At this time of year, enthusiasm runs high for many forms of recreational activity out in the fresh spring air, close by and farther away. Even those who maintain some form of physical activity through out the winter season look forward to the time when ice, snow and clothing-donning weather are gone and not just around the corner. The winter-free spring and summer are enhanced by pleasant sound effects, such as bird calls, insect sounds and babbling brooks, and a change in scenery, of grays and browns to verdant green dappled with splashes of color in gardens and along woodland trails.
Making outings enjoyable, effective and safe may seem an easy thing to do for many, including experienced recreationists, and even for the inexperienced ones. However, in whatever category we put ourselves, we are vulnerable to forget or not take certain factors into account because we are unfamiliar with some aspect of the activity. A couple of times in past years, I have forgotten or neglected to take insect repellant because it didn’t occur to me that just because there were no mosquitoes here didn’t mean that those bothersome insects weren’t out there and looking for a host. I must say the expeditions turned out to be quite a “chore”, to say the least. Some conditions that make life easy for mosquitoes are warmth and humidity, and no wind or rain. The best rule is to take the dope even though you don’t think you need it.
Weather in these Kootenay mountains, like any other mountain systems, can be quite variable, changing considerably in a few hours or being quite different from where we start the outing. Checking the forecast for the area in which one is hiking, or whatever, is an essential; however, forecasts have limitations. In the valley it may be shirt-sleeve and shorts weather, hot and calm, so not thinking, one goes roaring up to the top of Mount Thompson only to find it uncomfortably cool and windy. In five minutes of being out in the fresh mountain air, it’s time to get in the vehicle and head back down. So when heading up, go prepared for cooler temperatures and perhaps, sometimes, for even a bit of a shower. Being unprepared may mean missing out on an enjoyable hike or lunch or both.
I have noticed that often when it is a bit cloudy locally, the weather can be much more cloudier and even rain higher up and farther north, like around Sphinx Mountain or in the Jumbo, Kokanee Glacier and Monica Meadows areas. One soaking can terminate a hike, camping trip or overnighter quite quickly. If that happens in the morning, one may dry out during the remainder of the day, especially if the sun comes out. But if it happens late in the day of an overnighter and there isn’t time to hike out, those that didn’t have raingear probably wouldn’t be described as happy campers. It makes no sense to spoil a hiking or outdoor experience by going unprepared, from head to toe! Some may think it funny, but there have been instances where a hiker only survived hypothermia because they were gently forced to spend the night with someone else in their sleeping bag. It isn’t hard to dampen the hope of another outing.
There is a balance that experienced hikers and, for that matter, even walkers try to reach between taking enough supplies for the outing and keeping the pack as light as possible. Where that balance is depends on the individual’s needs and or wants. It’s a good idea to take a little extra food on an outing but some who eat a lot take a lot of food; sometimes they end up packing it out, I hope. Some people eat light. Besides adequate clothing and food, other stuff is taken to meet the demands of the outing.
Some pack equipment, such as binoculars, camera and journal for preserving memories of the trip and also bear spray, stowed in the pack isn’t going to be much use. By the time you get whatever it is out, the big mule deer buck, a memory of the beauty or the rest of the group has high-tailed it out of there, except for the bear! Just kidding! Also, remember there isn’t a bear behind every tree!
Then there may be matches, knife, sleeping bag and pad, tent, mosquito coils or the like, a lightweight stove, dried food and so on, depending on what is needed. Some may eliminate the stove and just eat dried food. Others take a tent just to provide protection from the only mountain predator — mosquitoes. Some trails have plenty of streams for replenishing the water containers, but some mountain slopes are dry, so fill the containers and the body.
There are other things to consider in regard to making an outing enjoyable and safe. What is needed depends on when and where you go. I suggest researching the topic to pick up on what I haven’t covered.
Ed McMackin is a biologist by profession but a naturalist and hiker by nature. He can be reached at 250-866-5747.