It is hard to resist the lure of fluffy white snow against evergreen trees in the Great Smoky Mountains. The silent solitude of mountains covered in snow, frosty fresh air and exercise are great for the mind and body. Before heading out into the winter conditions be sure to remember these safety tips:
Never Hike Alone
Sometimes it can be tempting to strike out alone for a long, mind-clearing hike (Ramsey Cascades trail is 8 miles round trip) in the crisp mountain air. However, that is not a good idea. A hiking buddy can help if you fall or injure yourself. Going through thin lake ice can be deadly if there is no one to pull you out of the water. Always use the buddy system when hiking in winter conditions.
Stock Your Pack
You never know when something will go wrong so be prepared. A first-aid kit is vital for a backpack. A compass and topographical maps can help you when land markers are covered over in snow. Make sure to pack an emergency shelter and fire starter, too. Extra water, a few protein bars and a change of clothes will help if you find yourself spending the night on the trail.
Inform Your Friends
Before you start your hike, plan a path. Then, let someone you know have a copy of your planned hike. Tell them what time you should arrive. This way, if you get lost and don’t arrive at your specified time, your friend will know where to start looking for you.
Day Hikes and Daylight
If you are a beginner hiker Indian Creek Falls is great for you. Make sure to plan your trips for daylight hours. In winter, the days are shorter. You do not want to run out of light. Also, hiking in familiar areas in the daytime is safer than hiking unfamiliar paths.
Check the Weather
A sunny morning is a great way to start a hike. Just make sure before you go that it is going to be sunny all day. Check the weather conditions for upcoming changes. Storms, dropping temperatures and wind can all become deadly if you are on a trail unprepared.
It is easy to think that a jacket will be sufficient for a daytime hike. However, it is better to dress in layers. Pull off layers to prevent sweating. Add on shirts and socks, gloves and scarves as needed to keep warm. Sweating in cold weather chills the skin and can exacerbate hypothermia.
Sometimes a cold drink is the last thing that you want on a winter day. Coffee, hot cocoa or even apple cider are more appealing. However – these can dehydrate you. Water, and plenty of it, is the best option for re-hydrating your body from sweating and exertion.
Proper preparation will help to ensure that a winter hike is fun, energizing and safe.