RANCHO SANTA FE — Summer is officially here and as the weather warms up, more people are heading outdoors for exercise and recreation.When talking about outdoor activities in San Diego, the beach is often the first thing that comes to mind, but the county is also home to hundreds of miles of hiking and bike trails, 15 of which are located within the boundaries of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District.While hiking and biking are fairly safe activities that can be enjoyed by individuals or entire families, accidents can happen. Every year individuals find themselves needing assistance, even rescue, on the trails due to medical conditions, getting lost, or just plain accidents. Whether spending time on trials in the backcountry or within the city limits, taking the time plan your excursion and following some basic tips can minimize your chances of experiencing a problem and maximize your enjoyment of the outdoors. Research the trails ahead of time.
Select a trail that is an appropriate level of difficulty for the most inexperienced member of the group and find out approximate trail times. If the trail is a back-and-forth hike rather than a loop hike make sure you know the round-trip time. One of the most common reasons hikers get lost is they underestimate the how long the hike will take and lose their way in the dark.
Know your limitations. Be honest with yourself as to what you are and are not capable of both physically and mentally and plan accordingly. Always tell someone where you are going. You can also leave a note on your car windshield with the same information, which will aid rangers should you not return to your car.
Hike with someone or a group. Having someone with you means one can go for help if the other is injured or becomes ill.
Take a well-charged cell phone with you. Cell phones do receive a signal in many of our parks and can be a lifeline in case of an emergency. Emergency dispatchers are in direct contact with many of the parks throughout the county, facilitating the park’s ability to send for help in a more immediate manner. It should be noted, however, that cell phones do not always work on the trails, especially those that are more remote, and a back-up plan is advised. Whistles are a great alternative to technological devices and a simple tool for attracting attention to oneself with limit effort.
Plan for the weather. A cool day in the city may be warmer out on the trails while a warm summer evening at home might be chilly in the backcountry. Sunscreen should also be worn, even on cool or cloudy days.
Bring enough water. Two quarts per person for every two hours will you be hiking is recommended.
Make a check list of items to take with you. Consider a jacket, a wide-brimmed hat, a first aid kit, matches, signal mirror, emergency thermal blanket, repair kit (if biking), means for cleaning up after your dog.
Stay on the marked trails. In addition to harming the natural vegetation, taking “short cuts” does not always lead you to where you want to be and you can find yourself confused, lost on a completely different trail, or worse.
If you are hiking with your dog, additional care should be taken. Bring extra water for them.
It is important to recognize that once you are lost, you are lost. Reassess your situation and start focusing on making it easier for someone to find you rather than
finding your own way out. Help may already be on the way. Take note of visible landmarks, such as water towers, power lines, or rock formations. If you have cell service and call for help, your description of said landmarks can help rescuers locate you.
By properly planning ahead and taking these simple precautions, you will help ensure a safe excursion while making it easier for help to find you should the need arise.