Spring is officially here! If you are anything like me, you are chomping at the bit to hit the trails and start hiking in the warmer weather. Trails and roads that were closed for Winter are starting to open up, and the snow is starting to melt. Spring is a beautiful time to get outside and spend time in nature!
Here are a few tips to get you ready for Spring time hiking, as well as a few safety and conservation reminders.
- Spring Cleaning: Now is the time to pull out all of your gear and sort through it. Make sure everything is in working order, such as your stove and headlamp. Do a little purging and get rid of gear that you didn't use last year. This makes room for any new gear that you've been eying. *wink*
- Check Trail and Road Closures. Be aware of when the trails that you are interested in hiking officially open up for the season. Check the roads that you will need to take to get to the trailheads too. Sometimes even if the weather is beautiful, warm, and sunny and there is no snow in sight, certain areas may still be closed off just in case a late snow storm hits. So be sure about the dates so that you don't waste your time on an area that is still closed for another month. If you are hiking in a National Forest, you can call the local ranger district to find out about road closures. While you have them on the phone, you can find out what elevation the snow is currently at as well.
- Dress in Layers. Spring weather can be fickle. Your best bet for dressing appropriately for a hike at this time of year is to wear layers. Be prepared to have a warm jacket handy in case a cold snap hits, and also be prepared to peel off those top layers and have a cooler option on for when the sun comes out! Merino Wool is a great option. There are different thicknesses that you can use to layer up. Having a rain jacket with you to throw on over everything in case of rain is a must as well.
- Wear Proper Footwear. It's a good idea to wear waterproof footwear in the Spring. Here's why: In the Spring, snow is melting and that means that rivers and streams are going to have much higher water levels. Also, with the melting of snow and also Spring showers, trails can tend to be a bit muddy and puddles are something you will likely encounter. Having waterproof footwear will keep your feet dry, no matter what watery obstacles you may come across! Gaiters are a great idea as well. They will give you a bit more protection and are great for if you are in a bit deeper of a puddle or going through a stream. This season I will be testing out a few different brands of gaiters, so stay tuned for reviews coming your way!
- Charge Through Puddles. Here is a great reason why you should have waterproof footwear. Instead of trying to step around puddles, charge right through them. Not only is it fun, but it is also better for nature. Going around puddles pretty much implies that you are going to be stepping off the trail, at least a bit, and this can contribute to the unintentional widening of the trail. This is damaging for the surrounding foliage. It's best to stay on the designated trail, and having waterproof footwear allows you to go right through mud and puddles without getting your feet all wet.
- Avoid Muddy Trails. If at all possible, avoid hiking on muddy trails all together. Why? Because muddy trails are susceptible to more damage. Footprints leave deeper marks, and heavy traffic can leave trails torn up and uneven. So, in the spirit of conservation, if it's not completely unreasonable, try to stay off of muddy trails as much as you can. Just wait a bit until they are dried out.
- Be Careful Of Rivers! In the Spring, runoff from melting snow makes water levels in rivers rise - Sometimes quite a lot. It also makes the water move much faster, and this can be very dangerous. Stretches of river that you might normally be able to cross, may be way too deep and fast moving for you to do so at this time of year. Just be aware of the conditions of any rivers or streams that you may have to cross while on your hike. Try to avoid crossing rivers if at all possible. If you do need to cross, use extreme caution. Test water depths with a stick. Just be careful.