||Day Hiking is a fun and easy way to get out and explore the thousands of miles of trails in and around the Santa Fe area. While day Hiking is a fun way to get exercise and adventure, many a day hiker have fallen prey to ill preparedness. The lucky ones get a rescue after getting into a tricky spot, some people have much bigger consequences. By following some basic tips surrounding Day Hiking, you can have a fun and Positive day in the Mountains, Canyons, and Forests surrounding our enchanted town.
1. Have a Plan
Before you head out it is important make a plan for your day in the woods. A Hiker will often refer to a guide book to start like Day Hikes in Santa Fe published by the local Sierra Club. Do your homework, consult maps , weather and route descriptions. Once you have collected these critical items, you will be able to convey your plan to someone before you leave as a safety precaution. Give a person the area, trail and time you plan on being out .
2. In the Pack
There are several items that one should take for successful journey. It is always better to be safe than sorry and these items can give a great sense of comfort when things don’t go as planned. When I hike I like to have the following items in a small day pack.
It is always a good idea to have a good set of rainwear. There are many different types and models from high end Goretex ® Rainwear all the way down to coated and breathable light-weight rainwear. It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it keeps you dry in a rain shower. Before high tech gear was available, a large 50 gallon trash bag could do the trick.
Food & Water
It is smart to take some food and some water. A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a few power bars are good to have for energy ,trail snacks and especially in an emergency situation. There are many varieties of trail food and every hiker has there favorite. Try Salami and Cheese with crackers, Sandwiches, Fruit, Cookies. They may come in handy to power a long return hike.
Always take plenty of water and stay hydrated along the trail. There are many water bottles and hydration systems available. I like to like with a CamelBak ® as it gives me constant easy access to water without having to stop and take a drink. Dehydration can leave a Hiker in a weakened state. Drink often while on the trail. Carry at least 32 oz’s of water when hiking, I like 100oz’s myself.
You never know when a wrong turn could have you lost and behind schedule. On more than one occasion I have hiked or skied out of the wilderness by headlamp. This is an essential piece of gear available at most mountain shops. It is not a bad idea to have an extra set of batteries tucked away in your pack.
Map and Compass/GPS
Knowing your route and having a good sense of the direction you are traveling in is essential when traveling in the back-country. There are many maps available both from private sources and public sources. The USGS United States Geological Survey is an excellent source for topographic maps for the wilderness areas you want to explore. If you want and excellent route planning tool check out National Geographic’s Weekend Explorer Series for your own mapping information system. The Software lets you look at USGS topographic maps for your region on your laptop, overlay GPS routes and view your hike in 3D profiles.
A Simple compass is a great way to keep your bearing in the wilderness, but in today’s high tech world GPS units are user friendly and accessible from many manufacturers. Using a GPS will give a person real time Satellite positioning as well as providing a great mapping resource on the go. Using a GPS allows the hiker to digitally mark a trail making it easy to retrace ones steps with the direction of the Satellite Unit. A good GPS unit can run anywhere from $99.00 to $500.00 or more depending on the features.
I always hike with a lighter and some wooden waterproof matches. A few years back I was in the backcountry with a friend who got lost on a side hike when a storm rolled in. Disoriented and unable to see, my friend had to sit down, build a shelter and a fire for warmth. He made it through a rough night out because he had matches and fire tinder in his survival kit. Tinder can be helpful in wet situations. For easy fire, one can by a magnesium fire starter kit for only a few dollars. This will last a hiker a long time and could prove to be an invaluable asset out on the trail.
I always like to have a camera along, you never know what you may see but I have never been on a hike when I did not find something worthy of documenting for the scrapbook.
A simple knit cap in the pack can come in handy on higher altitude hikes when the wind kicks up. Keeping your head warm in cold rain showers, snow and wind is a great way to stave off hypothermia. Keep you noggin warm.
A Simple whistle can help a search and rescue party locate a lost or injured hiker. Keeping a whistle close around your neck is a very good audible alert in the case of an emergency.
A small first aid kit is not a bad idea for people who are doing longer back-country forays into the wilderness. If you get hurt, you may need to rescue yourself. There are many great small to medium sized first aid kits available for Day Hikers and back Packers. Check Out Atwater Carey, Outdoor Research or Advanced Medical for specialty outdoor first aid Kits.
Sun Block and Sun Protection
Sun block is an important tool in the high Country. In the Rocky Mountains, the sun can be much stronger than the sun at the beach because you are obviously much higher and thus closer to the sun. I recommend carrying Sun block with a rating of SPF 30 or higher. This will keep you from burning while traveling in the mountains. If you are hiking in a desert climate plan to take a large brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your face. In the high Desert country of New Mexico, the sun slowly wears hikers down. Protecting yourself with a wide brimmed ventilated hat will make a high and dry hike more pleasurable.
