Autumn is here. It’s the season of pumpkin everything, cozy sweaters and boots, steamy coffee, crisp apples, spiked cider and chilled beers. The season of color is finally upon us. One of the best parts of Fall is the foliage and taking in the beauty and wonderment of New England this time of year. There is no shortage of postcard-worthy spots to admire the explosion of autumnal hues. Fall brings vibrant views, cooler temps and chances to see nature and wildlife. Lucky for us Bostonians, all it takes is a walk outdoors to see all the best reds, yellows, and golds autumn has to offer. With the crowds of summer dwindling away, the fall is the perfect opportunity to hit the trail and go for a hike.
When you’re ready for some authentic New England leaf peeping, there are plenty of places for hiking in the area. There are beautiful outlooks, vistas, and hidden gems all around the city limits and beyond, expanding into all of New England. Some trails near Boston make for a quick trip, while others are off the beaten path and take the day or some could even fill a long weekend!
Hiking is a great way to add a little variety to your exercise routine and have fun while observing the gorgeous sights, sounds and smells. It is important to follow some simple safety precautions to ensure an enjoyable trip. In addition to being prepared physically, you will want to select the right trail, pack the right gear, and know how to take care of yourself in an emergency.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, your chance of dying while mountain hiking is 1 in 15,700 annually, or a .0064% chance… this doesn’t seem to too bad until you compare it to, say… skydiving, where your chance of dying is 1 in 101,083, or .00099%. You’re 6.4x more likely to die while hiking than you are while skydiving. Although dying may not be common, there are plenty of other safety hazards to keep in mind.
When hiking, there are many things that can go wrong. Some of the most common hazards to keep in mind include:
- Twisted ankle
- Bug/tick bites
- Getting lost
- Temperature related issues
- Protection against wildlife/animals
- Inclement weather
- Poisonous plants
Proper planning is important when hiking. Use the following hiking tips to make your treks safe and successful. We’ve gathered some of the most beneficial guidelines with the help of VeryWellFit.com. Check ‘em out below!
At Home Planning
- Select a trail that matches your conditioning, the amount of time you have and the type of terrain you enjoy. Get a topographic map or a hiking guidebook.
- Always check the weather forecast before you head out.
- Conditioning and balance. Make sure the trail you select matches your ability. In the early season, you should start with moderate hikes and build up your endurance over the season.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Line up a hiking partner if possible. While it is best to avoid hiking alone, if you must go by yourself, it is wise to pick more popular trails so that if you run into trouble, it’s likely that someone will be on the same trail to help.
On The Trail
- Dress in layers and always bring rain gear to prepare for changing weather. Avoid cotton clothing, which insulates poorly when wet and dries very slowly.
- Make sure your hiking boots fit properly. To avoid blisters and sore spots, never wear a new pair of boots on a long hike. Break them in slowly by testing boots on shorter hikes or walking around your neighborhood a bit first.
- Carry a compass and a topographic map of the area and know how to use both.
- Pay attention to landmarks on the trail, and check your map often, even on an obvious trail. You should also turn around occasionally to see how the trail looks when you are heading the other direction. This will make finding you way back much easier.
- Don’t get separated from your partner or group. Always keep within eyesight of your group and stop and re-group at any trail junctions.
- Carry a whistle within easy reach. Three blasts of a whistle is the universal signal for help
- Drink often to avoid dehydration.
- Don’t drink water from ponds or streams unless you have treated it first by boiling, filtering or using purification tablets.
The Ten Essentials for Hiking
Hiking organization called the Mountaineers, recommends all hikers carry the following 10 essential items.
- Map. A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.
- Compass. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain—especially in bad weather where you can’t see the landmarks.
- Water and a way to purify it. Without staying hydrated, you will suffer on the trail because you are more susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
- Extra Food. You never know if you will be out longer than expected, so be prepared.
- Rain Gear and extra clothing. Weather is unpredictable, especially above tree line, so bring along extra layers. Remember to avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin), and bring along a hat and gloves.
- Fire starter and matches. If you are lost or need to spend the night outside a fire can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia and signal for help.
- First aid kit. It is recommended that you take a basic first aid class to know how to treat potential injuries on the trail.
- Knife or multi-purpose tool. For emergency repairs of all kinds, you will want a knife.
- Flashlight. If you are caught on the trail after dark, a flashlight can help you find your way.
- Sunscreen/sunglasses. Especially above tree line when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you’ll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
If you feel lost, stop, count to 10, drink some water, eat a snack and assess your situation. Ask the following questions: Can you determine where you were last certain of your location? If so, try to navigate back to that point. Can you return to a known trail or location? If not, stay put. It’s easier for rescuers to find you near your original path if you stay put. Here are some more tips:
- If you become lost, keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and stay put.
- If you need to spend the night, a campfire can provide heat, light and comfort. A campfire can also help others find you.
- If you feel you can try and find your way out of the woods, remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.
- In case of accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person. Know and use basic first aid techniques. Others in the group should carefully note the location and contact the local Forest Service.
And since you know Schulze Law is such a fan of our beloved pups…here are some tips from Wilderness.org.
Hiking with Dogs
- Make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations and ensure those identification tags are firm on the collar.
- Remember that dogs need to train and condition for longer hikes, too, so don’t forget to bring them along on your short day trips.
- With a special pack and time to get used to it, your dog can carry his or her own provisions.
- Do a thorough health check at the end of each day, and include canine-friendly supplies in your first aid kit.
- Always check the trail rules before you go; you don’t want your dog harassing wildlife. National Park trails do not allow dogs, while other public lands simply require dogs to be on a leash.
Autumn in New England is the perfect time to hit the trails. New England has some of the most exquisite hikes in the world, offering adventure, fitness, and Instagram-worthy views. Trails here are beautiful year-round, but especially this time of year. So… get out in nature and enjoy! Just be careful and follow simple safety tips. If you’ve been hurt in an accident or injury, Schulze Law is here to protect you!