Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hike Asheville but Be Prepared

profusion of green trees in a forest
We have been innkeepers in Asheville for over 15 years.  Every single summertime since 1999, when we arrived in Asheville, to our continued amazement, someone or a party of people must be "rescued" from one of our national forests or hiking trails.
 Recently, some young men hiking in our area required rescue.  What was to be a hiking, expedition originating from Fontana Dam, began innocently enough but quickly degenerated into a very dangerous situation for these men costing over $8,000 in rescue funds.  In additional, rescuers are first responders and prepared to deal with emergencies, but it is reckless to endanger the lives of others called to help you when a few good decisions would have made this unnecessary.   Frankly, in this case, all of this drama could easily have been avoided with a modicum of advance preparation.  Our area is ripe with opportunities to see beauty that is unparalleled. Asheville and surrounds are noted for natural resources of awe inspiring beauty, waterfalls and opportunities to leave it all behind and enjoy nature.  Most things of this nature  are best enjoyed in the knowledge that wilderness requires, no demands, our preparation.  These young men were lucky.  They were located and rescued.  Many each year are not that fortunate. 

Weather changes quickly in the mountains.  Injuries can occur in steep, unsteady terrains, particularly for the "novice hikers" that seek our area to enjoy their vacation but are not seasoned, experienced hikers.  Delays in reaching shelter can be precipitated by an unexpected injury.  Temperatures can fall 40 degrees in the blink of an eye when altitude and bad weather combine creating unanticipated peril.  We want everyone to enjoy all the natural beauty this area of the country provides.  It is a blessing to live in and be able to help others enjoy one of most bio diverse areas of the world, waterfalls, plant & avian opportunities in profusion.  Enjoy carefully, be prepared and stay alive.

Preparations:

1. Alert someone not in your party of your expected departure time/return time and planned hiking area.
2. Dress appropriately and bring clothing to accommodate unplanned weather change. Flip flops or strappy sandles are dangerous on unstable terrain.  Good, supporting shoes a must.
3. If something is posted with cautionary signage...DO NOT IGNORE THESE SIGNS. They are there to keep you safe.  Our waterfalls are enticing.  They entice folks climbing them to their death every single year.  If an area is posted "Do not climb on these waterfalls"  DON'T CLIMB ON THE WATERFALLS. Moss is lovely and when wet, very slippery.  Enjoy these areas from the solid ground allowing you to leave uninjured.
4. If your physical activity is minimal in your normal life, do not anticipate that a walking stick and new hiking boots will change you into a mountain hiker.  Go easy, don't attempt terrain that may be in excess of your abilities to navigate.
5.  Bring portable, high protein snacks and adequate fluids for all members of your party to keep hydrated.  This is important both in summer and winter.  Exertion can promote dehydration.
6.  Do Not rely on cell phone service.  The more remote your location, the more dicey your service can be.  Batteries die if not charged in a timely manner.
7. There are animal sightings in our area.  Become informed about the best behaviors in responding to an animal sighting.  The first instinct, for the uninformed, might be to run. Outrunning a bear is unlikely.  Your thorough understanding of safe behavior will save your life. 
8.  Do not hike alone-there is safety in numbers.
9. Hand held portable GPS is useful.  Even if you feel very acute in directions-once in the forest...All trees and paths bear (no pun intended) remarkable resemblance.
10. Emergency supplies just in case: knife,compass,
matches (keep in baggie-wet matches won't light), first aid supplies,extra dry socks & flashlight.      


Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers

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