Sunday, July 1, 2012

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 Rocky Mountain 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 often slippery, unstable or 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.

--> Being Struck by Lightning. Lightning in the mountains can occur quickly. Best to hike in the mornings before afternoon storms roll in. Always check the weather before venturing out and keep a close eye on conditions. If you hear thunder, turn around and descend.

--> Falling and Drowning. Every year people are seriously injured (and sometimes killed) at some of the destinations listed here. If you visit, exercise caution and common sense! Stay far away from the edge of cliffs and the top of the falls (wet 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).

--> Getting Altitude Sickness. Give yourself several days to acclimate to higher elevations before hiking above 10,000 feet if coming from lower elevations. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and if you have altitude sickness (nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath) descend to a lower elevation immediately.

--> Severe Sunburn and dehydration. The sun's rays are even more powerful at higher elevations, so wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen and always take plenty of water with you.

--> 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: western rattlesnake and the massasauga -- 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 important advice regarding black bear encounters.
-Click here to learn about avoiding mountain lions.
-Click here for information about the increasing moose population in Colorado.

Additional Safety Tips:

"10 essentials" when traveling in the mountains: navigation, illumination, insulation, hydration, nutrition, first aid, tools for repair, a fire-starter, shelter and sun protection.

- Carry water. If you're going to hike more than ½ mile – it's important to bring along sufficient 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 at a dollar store. Remember that even though it might be 80º F in town, it could be 50º 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 on the side of a mountain 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, while not prevalent, does grow in Colorado, so you should learn how to identify it.

- 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!