As hiking season hits its peak, safety is paramount

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On Monday afternoon a hiker was airlifted off Cowles Mountain in the Mission Trails Regional Park with a broken ankle, then taken to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. This is not uncommon as we see people rescued off our mountains and cliffs all the time in the daily news. On Feb. 4, a woman was airlifted off the same mountain after she hurt her ankle. On Feb. 12 the San Diego Fire-Rescue responded to three rescue responses within 14 minutes in East County, all unrelated, then immediately responded to a call at Torrey Pines.

On Monday afternoon a hiker was airlifted off Cowles Mountain in the Mission Trails Regional Park with a broken ankle, then taken to Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. This is not uncommon as we see people rescued off our mountains and cliffs all the time in the daily news. On Feb. 4, a woman was airlifted off the same mountain after she hurt her ankle. On Feb. 12 the San Diego Fire-Rescue responded to three rescue responses within 14 minutes in East County, all unrelated, then immediately responded to a call at Torrey Pines.

But for those avid hikers, this time of year is the best of times to go exploring our backcountry. After the recent round of rains, things are green, flowers are blooming and the weather is perfect for a good hike. Not too cold, not too hot. But all hikers should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, especially those that love to explore alone.

With our recent rains, one thing is for sure, even for those that are accustomed to hiking our local trails. These rains have caused a lot of erosion and even though familiar trails might look the same, the stability of these trails has been compromised and it only takes one wrong step to send a hiker to the ground or spinning down a mountain trail along with what were once solid planted rocks of all sizes.

Being prepared is the best way of avoiding accidents like these. First and foremost, know you limitations. An inexperienced hiker is a dangerous one and even the best of hikers should travel with a buddy when possible. Regardless of your experience, there are some major things that hikers need to take into consideration on every hike, anytime of the year.

Keep yourself hydrated. It might not be 100 plus degrees, but this is still a top priority. Bring more water than you need, even when it is cool. Electrolyte enriched beverages and salty snacks can counteract the loss of electrolytes due to sweating. The loss of too much can cause impairment of muscle and bodily functions.

Know your terrain and if you do not, pay attention to the terrain around you. Most of our trails are well used and relatively safe. But that being said, terrain is constantly changing due to weather conditions and the consistent use of the trails. Do not venture from the trails as this is putting you in jeopardy of discovering unstable areas that can cause a serious fall, running into poisonous plants and animals. It is important to know the native plants in the area and the wildlife that thrives in it.

Our backcountry is full of rattlesnakes and although they will do their best to avoid a hiker, when stumbled upon by an unsuspecting hiker, they will feel cornered and attack. It is important as spring comes closer that rattlesnakes are much more aggressive due to excessive hunger from long hibernation periods.

There are other animals to watch for while hiking the backcountry. It is home to mountain lions, bobcats, foxes and coyotes, which often run in packs. They also want little to do with you but when faced with an open encounter use your body to appear as large as possible and create a lot of noise. This will normally send them running as they want as little to do with us humans as possible. With mountain lions make sure that you stand your ground and do not run. This can trigger a predatory response.

Hike with the proper equipment. Wear good hiking shoes and when traveling rough terrain a sturdy walking stick can be your best friend. And as always, be wary of wildfires. If you see smoke or flames, get as far away as possible and notify authorities as soon as possible.

Though it sounds like a lot to deal with, these are simple tips for a beginner hiker and not ones to be taken likely. You don’t want to be the next hiking victim airlifted to safety.

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