Hiking Safety in the Texas Hill Country

Posted by Monty Crawford on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 at 12:06pm.

Hiking safely in texas hill country

Because the Texas Hill Country has a temperate climate, beautiful scenery, rolling terrain and many different bodies of water, hiking is a favored outdoor activity of many residents of the Austin area. Whether you live in a home in Dripping Springs, or a condo in Marble Falls you have access to many hiking trails in a state park or preserve near your home. Before you head out for a day hike or a longer adventure, you need to be sure you have some basic essentials covered and that you were prepared for potential unexpected circumstances.

  • Possibly the most important thing any hiker needs is good sturdy footwear. Short hikes with a lighter pack make trail shoes an appropriate choice. if you are carrying a heavier load or trekking on more technical terrain, the support given by a good hiking boot is a better option.
  • Having a good day pack or backpack is another essential item. Be sure that you can carry it comfortably, that the straps are well-made and the pack is durable. If it does not come with a built-in rain cover be sure to have one with you before you go hiking.
  • Your pack should include safety items such as headlamp, flashlight or lantern, a lighter, matches or other method used to start a fire and a whistle. These things can help you in the event there are unforeseen circumstances by offering you warmth, the ability to see in the dark and an effective way of being heard.
  • Having a good first aid kit is important when out hiking, there are many pre-packaged options available for hikers. It is a good idea to take a first aid class through the American Red Cross.
  • Be sure to take sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your eyes and skin when spending so many hours outdoors. This is especially important above the tree line when the combination of sun and snow will cause severe sunburn and possible snow blindness.
  • Carrying a multi-purpose tool is useful for obvious reasons. You may need to cut cloth into bandages, repair malfunctioning gear, remove splinters or attend to various other issues that occur when out hiking.
  • Packing rain gear and extra clothing should be done regardless of what the weather report says. It is best to avoid cotton clothing as it keeps moisture close to your skin. Dressing in layers allows you to be warmer or cooler as needed and you should always carry a hat.
  • Take along your GPS but also carry a map and compass as a backup if your GPS fails. Maps also can tell you where there is water, campsites or an emergency exit to the trail.
  • Bring extra water and a way to purify it. Dehydration makes you susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.  Having access to potable water is critical under the exertion of hiking, and especially if you become injured or lost.
  • Bring some extra food on your hike. You may be out longer than expected because you wish to enjoy some extra time by the water, unexpected difficult terrain or you could be injured. Having nutritious snacks will help you maintain your strength and mental acuity.

These essential items are very important to keep with you when heading out into nature for an enjoyable hike. There are also practices you should know for handling unforeseen situations. knowing what to do if you become lost is an important skill for hikers to have.

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What To Do if You Get Lost

  • Aside from having a well-supplied backpack, one of the best survival tools when you get lost during a hike is advanced planning. Even if it's a short hike, be sure you have plenty of food and water and the other items listed above.
  • Check with the local ranger district or forest office regarding any special warnings such as road closures, bear or cougar sightings, flooding or fires in the area.  Let a friend or family member know where you were going to be hiking the route you plan to take, the vehicle you're driving and when you plan to return
  • In the event you become lost do not panic and keep a positive mental outlook.  When you realize you are lost the first thing you should do is stop. In your mind retrace your steps, look for landmarks and do not move until you have a plan in place.
  • Do not walk aimlessly, use your compass and determine the directions based on where you were standing. Do not leave the trail if you are on it, all trails are marked, but sometimes those markers may have been vandalized or stolen. You may also follow a runoff or stream downhill, but this is only as a last resort because it is often difficult and possibly dangerous. But it could also get you back on a trail or to a road.
  • Once you have assessed the situation, consider possible plans by thinking them through. Once you have decided the best course of action act on it. If you do not feel confident with your plan it is better to stay put, this is also true if you are exhausted or injured
  • If you've decided to move forward with a self-rescue plan, there are things you should do to make sure it is a success. Rest when you feel tired. stop to eat and rest for half an hour so that your body is not trying to digest and exert energy hiking. If you are still tired after 30 minutes of rest, allow yourself a little more time. Be sure to drink water regularly and avoid becoming dehydrated.  Avoid hiking between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if it is hot outside

What To Do in a Thunderstorm While Hiking

  • Another common but unexpected situation that can arise while hiking, especially in the Texas Hill Country, is the sudden thunderstorm. Here are a few tips for handling this potentially deadly situation.
  • Seek shelter in a trail shelter or cabin, deep in a cave or find a low point such as a valley or depression.  Do not seek shelter on an exposed ridgeline, under a tree, under a picnic table or at the entrance of a cave.  It is important to avoid high points and being near objects that are taller than anything nearby.
  • Avoid metal objects. remove backpacks and put them aside, if you have a pack with a metal frame it should be at least 100 feet away from you. Remove belts and metal jewelry when possible. Many thunderstorms happen too quickly to be able to remove all metal objects.
  • If you are unable to find shelter, assume the” lightning position”. Squat down while resting your weight on the balls of your feet with your feet close together. Minimize your body as much as possible and avoid touching the ground or anything else with any other part of your body. Tuck your head and cover your ears with your hands and close your eyes.
  • If you are in a group of people on a flat area, it is best for every person to spread out. This decreases the odds of the entire group being struck by lightning.  It ensures that if someone is badly injured there will be people available to help them.

Hiking is a great way to stay fit and have an enjoyable time out in nature either alone or with friends and family. By being prepared with appropriate tools and knowledge, you can head out for your adventure with confidence, knowing you will be able to return home safely with another happy memory

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