Monday, January 1, 2007

Warnings, Safety Tips and Disclaimers

Disclaimer. As with any activity, there are potential dangers involved with traveling and hiking to the destinations I describe on Appalachian Treks. These dangers include:

--> Getting Lost. I have tried to be accurate in the descriptions and directions on this blog, however, no guarantees of accuracy are made. Be sure to bring a map and study the situation before venturing out.

--> Getting Injured. I am not responsible for injuries and accidents which occur if you visit the destinations I describe. Most of the places listed here involve difficult terrain with slippery and uneven footing. It is up to you to be prepared, to use caution, to know your own limitations and the risks inherent with any outdoor physical activity.

--> Falling and Drowning. WARNING! Every year people are seriously injured (and sometimes killed) at some of the waterfalls and other destinations listed here. If you visit them, exercise caution and common sense! Stay far away from the top of the falls (wet, mossy rocks are very slippery) and do not attempt to jump or dive into the pool at the base of the falls (besides the jagged rocks under the surface, churning waterfalls have the power to pull people under). The fact that I have photos or descriptions that depict people jumping from rocks or falls does not in any way mean that I endorse or encourage this dangerous behavior.

--> Venturing onto Private Property. Some destinations depicted here are on private property. It is your responsibility to secure permission from landowners prior to entering private land.

--> Encountering Snakes and other animals. There are only two kinds of venomous  snakes that live in these mountains: copperheads and timber rattlesnakes -- learn how to identify them. There are some things you can do to avoid an unexpected encounter with a snake:
-Use caution in rocky and creekside areas where snakes are most commonly found; do not remove stones or logs.
-Do not step or put your hand into places you can't see.
-If you come across a snake, let it be. Even bites from non-poisonous snakes contain bacteria and require medical attention.
-Click here for helpful information and advice regarding black bear encounters.

Additional Safety Tips:
- Carry water. If you're going to hike more than ½ mile – it's a good idea to bring along some water. Never drink out of streams or lakes - Water sources can be tainted with bacteria and pollutants.

- Carry proper clothing and supplies. The mountains are susceptible to unpredictable fluctuations in weather. Warm sunny days can become cold and rainy in a matter of minutes. Carry a rain poncho; you can buy the small folded-up ones for $1. Remember that even though it might be 70º F in town, it could be 55º F on the mountain. (In addition to the extra clothes, you should consider bringing a first aid kit, insect repellent, sunblock, snacks, a flashlight, a lighter and a pocketknife).

- Carry a cell phone. This may be your most important safety item. Although there may not be service in remote locations, I've found that there are often pockets where you can pick up a signal. It's best to turn your cell phone off to save the battery when you venture into the back-country (cell phone batteries quickly deplete when they are searching for a signal).

- Don't hike alone. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a sprained ankle or broken bone is a dangerous, desperate situation. If you insist on going it alone, choose shorter, safer hikes to popular destinations -- and always let others know where you are going and when to expect your return.

- Watch for Poison ivy. Poison ivy is everywhere in these mountains, so you should learn how to identify it. Wear jeans for deep woods hikes.

- Protect Vegetation. There are many species of rare plants in this area. Please be very careful not to trample or pick vegetation while exploring!

The bottom line is that you are responsible for your own safety. This requires that you be fully prepared for all contingencies, be in good physical condition, exercise appropriate caution and carefully monitor your children at all times. With all that said, I wish you many Happy Trails! Be safe!