DX Hiker Logo Electronic Weather Stations & Accessories


About DX Hiker
Hiking Family
Index of Hikes
A Year To Remember

DX Hiker Trail Maps

DX Hiker Photography
SW Virginia Weather

Before You Go

   What To Carry
   What To Wear
   Trail Safety
   Trail Courtesy
  Plants & Animals
Recommended Sites
Custom Map Services
Email DX Hiker


Click here to join the Yahoo Group DX Hiking


Electronic Weather Stations & Accessories
Electronic Weather
Stations & Accessories


These guidelines are simply that, guidelines. It is highly recommended that you research for yourself the various risks you may encounter during your hiking activities and how to deal with them. DX Hiker is no authority, medical or otherwise. It is your responsibility to find out how to protect yourself and what steps should be taken in an emergency.


By far, the plant that has the most potential negative impact on your hiking experience is poison ivy and oak. Some people are particularly sensitive to this plant, while others are hardly bothered. There are a lot of myths about poison oak, and the best advice is just to stay away from it. Some new products are on the market, including a soap that neutralizes the effect of the poison oak oil. The trick is knowing you've made contact with the plant, then washing the oil off quickly with cool water (hot water is thought to spread the oil). If you stay on the trail while you hike, the chances of encountering poison oak drop dramatically. Most people I know have made contact with poison oak off the trails, either using the bushes as a bathroom, or bushwhacking through brush. Even if you stay out of the bushes, it may be a good idea to bring a small bar or tube of soap (Burt's Bees makes a poison ivy soap that works on poison oak) with you, and remember to wash any exposed area of skin as soon as possible after exposure. If you hike with a dog who likes to explore off the trail, keep the dog off car seats and away from your skin until you can give the dog a good wash - canine to human contact is a common source of poison oak rash.


As far as animals go, it's been repeatedly said that the most dangerous creature you're prone to encounter hiking is the tick. These tiny arachnids can carry Lyme Disease. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants makes it more difficult for ticks to latch on to you, and if your clothes are light colored it's easier to spot a tick. Typically, ticks hang out in grassland, but they can be almost anywhere. Once a tick hops on board a human it will usually head for a warm crease (armpits, behind the knee, etc.), and then bite. If you find a tick in the process of biting you, use tweezers to carefully pull the tick out. Try to get the entire tick out without squeezing so hard that the tick body crushes. Once you get the tick out, you can have the tick (and yourself) tested for disease. Contact your health professional for details of where to bring the dead tick for testing. Otherwise, check yourself for symptoms, which can start a few days after a bite. The most prominent symptom is a bulls-eye rash. If unchecked, Lyme Disease can cause chronic fatigue, joint pain, headache, and other more serious complications. For more info, visit the Center for Disease Control's website (see links, below).

There are other problem arachnids to watch out for, like black widow and brown recluse spiders. A bite from either of these can be fatal, and a doctor should be located as soon as possible. Spiders, like snakes, generally will not seek you out, but bite in self defense when disturbed. Stay away from spider hangouts like woodpiles and unoccupied buildings.

Bees can be a problem, especially the aggressive Yellow Jacket wasp. Watch out for yellow jackets nesting near trails. If you see one yellow jacket, chances are there are more nearby, and you should leave the area.

Rattlesnakes and Copperheads live throughout this area, but are most commonly spotted in dry, rocky, or exposed zones during the warmest months of the year. The standard "rules" for hiking in rattlesnake territory are:

  1. Do not put your hands (or feet) where you can't see them, i.e. the top of a rock outcrop or in a log pile.

  2. Be extra cautious in hot weather, as snakes are more active.

  3. Scan the trail continuously as you hike.

  4. Keep children from running ahead on trails. Bites to children are more severe than to adults.

  5. Avoid tall grass where you can't see your feet (or a potential snake).

Should you encounter a snake, once it is aware of you, its body language will reveal its mood. A coiled rattler is primed for a strike, while a stretched rattler is more sanguine (although snakes have been reported to "lunge"). If the snake is within striking distance, you should probably stand motionless and wait for the snake to calm down and move. Small, slow steps backward are also an option. If you're out of immediate range, you could either skirt the snake, or wait for the snake to move. Some people believe tapping the ground with a stick (from a safe distance, rather than in the snake's face) will encourage the snake to move on.

Do not injure or kill a snake. They are an essential part of our ecosystem. Also, educate yourself about rattlesnakes and copperheads. If you happen to get bitten, follow this protocol:

  1. Try to stay calm (which seems impossible, but the toxin is spread through your blood, and the faster your heart beats, the faster it is dispersed).

  2. Take a few minutes and call for help. You could call the nearest ranger station (this is another good reason to carry maps, as there are commonly phone numbers on them), or a nearby hospital. Rattlesnake serum is not always available at every hospital, and it's best to find a hospital with a confirmed supply. Rangers can assist you in getting back to the trailhead, and can arrange emergency medical transport.

  3. If you don't have a phone, or if the phone doesn't work in your location, assess the situation. If you're alone, you'll have to hike out by yourself. If you've got company, either send the other person back to the trailhead and/or emergency phone, or have the person help you walk back.

  4. Forget the old stories of cutting the bite area and sucking the venom out. There are snake bite extraction kits available at outdoor stores, but they are perhaps best suited to remote attacks, where hiking back to the trailhead is not practical. Unless you're deep in the backcountry, don't waste time trying to get the venom out; put your energy into making your way to a hospital.

  5. What to do if you are on a backpacking trip, more than one day from help and out of cell phone range? Advise varies, but people have survived by simply staying put and waiting the bite out. A healthy adult may be able to process the venom out of his/her system. Keep the bit limb lower than the heart, remove restrictive clothing and/or jewelry, and wash the bite area with soap and water. Hopefully you would have a suction extractor, which should be used within 15 minutes.

Coyotes, Bears, large Cats, and wild or feral Pigs... It's important to remember that any wild animal can react in an unpredictable or menacing way. Keep a safe distance from any wild animal and report any aggressive animal behavior to the appropriate agency. Search the Internet for more information on how to react to an encounter with these large mammals.

Site Design by internetEFX Web Services

Copyright © 2003-2008 DXHiker.com
All Rights Reserved.

Site Map