December 13, 2013
Fall is here and the cooler weather is perfect for outdoor activities. Hiking in the hills of the beautiful San Gabriel Valley is a great place to start! But, hiking, isn’t just about spraying on some bug repellant, grabbing a water bottle and hitting the trails. There are many factors to consider, especially if you are new to hiking. Keep in mind that you are sharing these majestic mountains with many species of wildlife, plants and you can meet with some challenging, steep terrain. Being properly prepare can be almost as challenging as the hike itself!
Preparing For the Hike
Mark Nelson, of Eagle Rock, has been an avid hiker for more than 20 years. Nelson emphasizes the importance of being properly prepared before heading out on your hike. “Prepare the day before so you can get an early start,” Nelson says. He suggests filling a small backpack to the rim with important supplies such as: a map, flashlight, sun block, first aid kit (which should include Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol pads, pain relief tablets, an ace bandage, blister kit, nail clippers, tweezers for splinters, and duct tape, for temporary repairs.)
Making wise clothing choices is also a must. Nelson suggests bringing an extra pair of socks and wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your neck and ears. “Comfortable pants tend to work better than shorts, protecting your legs and minimizing dirt in your shoes,” according to Nelson. “In cold weather, layering works best. Remember, you will be warm when hiking up hill.”
Keeping hydrated and snacking on energy foods are the way to go when hiking. Bring at least a liter of water, and snack foods such as nuts, power bars or a sandwich. “But, there is no need to bring a lot of food—you won’t starve on a morning hike,” Nelson states.
Avoiding Foot Injuries
Jodai Saremi, DPM earned her doctorate in podiatry medicine from Temple University and is a personal trainer in the Los Angeles area. She notes that some of the most common injuries related to hiking occur on the toes, the ball of the foot and the heel. “On the downhill portion of a climb, the toes are jammed into the toebox of the boots or sneakers. The nail beds experience blunt trauma which causes bleeding under the nails and results in painful subungual hematomas,” Saremi notes. Saremi suggest socks should be thicker in order to whisk away moisture which can contribute to nagging blisters.
Sprained ankles are another common injury for hikers. “On a long trail, it’s a good idea to take along an ace wrap and a single use cold pack, which can weigh anywhere from 3-16 ounces, for emergencies,” Saremi suggests. “If there is a cold lake or stream available that is safe to approach, and the skin is not broken, soaking the ankle in cold water may help reduce swelling.”
Saremi says to avoid wearing running shoes or sneakers as they hold little support. “Superior hiking footgear should provide a solid lug sole, some would even recommend a steel shank, and a roomy, reinforced toebox,” she says. “Also, depending on the time of year and the terrain being traversed, water-proofing may be desired, along with thinsulate lining and a gussetted tongue. For more breathability, mesh insets allow air flow.”
Good Spots to Hike for Beginners and Pros
For the first-timers, Nelson suggests O’Melveny Park in Granada Hills. “It’s an easy two-mile hike along a stream. A fire road leads East up a ridge, offering excellent views of the Valley out and back,” he says. For a more moderate hike, try Mt. Waterman, which is about 34 miles north of La Cañada off of State Route 2, prior to Buckhorn Campground. A National Forest parking pass is required. This five-mile loop takes you up around 1300′ in elevation with breathtaking views of the desert and San Gabriel wilderness creating a “true mountain experience,” according to Nelson. Hike up single-track trail and down fire road. There may be snow on this trail, Nelson cautions.
You are Not Alone
The mountains of the San Gabriel Valley are filled with friendly wildlife such as varying species of birds, insects (though pesky) and amphibians. Even some of the larger inhabitants such as bears and mountain lions will keep to themselves if not bothered. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, “Only 14 fatal attacks on humans have occurred in North America during the past 100 years.” If you encounter a bear, stay calm, and back away slowly and give the bear room to escape. Talk loud to make sure the bear is aware of your presence (bearsaver.com).
Other things to consider is never hiking alone and always dispose of food waste in garbage cans. Open food wrappers can attract unwanted wildlife and hiking with a partner makes for a safer and fun journey! Enjoy!