Last weekend, we took a small step toward the start of summer, unofficially anyway.
There was no shortage of fun — pools opened, backyard barbecues were cooking and kayaks were on the water.
One top pursuit on the list of many in our region is hiking — especially in one of many nearby parks, forests and preserves. With this almost limitless resource in our own backyard, why not? Both easy loops and more physical journeys are all around us.
But a word of caution to those who cannot get enough of the great outdoors: Be prepared and hike responsibly.
Being prepared might sound like common sense, but it never fails that we see hikers along the trail wearing flip-flops and not a water bottle among them.
Recently, a hiker in Hawaii was found alive after being lost in the wilderness for more than two weeks.
Her story reflects that of many unprepared hikers who get disoriented, take a wrong turn and just keep going while breaking every hiking rule.
Including not being dressed properly, leaving her cell phone and water bottle in her car, no map, no compass, no whistle, no nothing.
Nor did she inform anyone of her plans. Then once she became lost, she didn’t stay put in a place where she might be seen from above. We’re not sure her story would have ended so well in the Mountain State’s upper elevations and densely forested terrain.
Being prepared so as not to get lost or surviving if you do or get injured is relatively easy and cheap. There are numerous resources online for gear advice.
Essentials we would impress on everyone are proper footwear, water, rain gear, trail food, a whistle, a flashlight and insect repellent.
As for hiking responsibly, while we never want to discourage residents or visitors from taking in what Wild and Wonderful has to offer, they should do so with respect for it.
That means no littering, no bushwhacking, no plant snatching, using only approved campsites and shelters and adhering to other no trace skills.
The state parks web site (wvstateparks.com/things-to-do/hiking-trails/) well describes the trails in our parks: “No matter what kind of hiker you are, you’ll find a trail to love at any of the West Virginia State Parks.”
But it should go a bit further as should every hiker and note that adventures don’t come without a risk.
Better yet, it should list 10 or so, at a minimum, essential pieces of gear every hiker should carry.
Before you take a giant leap of faith in the outdoors be prepared when its gets a little rough around the edges.