A day hike is the perfect outdoor activity for some grounding alone time or an adventurous outing for the entire family.
Most day hikes take on average 2-5 hours dependent on distance, difficulty and experience. Weather conditions and terrain can often be unpredictable and tedious to navigate. Extreme elevation gains can cause nausea, rapid heartbeat, troubled breathing and brain fog. Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!The dangers of hiking into the woods can be a bit concerning but, taking a day hike also presents its fair share of excitement, peace and even some health benefits. A hike can improve mental health, decrease stress, increase concentration, enhance creativity, encourage weight loss or maintenance and so much more. These benefits and more can be enjoyed safely and effectively without the looming concern of any dangers. Here’s how.
Pack in, pack out.
Part of the enjoyment of hiking is getting to a beautiful natural view and sitting down to enjoy a picnic or quick snack. However, "many wild animals are attracted to what we eat," shares Shawn Llewellyn, South Carolina State Park Ranger at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC. "During the summer season, we notice a significant increase in park visitation. This typically creates more waste. Leaving food and trash behind not only looks bad, but it can also change wildlife behavior which can put their health at risk." Adopt the Leave No Trace principle when visiting parks and natural areas. If you pack it in, pack it out. Leaving the park in its natural state will allow it to be enjoyed and appreciated by generations to come.
South Carolina state park ranger Shawn Lewellyn with two park patrons
Beware of ALL live dangers in your area.
Speaking of animals, over time many wild animals have grown accustomed to human interaction. “It is important to know that these animals are called WILD for a reason,” reports Lewellyn candidly. Animals are unpredictable and should be left to their own devices. Many state and national parks have strict rules and regulations involving wildlife, as well as plant life. "Some of our State Parks have endangered plants or poisonous plants, like poison ivy and poison oak. The best way to avoid these plants is to stay on the trail," states Lewellyn. Visit your local park office or even an outdoor store like REI to take an educational class on how to protect yourself from any wildlife or plant life dangers on the trail.
Have proper gear.
Wearing and carrying weather appropriate clothing, shoes, and equipment can make all the difference in your hiking experience. For a general rule of thumb you should check the weather before your hike, wear light packable layers, and prepare for unpredictable weather or terrain. Remember your day pack is also part of your gear. These essentials should include navigation, emergency shelter, sun protection, hydration, nutrition, first aid, and more.
Stay on the trail.
Trails are paths to and from your starting point and destination. Venturing off trail can be dangerous. Most trails are marked by a trail marker, colored blaze or cairn. However, for those that are unmarked you can swing by most visitor centers or park offices for free trail maps, or you may wish to purchase one online or at a local outdoor store. Lewellyn adds, “Whether the trail is marked or unmarked, I always take a picture of it before I begin hiking. This ensures I always have a backup in case I lose my map in the woods.”For more tips from the experts, visit your local State or National Park, Visitors Center or Outdoor store. Also, check out these handy tips. Click HERE to learn more about the Wellview services available to you. We can’t wait to work with you!
– CASEY EDMONDS, CHWC, CPT, CMS
Health Advisor | Email Casey