WELL BEING: On the Trail

26 Jun

Summer is here and it’s time to go outside and play! 

This past week, I traveled all over East Texas.  Being a big fan of the outdoors and a health enthusiast means that I’m likely blazing a trail somewhere nearby. 

In the last few days, I’ve ran beneath a summer storm building in the sky above Salmon Lake in Grapeland, I’ve splashed and played on Galveston’s beaches and I’ve walked the trail around the Caddo Indian Mounds in Alto. 

One of my favorite places to wander this week was the trails at Ratcliff Lake.  There are 3 well marked trails around Ratcliff Lake with varying degrees of challenge. 

The Tall Pines Trail is a 1½ mile hiking trail which can be accessed from the campground or the picnic area. (Blue Markers) 

The Trail Tamers Trail is a ¾ mile accessible trail which can be accessed from the picnic area. (Yellow Markers) 

The Four C National Recreation Trail is 20 miles and originates in the Ratcliff Recreation Area and goes to the Neches Bluff Overlook. (White Markers) 

You can stroll, ride your horse in the forest, walk while bird watching or run the smooth and rough terrain.  One thing’s for sure, you’ll have a wonderful time on the Texas trails this summer. 

Ratcliff Lake ~ Ratcliff, Tx by Forrest Fotographer / flickr

Here are a few reminders for trail safety from the National Forest Service. 

  • Before starting out, do warm-up exercises. Stretching gradually increases heart rate, temperature and circulation to your muscles.
  • Start out slowly, gradually increasing your pace and distance traveled.
  • Let the slowest person in your hiking, paddling, and biking party set the pace. This is especially important when children are a part of your group.
  • Take turns leading the group and sharing decision-making responsibilities.
  • Hike and bike only on marked trails in wilderness areas unless bushwhacking is allowed and you have excellent navigation skills.
  • Hike and travel in groups as much as possible.
  • Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in with them upon your return.
  • Learn basic repair skills for changing a bike tire, fixing a backpack or mending a snowshoe. Remember to take repair kits on your trail.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat.  Keep your eyes and face covered especially during your first few days outdoors.
  • Bring sunscreen no matter the season. You can get painful sunburn even in subfreezing temperatures.
  • Bring a customized first aid kit tailored to your outing.
  • Take frequent rests or vary your pace to recover from strenuous activity spurts. A steady pace will get you there with less discomfort than the sprint-and-catch-your-breath approach.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water is heavy to carry, but thirst on the trail is a hazard. Take a tip from athletes: before a hike, drink some water so you’re well hydrated and energized. Never drink your total supply between refills.
  • Pack carbohydrate-energy bars, granola, candy, or fruit. They provide an instant pick-me-up on the trail.
  • Give yourself about two hour’s daylight to set up camp.
  • Many national parks and forests and many state parks prohibit dogs. Be sure to keep pets on leashes in restricted areas, especially in cattle and sheep country. Bring water for pets and make sure they have name tags. Watch for injuries to your dog’s foot pads in rocky areas, on ice or in extremely hot terrain.

Send questions and comments to lynnvannoy@gmail.com or visit http://www.lynnvannoy.com

The information in this column is not intended as medical advice. Its intention is solely informational and educational.

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