Trowel and TP
Oh Yes sometimes nature does call when we are in the backcountry. If you need to us privy while on the trail, please follow Leave No Trace Wilderness Ethics. Always pack out used TP and dig a cat hole far away from the trail to deposit waste. Proper disposal of human waste is important to avoid pollution of water sources, avoid the negative implications of someone else finding it, minimize the possibility of spreading disease, and maximize the rate of decomposition. In most locations, burying human feces in the correct manner is the most effective method to meet these criteria. Solid human waste must be packed out from some places, such as narrow river canyons. Land management agencies can advise you of specific rules for the area you plan to visit. Contrary to popular opinion, research indicates that burial of feces actually slows decomposition (at least in the Rocky Mountains). Pathogens have been discovered to survive for a year or more when buried. However, in light of the other problems associated with feces, it is still generally best to bury it. The slow decomposition rate causes the need to choose the correct location, far from water, campsites, and other frequently used places.
Dress for Success
Perhaps the most important piece of gear for any day hiker is a well fit hiking shoe or boot. In today’s boot market there are many excellent High top, Mid top and Low top versions of Hiking and walking shoes. It is important to get a piece of footwear built on a stable platform to prevent ankle twisting while on uneven ground. There are many outdoor shoe look a likes out there that will not perform. I would strongly urge you to make your footwear your biggest investment. A properly fit pair of shoes combined with a good sock system will keep your feet happy, healthy and on the trail. A poorly fit pair of cheap hikers could leave you with blisters, a turned ankle and potentially fail you while ten miles out on the trail, walking home with a flopping boot sole is not a real good time on the trail . Consult an expert shop like Sangre de Cristo Mountain works in Santa Fe and let our specialty boot fitters get you on the trail in style and comfort.
When heading out into the woods it is important to dress for success. Comfort on the trail starts with good footwear and preferably synthetic base fabrics which will help manage moisture, Keep you cool when its hot and keep you warm when it gets cold or your get wet. In the outdoors, cotton kills because it is a hydrophilic fabric which soaks up and holds moisture . Wet clothing can kill a person and bring on hypothermia. By wearing synthetic base layer fabrics and nylon hiking pants, one protects themselves from heat and cold. A synthetic base layer will retain all of it’s insulating properties even when wet. Check out Patagonia Capilene ® or Merino Wool base layers from Icebreaker ® to hit the trail in comfort.
Good outdoor clothing systems build off of a layering principle with three layers. The next to skin layer or base layer should be a thin synthetic short sleeve shirt for warmer hours of the hike. The Mid Layer or insulating layer should be a light wool sweater, fleece or heavier long sleeve base layer. I prefer a Zip Turtleneck style because it covers the neck. When you need this layer it means it is getting cold. The third layer we have already mentioned is the Shell layer or your weather barrier. Check out The North Face Venture ® Jacket and Pants.
In 30 years of camping, climbing, hiking and skiing, I have found that a well planned simple clothing system based on synthetic fabrics is key to success. We often read of the ill prepared hiker dressed in cotton who gets caught in an afternoon hail storm, some people have died. Rocky Mountain Weather can change in a heart beat and I have seen snow more than once in the high country in the middle of July. Don’t get caught by a surprise weather event, Dress for success.
So you have got your pack loaded and your route mapped out, lets hit the trail and enjoy a day in the woods.
Leave no Trace Wilderness Ethics Program
Leave No Trace is an national and international program designed to assist outdoor enthusiasts with their decisions about how to reduce their impacts when they hike, camp, picnic, snowshoe, run, bike, hunt, paddle, ride horses, fish, ski or climb. The program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts. Leave No Trace is best understood as an educational and ethical program, not as a set of rules and regulations.
Plan Ahead and Prepare!
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the are you travel,
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of heavy use
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a Map and compass to eliminate use of marking paint and rock Cairns
Travel and Camp on Durable Surface
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas: Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Deposit solid human waste in cat-holes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cat-hole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry.
- Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
Learn more about Leave no Trace at www.lnt.org for training and education about moving throughout the wilderrness without leaving a mark.
Camping and Hiking in Mountain Lion Habitat
Please heed the following suggestions in order to reduce the chances of an unpleasant encounter with a Mountain Lion.
How to reduce the chances of an encounter with a Mountain Lion:
- Avoid hiking alone, especially between dusk and dawn, when lions normally do their hunting. Make plenty of noise while you hike so as to reduce the chances of surprising a lion.
- Always keep children in sight while hiking and within arm’s reach in areas that can conceal a lion. Mountain Lions seem to be drawn to children.
- Hike with a good walking stick; this can be useful in warding off a lion.
How to reduce the chances of an attack when encountering a Mountain Lion:
- Do not approach a lion, especially if it is feeding or with its young. Most lions will avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Stay calm and face the lion. Do not run because this may trigger the lion’s instinct to attack. Try to appear larger by raising your hands.
- Pick up small children so they don’t panic and run. This will also make you appear larger. Avoid bending over or crouching.
- If the lion acts aggressively, throw rocks, branches, or whatever can be obtained without turning your back or bending over.
- Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have successfully fought back with rocks, sticks, or bare hands.
Report any Mountain Lion sightings in a park to the park rangers
Check us out at SDC Mountain Works
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