All this talk of summer being almost over is depressing. I’ve had a fantastic summer! It’s actually been a fantastic year! We’ve been fortunate to have great weather in southeast Michigan, comfortable temps and bearable humidity. Perfect weather for hiking our local nature trails and biking many rails to trails and road options. I love being outside with family and friends, yet also enjoy some quiet “me” time. Let’s admit it though – these are some crazy times we live in so I take precautions when on the trails alone, or even with a group. These precautions are not only to protect me from crazy strangers, but also in case of an accident or emergency. I hope you’re all careful doing whatever activity makes you happy!
Most backpackers/outdoors people know the 10 essentials to carry. These include a map, compass, sunscreen/ sunglasses, extra clothing, fire starter, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, knife, matches, and extra food (REI has a great webpage dedicated to the 10 essentials and updated “essential systems”). Cyclists carry a variety of personal items, but definitely should have a spare bike tube, CO2 cartridge, water, snacks and sunscreen. These important items for both activities are of course in addition to the appropriate gear (shoes, clothing, helmet when biking, etc.).
On short outings when I’m staying near civilization, such a day hikes or bike rides, I carry the basic items (bike tube, water, etc) but usually skip a fire starter (pretty sure you can’t start a fire at the local parks!) and the other obvious. I also follow some random, basic safety tips that I wanted to share.
- Park in a populated, designated area. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who is near and behind you.
- Pay attention to your surroundings on the trail too. While I sometimes get wrapped up in thoughts, I am always looking ahead, behind and around me. I always know if someone or something (animal, car, etc) is approaching or if a hazard (hole, rock, etc) is near.
- Always let someone know where you’re going and an estimated time you’ll be back to your car. If you have no clue when you’ll return, text or call someone when you do get back to your car. Even if you want some alone time it’s smart to not go off without notifying someone. What happens if you get hurt and can’t make it your car? Or darkness comes and you get lost?
- I wear an ID bracelet when hiking and biking (I wear it whether I’m alone or with people). It lists my name, two emergency contacts, and that I have a titanium rod in my femur and a serious allergy. Road ID is a popular brand with hikers and cyclists but there are many options.
- Listen to your gut. I’m a friendly, outgoing person. I smile and talk to anyone. But I also try to be smart about the situations I put myself in, especially when alone. A few weeks ago, two fairly obnoxious men were biking along the trail and started making idiotic comments when I came upon them and wanted to pass. I was polite, yet also tried to ignore them. I finally squeezed past them and went on my way. A short while later, I spotted them at the parking lot loading their bikes onto their truck. While I had reached my mileage goal, I decided to keep going and then circle back once they were gone. They were most likely just obnoxious, lewd men, but my instinct said to avoid them so I did.
- I always take (and use!) sunscreen, snacks and water with me, whether biking or hiking. I also typically bring a hat and sunglasses in case the sun is bright (of course I wear a helmet when biking) and chap stick (who wants dry lips after a windy ride?). If you’re uncertain of the weather, consider rain gear, sweatshirt or a piece of clothing to add or remove if necessary.
- Since the point of hiking alone into the woods or biking on a quiet trail is to get away from the chaos of life and people, I’d rather not carry my cell phone. However, I usually do in case of emergencies (and admittedly I use the camera all the time). The ringer is on silent though. Of course, keep in mind that you can’t always get a cell signal in the woods.
- I clip a small, yet loud whistle to my shorts, pants or watch when I’m hiking.
- I carry my medical insurance card and cash too in my bike saddle bag. On local bike trails, such as the Macomb Orchard Trail or Paint Creek, there are stores or small restaurants to grab a snack, more water or anything else you may need.
I hope you never experience an emergency on the trail, but better to prepared and safe. What steps do you take to stay safe and smart when on the trails?