HITTING THE MOUNTAIN TRAILS THIS SUMMER? HIKESAFE IS THE WAY TO GO!
Plan ahead; pack a flashlight; check the weather; stay together
CONCORD, N.H. -- Summer's here, and for many New Hampshire residents and visitors, that means enjoying hiking trips in the beautiful, rugged mountains of the Granite State. Tens of thousands of hikers will visit the trails in New Hampshire over the coming months, from the popular Mondanock Region to the remote North Country. With that in mind, outdoor authorities are advising New Hampshire's summer adventurers to "Hike Safe."
"New Hampshire's woods and mountains are a great place for summer recreation," says New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lieutenant Todd Bogardus. "Whether you are day hiking or backpacking overnight, there are many fantastic opportunities here. But the nature of the mountain environment is that it can be a dangerous place. Visitors who are looking forward to a forest or mountain excursion have to realize that trails can be steep and rough, footing can be insecure, and weather here is unpredictable. Hiking in New Hampshire's backcountry is quite different from taking a nature stroll in a local park -- while the experience can be immensely enjoyable, it is a serious undertaking that requires proper planning and preparation."
Bogardus notes that already this year, there have been several searches for mountain hikers. The need for a rescue can many times be avoided if hikers plan ahead. Find out about the trails you'll be traveling on - how steep, how long are they? Are the hikers in the right physical shape to tackle the challenges? Have they checked the weather forecast and prepared with suitable clothing for the cold conditions, rain and wind that can occur suddenly in New Hampshire's high mountains?
Bogardus also notes that hikers should always include in their packs a simple, but essential piece of equipment - a flashlight or headlamp to allow them to follow a path after dark if the need arises. Either due to poor planning or other circumstances, hikers can find themselves still on the trail after sunset. "I'll admit; it's frustrating to get calls for help from people who remembered their cell phones, but forgot to bring a flashlight on their hike," Bogardus says.
Some locations in New Hampshire's White Mountains have additional and unexpected hazards. "The above-treeline areas of the White Mountains are known for their harsh weather," says Rebecca Oreskes, of the White Mountain National Forest. "Mount Washington and neighboring peaks in the Presidential Range, as well as Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge, can have winter-like days even in summer."
According to Oreskes, hurricane-force winds, dense fog, lightning storms, icing and even snowstorms can occur in any month, even July and August. "Hikers need to be prepared for unpleasant weather, and should turn back if dangerous weather intervenes - and it can take wisdom, based on experience, to know the difference," she says. Another piece of advice Oreskes offers: "At any time, but especially in adverse weather above treeline, it's crucial that groups stick together - so often, groups split up, which can cause general confusion and expose the most vulnerable group members even more to nature's fury."
Some guidelines for enjoyable and safe hiking are outlined in the principles of "hikeSafe," a joint initiative of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the White Mountain National Forest to promote safe and responsible hiking.
The hikeSafe "Hiker Responsibility Code" sums up the basic tenets of backcountry safety. "Hiking has great rewards, but it also comes with innate challenges and dangers," says Oreskes.
There are six tenets of the code: 1) Be prepared with appropriate knowledge and gear; 2) Let someone else know your plans; 3) Hiking groups should stick together and not let themselves become separated; 4) Hikers should always be ready to turn back if circumstances, such as changing weather, dictate; 5) Hikers should be ready for emergencies, and, ideally, be set to get out on their own; and 6) Those who know the code should share its lessons with others.
"In spite of the challenges, most hikers in New Hampshire's forests and mountains have great experiences," says Bogardus, "and there's a better chance of having a memorable and satisfying trip if hikers follow the hikeSafe principles."
For more information about the hikeSafe program, visit hikesafe.com.
Visit the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at WildNH.com.
PO Box 157
Kearsarge, NH 03847-0157
nhocsecretary at nhoutdoorcouncil dot org