Whether you’re hiking in the wide wilderness or just enjoying a creekside forest in your neighborhood, there are few forms of exercise quite as enjoyable and effective as walking in the woods. Not only will you challenge your body to unpredictable terrains and be forced to conquer unexpected roadblocks from time to time, you’ll likely have so much fun in the process that you won’t even notice your body getting tired. Much better than jogging down an endless road for hours on end, in my opinion.
That said, because nature walks are so unpredictable they can also be dangerous. Forests are constantly growing and changing, covering up paths or eroding their stability so that the next person to step on them will slip. You need to be very careful if you’re going to enjoy the outdoors as injuring yourself even 20 or 30 minutes away from civilization can still be fatal, as you may not be found for days. Here, then, are some safety tips to make your next local nature walk a little less dangerous and no less fun.
– Bring bug spray. Always. Whether it’s mosquito season or not you’re still going to get insects bothering you, and you need to keep them out of your face and off your body. Wandering into a forest during mosquito season is especially bad since they’ll swarm upon you in a maddened drove, and most people will probably panic at the cloud around them – and step somewhere they hadn’t meant to. If possible wear enough clothing that you don’t have to put on too much spray, though keep in mind that bugs can still spear you through thin fabrics.
– Bring sun tan lotion, or apply lots before you leave the house. Not as vital as bug spray thanks to lots of foliage, but you’re still going to get burned if you’re not careful.
– Watch where you’re walking at all times. Don’t rush through a forest; stroll slowly and carefully. This can be amended somewhat early in spring when plants are still growing back and dirt paths are obvious, but by summer most trails will be covered by plants that not only make progress difficult but which can hide even large holes in the ground. Be cautious of where each step is going to land and, when it doubt, test the path before going on.
– To that end, keep a good walking stick with you. Forests have dead branches lying all over the place; pick up a nice long one and fashion a pole for yourself to test the path and help keep your footing. Stability at all times is the name of the game.
– If you’re walking along a creek, keep as far away from any dirt ledges as possible. It doesn’t take much of a fall to hurt yourself, and planting your butt in water isn’t terribly fun either.
– If crossing risky territory, find solid tree branches to grab onto for support. Be sure to test them first lest they yank right out of the ground against the pull of your weight.
– Stay away from steep areas when possible. It’s quite easy to lose your footing and slide quite a distance.
– Go during the day. I can’t stress this enough. Humans aren’t built to wander through the forest at night, and though you might fear ghosts and demons in the trees I’d personally be more wary of accidentally putting my foot in a gopher hole.
– And, when possible, bring along a friend. Having somebody who can watch your back and help you out of the forest if you get injured is invaluable. Lacking that, bring a cellular phone in case of an emergency.