Considering all of the hazards in today’s world, trails may be the safest place to be. There are, however, some natural hazards to be aware of. You and you alone are responsible for your own safety. Use reasonable caution and common sense whenever you venture into the outdoors. Some suggestions to make your visit to West Virginia’s trails safer for you and your friends are:
- Don’t go it alone. Taking someone else along is not only a safety precaution it makes the experience even better.
- Dress appropriately. It is not uncommon for people along the Greenbrier River Rail Trail in Marlinton to be wearing tee shirts on a sunny spring afternoon, while people a few miles away along the Highland Scenic Highway are trudging through knee deep snow drifts. You should always wear a broad brimmed hat or cap. Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment for your activity. All bicyclists under 16 must wear a helmet, those 16 and older should.
- Keep away from wildlife. Even a cute squirrel can hurt you if it thinks it is cornered.
- Know poison ivy and poison oak, and keep away from them.
- Let someone know where you are and when you are coming back. Nobody will look for you if no one knows you are missing. Be sure to let them know you are back, too.
- Know where you are. Carry a compass and a map of the area and know how to use them.
- Carry the ten essentials. You can go on- line and find several different lists of what people think you should carry all the time in the woods. Here is our list in no particular order:
- Water (and possibly some way to treat additional water),
- Knife or Multi-tool,
- Fire Starter (matches or lighter and birthday candles),
- Cheap plastic poncho,
- Pocket sized first aid kit,
- Finally, leave your ego at home. Everyone has their limitations. There is no shame in pushing a bicycle to the top of a grade, taking an extra rest, or detouring around a dangerous looking water crossing. The outdoors is no place to try a maneuver just to see if you can do it. As we said above: You and you alone are responsible for your own safety.