft). Surrounded by such a vast amount of authentic mining artifacts, you won’t need much imagination to get a real sense of what it was like to work in a turn-of-the-century silver mine!
Before you poke around the remnants of the Mizpah Mine, Silver Top Mine, Desert Queen, and others, watch the introductory video inside the visitor center. You’ll “meet” Jim Butler and his wife Belle, and learn why Tonopah's mines were consistently high producers. Their biggest year was 1913 when almost $10 million in gold, silver, copper and lead was pulled out of the ground.
Tonopah Historic Mining Park has been voted “Best Museum in Rural Nevada.” You won’t be disappointed if you, too, take a self-guided walk in the footsteps of the old-time silver miners.