Staying Safe on the Trail

By Nikki Honosky, WVSU Extension Associate, McDowell County

Going hiking or ATV riding this summer? Here are some ways to stay safe on the trails.

Summer is in full force and the time for outdoor activities has returned. One of the most prevalent of these activities is taking to the various trails, whether they be for hiking or ATVs. These trails see a lot of activity this time of year, and you will need to be properly prepared before venturing out. Safety is important, and there are certain rules that apply to the trails that you need to know about in order to remain safe.

We’ll start by talking about safety on hiking trails. Before setting out, make sure you know what the weather forecast is and plan for it accordingly. Make sure you’re dressed for hiking with proper clothing and shoes. It would be advisable to bring a trail map or make use of other methods such as GPS in order to know where you are. Be sure to bring supplies such as food and water depending on how long you plan to be hiking. Try not to go by yourself as a safety precaution, but if you do, be sure to tell someone where you are and a time for your return. This will help so that if something happens, someone knows where you are and can help you.

Try to stay on the designated trails and not wander off. The trails are marked for your safety and it would be easy to get lost should you wander too far from the trail. Watch where you walk and put your hands. This can help you avoid anything harmful like poison ivy or snakes. Speaking of snakes, be wary of the wildlife. Any wildlife can be dangerous if it feels threatened or feels cornered. Also everyone has their limits as to what they can do. Try not to overexert yourself to try to prove something. Take your time and just enjoy yourself.

Now to deal with trails that are ATV accessible. The safety rules I’ll be mentioning apply to the Hatfield-McCoy trail specifically, but can probably be applied to other trail systems. If you wish to use the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, you must have a valid permit. You must wear the proper safety gear like helmets. No alcoholic drinks of any kind are allowed to either be consumed or carried. It is requested that you obey all of the signs throughout and that you stay on the marked trails. Avoid trying to enter areas where signs such as “no trail” or “no entry” are posted.

Drive at reasonable speeds and make sure that those driving the ATVs meet the age requirement for driving their vehicle. If you are signaled by those that work on the trails like a ranger, stop for them. Be sure you have some form of identification on you at all times. Also if you are below the age of 18, adult supervision is required. Try not to make a mess of the trails, which include no littering. There is also no camping allowed on the trails. If you want to go on the trails, remember that they are open from sunrise to sunset, so plan accordingly.

You can easily learn more about this by doing research on the Internet or by asking those that are experienced with going on trails for advice. If you have any questions, you can contact me at the WVSU Extension Office at the Welch Armory. I am available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (304) 320-5446.

Nov. 17: Annual Take a Hike Day

By Ray Moeller, CARD Extension Agent

This Thursday, Nov. 17, marks national “Take a Hike” Day. Below are two not-so-well-known hikes that I often enjoy in southern West Virginia.

Long Point on Summersville Lake
This trail meanders through mature forest growth, leading to a rock outcropping that is 40 feet high at a sharp bend in the Gauley River, which becomes part of Summersville Lake during the summer months. The hike is between one and one-half miles and two miles one-way and there are several off trail options. There is little chance of becoming turned around as the hike traverses a point which is defined on both sides by Summersville Lake itself. To find the trail, drive on U.S. Route 19 south of Summersville and turn west onto Airport Road, which leads to the marina and Mountain Lake Campground. Drive on Airport Road past the marina road, the campground store and the airport. When you come to a gate, park along the roadway and follow the two tracks to the trail signs. The view from the point is terrific, just be aware that children will require careful oversight as there are no hand rails or fencing.

The Falls of Hills Creek
This trail is a hidden gem in the Gauley District of the Monongahela National Forest. Travel east out of Richwood on Highway 55/39 for approximately 20 miles to the marked parking area at the Falls of Hills Creek. The trail leads alongside three falls that are increasing in height. Be warned that the trail is downhill to the last of the falls with many stairs to negotiate. Thus the hiker will be required to return uphill along the same stairs and incline. The falls are particularly beautiful in times of more significant rainfall, especially in the spring of the year, when flowers brighten the landscape and the new growth allows for enhanced sight lines. The total distance is approximately three-quarters of a mile one way, of which the first 1,700 feet paved, with the remainder of the trail more strenuous.