Safe ways to enjoy trails during Autumn
– By (Sgt Ret'd) Doug Setter
Autumn has always been my favourite time of year for the outdoors. These are the times that I love hiking the trails near Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby Lake, North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley or the B.C.M.C. up Grouse Mountain. There are fewer insects, fire hazards and people to disturb the quiet and vast open spaces. It also tends to be cooler and more prone to rain.
But you can still enjoy the outdoors with some preparation. Remember, you are on your own and not in a mall, city street or neighbourhood gym. Choose trails based on your fitness level and read any park or trail information before you depart.
Hiking is a great activity to enjoy with grandchildren and adult children. But even if you are all super fit, you should consider the following:
Bring water with you, especially in the cooler weather. Something that the army taught me about colder environments, is that the cold will shut down your thirst mechanism. So, you can be very thirsty and not even know it.
All of that fresh air can really ramp up your hunger! I usually bring a protein bar, muffin, fruit, beef jerky or trail mix when I go for a hike, in case I do get hungry. Once, while hiking up the infamous Grouse Grind, I came across a guy whom his friend claimed was going into hypoglycemic shock. I left him a muffin and ran ahead to send for help. A snack is always handy.
HEAT, COLD & RAIN
I have seen several physically fit people fall prey to hypothermia. This is often from overheating, sweating and then cooling off too quickly. This is why I usually pack an extra t-shirt when hiking up the Grouse Grind. When I reach the top, I usually change into a dry shirt to keep my skin dry and warm. Wet clothing can drain your body of heat and energy. Clothing insulates against the cold when it is clean, loose, layered and dry.
Tight and/or ragged jeans, street shoes and trade name clothing might be all the fashion rage, but they can fail to protect you from the environment and probably get destroyed in the process. Clothing should be loose-fitting or the type that removes moisture from the skin (like polypropylene).
It seems that every year, tourists go missing in even the simplest trails near Vancouver, Canada. The tourists usually hike in street clothes (I am not kidding here) and wander off the trails. Even if you do not pack a compass or Global Positioning System (GPS) you should always have an idea where you are going, how to get back and roughly how long it should take you. I usually tell someone where I am going and when I am returning.
Recognizing the four cardinal points: North, South, East and West has been used for centuries and never goes out of style. Learn how to recognize them from a map, a compass, the sun and even stars. If you bring your grandkids, it’s a great chance to teach this skill. (Or contact me and I can send you a YouTube link.)
About the author
Doug Setter holds an Education Certificate (University of British Columbia) and Bachelor of Human Ecology (Food and Nutrition) from the University of Manitoba. He’s a certified trainer, kick-boxing welterweight title-holder and the author of seven books on fitness. Doug served in the Canadian Armed Forces as an infantry soldier and paratrooper as well as with the U.N. Peacekeeper forces. He’s climbed Mount Rainier and completed five full marathons. He’s the author of the book “Fit Femme After 50” a portable guidebook to fitness with illustrations that demonstrate postures and poses to ensure accuracy of training. Each chapter of the book concludes with the real story of a woman’s exercise or family-life struggle and how they were helped by Doug’s program. Doug lives in Vancouver, BC.