Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Outside with Charlie: Essentials

From page A6 | November 13, 2013 | Leave Comment


Daylight savings time is over. Autumn continues its colorful march through the trees and forests. It is a completely wonderful time of year.

For those of us who enjoy wandering about in the forest it’s also a time of year to fully understand the changes, and to respond to those changes.

Since we are back on pacific standard time, the light in the mornings comes about an hour earlier, and the dark at the end of the day comes earlier too. Quite a nice combo actually.

For the most part, the weather has cooled down, especially when the sun begins to dip toward the horizon. When it sets, cool turns to cold pretty quickly.

Typically in autumn, we get some pretty vigorous storms, complete with big winds. Hopefully, it rains and snows.

All of this is very important stuff, especially in the great outdoors. Each year I write about all of this, and I do so for a reason. For old hands in the woods, it’s a quaint reminder. For the not so experienced, it’s simply good information to have.

In summer, when the temps are up a bit, hiking in the forest means cooling down when you are in the shade of the big trees. Wide open spaces that are directly in the sunlight can get downright hot, and the big trees do provide relief.

In autumn, the shade and sunlight routine is reversed a bit. The shady spots on the trails, especially on any north facing slope, vary from cool to downright cold. The sunny spots, while not as warm as in summer, offer some comfortable hiking now. The differences can be somewhat extreme, or at the very least, extremely noticeable.

This is where layers of clothing come in. I don’t know of any garment that adequately covers all temps. When you are planning your autumn hike, wear clothing that can be layered. A good comfortable base layer, with another, warmer layer on top, with another layer that’s even more warm, in your pack, is what is called for.

As needed, you can add or subtract a layer to stay comfortable during your hike. With the temperature varying like it does at this time of year, you will need this assortment, along with gloves and a hat and both should be either water resistant or waterproof.

All of your clothing should be wool, a wool blend, or synthetic. Cotton, great stuff that it is, is a bad choice for hiking anywhere other than on a city trail.

Rain gear of some kind should be in your pack. A good packable waterproof rain jacket, with a hood, is best. If you don’t have one of those, two large black plastic trash bags will do. You simply cut a hole big enough for your head in the bottom of the bag and put it on. It isn’t that comfortable, but it works reasonably well.

Flashlights or headlamps, with fresh batteries are important. You never can tell what’s going to happen out there. Being able to see your way back to the trailhead is a pretty good deal.

Take just as much water with you as you did in summer. A quart of water, 32 oz, weighs about 2 pounds. Rule of thumb here is to take more than you think you need. A gallon, just a little over 8 pounds, should get you through most simple day hikes. More strenuous hikes require more water.

Your food and snack requirements do change a bit. Take more food with you. Your body works pretty hard to stay warm when it’s cold. Remember to include an adequate amount of chocolate.

Pay very close attention to the weather. Bad weather on the trails, especially if you don’t know it’s coming, can ruin your day.

Since it gets darker earlier, plan your trip to coincide with available daylight. Remember that if your trail is on the north slope, you’ll lose daylight earlier. You’ll need to head back earlier if your return to the trailhead is mostly on the north side of the mountain.

This is a short list, but there’s only so much room in this column. The most important thing to take with you, besides the chocolate, is a great attitude and a boat load of common sense. Get outside, safely, throughout this wonderful time of year.

Charlie Ferris


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