Hikers Be Aware! There are creepy crawlies and weather that can ruin a good hike, but don’t let that spoil the fun. Just be aware of these things as you head out there.
Over the last few weeks we have had some women talking about trail hazards like ticks, rattlesnakes, poison oak and stinging nettles, so we thought we’d post a brief list of things to think about when heading out with your little one. No matter where you are in the country, if you are headed into nature, remember we are the visitors, so tread respectfully and pay attention to everything around you.
Remember being aware and ready for any trail hazards is not being an overly paranoid mama, it’s smart hiking.
Heatstroke & Dehydration
It’s easy to get dehydrated when hiking, especially if you are in the shade. Carry more water than you think you need. Camelbak has a water calculator here that’s kind of nifty. Remember this rule: If you are thirsty, you are probably already a bit dehydrated. It’s a good idea to have things like Nuun tablets to throw in your water bottle for additional electrolytes on a long summer day hike.
Ticks, Mosquitoes and Spiders
Ticks and mosquitoes are nasty little vampires that require our blood to complete their lifecycle. Not awesome. Ticks are much harder to deal with, but also less frequently found on trail. When hiking in an area where there are ticks, make sure you check yourself and your baby after a hike and look especially in creases in your baby and behind their ears!
Here’s how to remove a tick from the CDC.
Mosquitoes can spoil a fun hike with their dive bomb technique and tendency to roam in packs, so make sure you are ready for them. It’s smart to leave a small bottle of repellant in your car. According to a Twitter conversation we had with REI, you can use up to 30% Deet on a small child (although we wouldn’t recommend for infants), however within most Hike it Baby groups I have found people are not that interested in chemicals on their babies. If this is you, consider trying some of the natural repellants out there. Here are a few we like: California Baby, Honest Company
Also a head net works AWESOME. I just used one in Alaska. I might have looked goofy, but I was so happy I had it.
Spider bites can be quite serious. If you or your little one get bit by a spider make sure you seek medical attention immediately if you see any swelling or change in your skin. Also, if you can kill the spider and take it with you to the doctor that will help a lot.
Rattlesnakes are more of a concern in desert areas, but we have had reports all over of women seeing or hearing these on trail. If there are rattlesnakes in your area, please be aware of them and pay attention when you are in areas where you are walking over rocks. Rattlesnakes like to curl up against warm rocks in the sun. These little slithery guys are super common in Eastern Oregon (Pendleton), Santa Cruz and Santa Clarita! They are good about rattling for warning, so just keep an eye out. Chances are they will see you first and slither away.
Spiders and Ticks
Creepy crawly spiders are on every trail. Make sure to familiarize yourself with what spiders are in your area and when you set a blanket down for baby to play, just keep an eye for spiders crawling on the blanket. This goes for ticks too. Both are super good at attaching and staying attached to fabric. Shake your clothes and blankets out well before packing them into your bag or stroller.
Stinging nettles, devil’s club and cow parsnips
Stinging nettles don’t have a long lasting sting, but they can cause little welts. If you feel a sort of prickly feeling on your skin and see some raised bumps, there’s a good chance you brushed up against stinging nettles. These can be found all over the NW and Alaska. I’m not sure about other parts of the country.
Cow parsnip is very common in Alaska and can create a rash on skin if you rub up against. Get to know this plant if you are in the Anchorage hike group. Don’t worry about getting this on clothes though. It’s not an oil like poison oak.
Devil’s Club can be found near water, usually, and is very distinctive. It has big green leaves and long spikes on the limbs. Look for this along river’s edges throughout the NW and Alaska.
Poison Oak & Poison Ivy
Depending where you are in the country you are bound to have one or the other of these plants. Not everyone is allergic to them, however; they do say the more exposure you have to them, the more chance you have for a reaction to them. When I was in my teen years I used to mountain bike through patches of poison oak in Eugene and never think about it. At about 35-years-old I walked through a patch of poison oak in Los Angeles, of all places, on a trail and I was a very sad, rashy, oozy mess for a few weeks.
Poison ivy is supposed to be worse than oak, but both suck! If you have a lot of poison oak in your area I would suggest having some TECNU always on hand at home so you can shower as soon as you get home from a hike. Wash with cold water first, use Tecnu and then switch to warm water. Also make sure your dog doesn’t have poison oak on them!!!
Sudden shifts in weather causing lightening or flash floods
Weather can shift fast in places like Utah or Colorado. Make sure you are ready with a light layer to protect you from the rain or wind. If you see lightning starting, make sure you are somewhere that there is protection like a stand of trees. Get off of an empty hillside immediately if there are no trees around you and you see lightning.
As for Flash Floods, we were hiking in Hawaii last year when a flash flood hit. One second my husband and I were walking next to a dry river and seconds later it was full! This woman who was coming down from the waterhole we were headed to said she had been going to that place for 20 years and had never seen that before! So if you know there are flash floods in an area, be very aware if any rain is happening in higher country above where you are hiking. This can happen in places like Colorado and Utah, areas where it’s very dry but storms come in fast.
Did we forget anything? Please add in trail hazards you have come across that we all should be thinking about!
Shanti Hodges hikes at least one time a week with her little one Mason. She lives in Portland, OR and hopes to get a chance to eventually hike with every single Hike it Baby branch in the country! Doesn’t hurt to dream big right? On another note she found a tick on her a few weeks ago that luckily hadn’t latched, but it has made her a lot more aware of checking herself and her little one after every hike!