Experts offer tips, tricks for Saturday's National Trails Day
National Trails Day is Saturday, and we might just have enough of a break in the rain to enjoy some time outside.
June 5 is a day of service and advocacy for hometown trails across the nation, per the American Hiking Society.
“Millions of people have found physical, mental, and emotional restoration on trails during the pandemic,” AmericanHiking.org stated. “Let’s return the favor and care for America’s magnificent trail system and ensure everyone in the U.S. can enjoy trails and natural areas.”
There are scores of trails to choose from across the state, and Missouri Department of Conservation Media Specialist Francis Skalicky previously told the News-Leader sometimes the trails less traveled are the way to go. Most of MDC’s conservation areas have trails and some are less accessed outside of hunting season.
Places like Little Sac Woods in Greene County, Compton Hollow in Webster County and Robert E. Talbot Conservation Area in Lawrence County have trails and don’t get as much use as those at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and Greenways Trails, Skalicky said.
When choosing a trail to hike, research ahead of time to get an idea of what to expect. The MDC website is a great tool. So is AllTrails.com, which also has an app.
When you do venture into nature, it’s important to wear proper clothing, shoes and bring along water.
American Hiking Society recommends trail-goers pack essentials, like calorie-dense food to fuel yourself and an extra serving if your hike takes longer, fast-drying layers and rain gear, and even a physical map because phones aren’t always going to get reception in the backcountry. More tips are offered at AmericanHiking.org.
It’s also good to look for unwanted passengers once you return home. The state of Missouri has three common species of ticks that bite humans: lone star tick, American dog tick and deer tick. Some tick species and the bacterial pathogens they carry can also cause illnesses in people.
Adult ticks are about a quarter-inch long and grow to nearly double that when engorged with blood. Learn more about ticks from the MDC online Field Guide at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/ticks.
The American Hiking Society also offers several etiquette tips for folks on the trail, including:
• Hike quietly. Speak in low voices and turn your cell phone down, if not off. Enjoy the sounds of nature and let others do the same.
• If taking a break, move off the trail a ways to allow others to pass by unobstructed.
• Don’t toss your trash – not even biodegradable items such as banana peels. It is not good for animals to eat non-native foods and who wants to look at your old banana peel while it ever-so-slowly decomposes? If you packed it in, pack it back out.
• Hikers going downhill yield to those hiking uphill.
• When bringing a pet on a hike, be sure to keep it on a leash and under control. Don’t forget to pack out pet waste as well.
• Don’t feed the wildlife. While many animals stay hidden, others are not so shy. Giving these creatures food only disrupts their natural foraging habits.
• Walk through the mud or puddle and not around it, unless you can do so without going off the trail. Widening a trail by going around puddles, etc. is bad for trail sustainability.
• Just because it looks easy to cut the corner off of a switchback doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Help preserve the trail by staying on the trail.
• If hiking in a group, don’t take up the whole width of the trail; allow others to pass.
• Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at email@example.com.