Spring Hiking Tips
As most of us living in Wisconsin know, the spring season can be finicky. One day it’s 50 degrees and you’re ready to break out the shorts for the year and then the next day it’s back down to 20 degrees and you’re shoveling 6 inches of snow. These swings in the weather are pretty much normal for Wisconsin and we learn to live with them. However, they can make getting out for a nice hike a bit tricky. I want to offer you a few tips to think about before you head out the door for that spring hike.
Trails can be a mess when it comes to spring hiking. Unless you know you’re going to be hiking on a paved or gravel-based trail. Wearing the right footwear can make or break your hike. If the weather is a bit colder you may want to wear an extra layer of socks inside a winter style boot. If the weather is warmer, the trails may be muddy and you’ll want something that’s waterproof. Or if you’re hiking in wooded areas, you still may need a pair of snowshoes to enjoy your hike. I suggest if it’s possible, call ahead and find out what the trail conditions are and what they recommend. I always have a pair of lightweight winter boot with me if I can hike in my pair of water proof hiking books. Either way, you may want to bring an extra pair for the ride home. You don’t necessarily want to drag mud into your car.
· What to Wear
Sticking with clothing. Figuring out what to wear can be tricky. A warm spring afternoon can change to cold and breezy pretty quickly. Or if you’re more of a morning hiker, a cooler more can warm up before the lunch hour and you may be stuck with too much on. Either way, layers are the key here. Much like winter hiking, you want the ability to add or remove layers as your hike progresses. You don’t want a lot of buld either. There’s no need to wear clothing that’s rated for 20 below zero. I typically find I can where a long sleeve undershirt with a hooded sweatshirt and a vest and stay comfortable during the spring. If I need to remove the vest and add a light jacket I can or I can just remove the vest. One thing to remember is that you’ll be moving so you won’t get as cold. For you’re lower half, you may want to go the route of wind pants and some long underwear, or just a pair of good blue jeans.
· Be Prepared to Change or Shorten Your Route
Winter can have a huge impact on our trail systems. Heavy snow and ice can bring down trees and limbs and block trails. Be ready to have an alternate plan if your first choice of trail becomes blocked. Also be aware that when things warm up and snow melts, we tend to have flooding in our lower areas. This may cause trails to close completely. If you do come across a flooded trail, please turn around and go back, don’t try to cross to the other side. Those flood waters are strong and stead and you could easily be swept away in some very cold water. Be safe and call ahead if you’re unsure of current trail conditions.
· Wear Sunscreen
You’ve been covered up all winter, going weeks sometimes without seeing the sun. Spring has arrived and you finally get out for the first 50- or 60-degree hike of the year. You’ve got your short sleeve shirt on and you're ready to feel the warmth of the sun on your face and arms. It’s a great feeling, one all of us Wisconsinites can relate too. We even brag about getting that base tan layer started. It’s all good until we get home later than day and realize we’ve sunburnt our arms and face. Don’t let the first warm days leave you in pain. Be sensible and use sunscreen right from the start of t-shirt season. A quick tip, make sure you check the expiration date on your sunscreen. As it gets older, it loses it protective effects. As the days get warmer, you may want to pick up a new bottle of sunscreen to start your season.
· Tick Season Starts Early
I’ll be honest, I hate ticks. They’re the one thing I worry about the most when I head outdoors with my family. Spring is typically a bad time when it comes to finding ticks. Once the snow is off the ground, they are ready and waiting to emerge from the depths of hibernation and start there crawl up your leg looking for the perfect spot to begin feeding. It’s so critical to make sure you check for ticks after your hiking adventure. Getting sick from a tick bite is no fun and will ruin your hiking year pretty quickly. So be cautious, wear light colored clothing and long sleeves and pants. Get a good tick replant and put it on before you head out. But most of all, check yourself and others you’re with for ticks.
· Enjoy Spring
My last tip is the most important. Enjoy spring! Winter can be long and there is nothing better than feeling the warm sun on my face and listening the birds as they return from their southern homes. Look for various flowers to start showing themselves. Enjoy the transformation from winter to spring to summers. It goes by pretty quickly and there is so much to enjoy as you head out to be one of Wisconsin’s Outdoor Explorers.