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May 30, 2013

Take Care on the Trail!

Written by Dena Evans

Take Care on the Trail this Summer!



This summer, the call of the wild might draw you out of the neighborhood into your local trail system, or vacation travel might bring you closer to nature and out of your comfort zone.  What are some things to look out for when venturing forth on the trail?

 



Poison Oak / Poison Ivy

PoisonPlants
As the old adage warns, “Leaves of three, let them be.”  For both poison oak (found mostly on the west coast with variants in the mountain region and the south eastern United States) as well as poison ivy (mostly found on the east coast), even a slight brush can cause a nasty irritation for the next several days.  Poison oak can feature a reddish tint, while poison ivy is mostly green. Both plants have a surface substance that causes a skin irritation ranging from a row of small bumps, to significant swelling.  While on the trail, take care to avoid plants that appear like these. If you do come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak the rash may take a couple of days to appear, getting worse through about five days after exposure.  Then it can take  as long as a couple of weeks to resolve in bad cases.  The sap of the plants doesn’t dissolve into water, so it can be tricky to treat.  The blisters on the rash won’t spread if opened by scratching, but if hands or clothes that have interacted with the resin at the initial site of infection brush other areas, the rash can jump there as well.  Also, burning poison oak can send the poisonous material into the air, where it can even find its way into an unsuspecting nose or throat.  Let your imagination run wild with that one – definitely avoid!

 

Snakes

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Springtime means snakes are coming out from hibernation.  They may be unfamiliar with their new terrain, and may be looking for sun while it is still not warm around the clock.    Be on the lookout for them in places and at times along the trail where it may be warmer and sunnier than average.  These include exposed flat rocks, sunny patches in an otherwise tree-covered path, and midday sun when morning and evening are still cool.  If you do see one, leave a wide berth move slowly whenever possible.   Snakes typically are not aggressive, but defensive, so avoid picking at them with sticks or letting others with you do the same, even if you think the snake is not poisonous.  You never know.

 

Ticks


12-11-09tick
Now found more widely than the traditional hotspots of the northeastern and Appalachian Trail areas of the United States, these insects can cause great havoc if left undetected.  Small and black insects (usually encountering humans in nymph form), ticks grab onto the skin and eventually deposit eggs under the surface, which can lead to all sorts of diseases, but most famously, Lyme disease.  In an area where ticks are known to have been a problem, take care to wear insect repellent, light colored clothing (so ticks can be easily seen against the skin), long sleeves and pants (when possible in the weather), and to do daily checks so no ticks remain on the skin for any extended period of time.  Symptoms include a bullseye shaped rash, fever, chills, and muscle aches

Lightning

460px-Lightning-with-streamers
Spring and summer months may bring warm weather storms to your favorite local trail or far flung destination.  Without external warnings, you may be left to make your own judgments as to how to safely manage the situation if you have been caught unprepared .  Keep an eye on the sky to get a visual glimpse of any approaching storm or lightning flashes.  If the thunder has begun to close in rapidly (count seconds after seeing lightning until thunder sounds – then divide by five to estimate how many miles away), stay away from lone tall objects such as a single tall tree or open air picnic structure.  If wearing / carrying a metal object, leave it aside for the time being and try to move to a low lying place (between two boulders or hills, among a bunch of lower trees, etc).  If near your car, make sure not to touch any metal while taking shelter inside.  Finally, wait 15-30 minutes past when the storm has crossed over to ensure you won’t still be in range of stray lightning.

 

Running on the trail can be one of summer’s best treats.  Stay alert and make good choices which hopefully will allow you to enjoy yourself all season long!

 



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