Eagle County Sheriff: Know how to prepare for summer excursions in the Rockies | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Sheriff: Know how to prepare for summer excursions in the Rockies

James van Beek
Valley Voices

James van Beek

As we begin our days of earlier sunrises and later sunsets, with warmth that penetrates the soul, our sense of adventure is once again awakened. As we continue to push the envelope of life, there are certain realities that we must consider.

The joys of living in the Rockies. We like to think we've got it all covered because we have lived here for quite some time, but it helps to be reminded of some of the things we occasionally forget.

When enjoying the outdoors …

• Bring a fully charged cellphone. Even with no reception, a 911 text can often be received.

• Even if familiar with the trail, bring a map (in case an alternate route back is needed).

• Bring a compass in addition to your GPS.

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• Don't go alone, if possible.

• If alone, then tell someone where you are going and an estimated return time. Even a note taped to a neighbor's door is helpful. If not back within two hours of that time, then instruct them to call 911.

• Leave a copy of hiking plans in the car. If it's a regular destination, then keep a permanent copy visible.

• If lost, then do not move. You are easier to locate at the point of distress.

• Always bring water and, if possible, iodine pills or a water filter to replenish.

• Bring some snack bars to keep energy up and in case your hike is longer than expected.

• Bring a small first aid kit and Swiss army knife. An extra pair of socks and light jacket can be a welcome relief, particularly if you are still out when the sun sets. The smaller and lighter, the more likely you are to take these with you.

• Bring a tarp in case of sudden rain or as a shelter for an unexpected night stay.

• Be aware of altitude sickness. Remember that at 10,000 feet, oxygen is required and many of our local mountains are 11,000 to 14,000. Also, altitude drugs dehydrate, so if taking them, then water is essential.

• Bring sunscreen; even on cloudy days, the altitude makes you susceptible to overexposure.

• Remember that satellite phones only get reception 70 percent of the time, so they may not be reliable.

• If in an area with active wildlife, then carry bear spray.

• If biking, then bring a multitool, spare tires and small pump.

When bike riding, use an audible signal when passing others and announce on which side you are passing. The right-of-way goes to uphill hikers and bikers. Cyclists have the right-of-way over hikers, and equestrians go before all others.

When hiking, avoid muddy trails. Not only do you have greater footing on dry paths, but muddy footprints and tire tracks, when dry, leave damage that must be corrected manually.

If hiking with a dog, then keep it on a leash for its safety. You may encounter a number of wildlife. Bear, elk, deer, moose and coyote will usually attack a dog because it has ventured onto their turf, and that cute, furry thing that your dog wants to play with will be fiercely protected by momma.

Speaking of wildlife, bears are cute … don't feed them. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear. Never leave food in your car; a bear will actually open the door or break a window to reach it. Mother bears with cubs are dangerous. If you find yourself between a mother and her cubs, then slowly back away, shout in a deep voice, and try to make yourself appear large. Never turn your back on a bear.

We do have moose and mountain lions. If you find yourself near a moose, then back away slowly and step behind a tree, where they are unlikely to charge at you with a tree in the way. Also, moose view dogs as coyotes, which they consider a threat, so they will attack. If you are surprised by a mountain lion, then you must fight back; they may consider you to not be worth the trouble.

Nothing says the great outdoors better than a row of RVs. Of course, tents and huts are the locals' outdoor housing of preference. Be careful with campfires, acknowledging that there will occasionally be bans when wildfire risk is high.

Summertime is a wonderful opportunity to explore this incredible landscape we call home. Be safe.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.