By Mary O’KEEFE
Californians love spending time outside, not just surfing and sitting on the beach but also hiking the hundreds of miles of trails throughout the state’s wilderness parks.
The Angeles National Forest, in Crescenta Valley’s backyard, offers trails that can lead to some of the most beautiful landscape in Southern California. Those trails, some easy, some challenging, offer a great escape but should be respected as well.
In preparation for hiking, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has developed a hiking plan that can be filled out by those planning to hit the trails.
The plan was adapted from a Ventura County model with input from search and rescue teams including Montrose Search and Rescue. It is an easy way to let family and friends now where a person/people will be hiking, when they are expected to return and how well they are prepared with food, water and equipment.
“We use clues that people leave behind unknowingly,” said Mike Leum, MSR member, on how the teams begin looking for a lost hiker.
Many times all searchers have to go on is a vehicle left behind or a family member that was told the hiker would be in the Angeles National Forest – nothing more precise.
In some areas there are several trails heads departing from one location. By filling out a hiking trail plan, the path of the hiker is documented and can lessen the time of the search if one is needed.
In addition to the plan, there are other hiking tips that, if followed, can help a day trip or longer hiking/camping trip end safely.
“First, do not go alone,” said John Camphouse, captain of Montrose Search and Rescue.
Both Camphouse and Leum advise to bring the 10 essentials for hiking:
Bring a map, compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra clothing, a headlamp or flashlight, first-aid supplies a fire starter, matches, a knife and extra food.
“And [number] 11 is a cellphone,” Leum added.
Although cell service is spotty in the Angeles National Forest, as in other wilderness parks, there is a possibility that the service does work in some areas.
“Remember to turn the phone off while hiking,” Camphouse said.
While on, the cellphone is constantly looking for a signal and draining the battery.
If a hiker finds themselves lost or injured, it is advised to stay in one spot.
“Too many times [those we are looking for] will go deeper into the forest instead of staying in one spot,” Leum said. “We tell kids to hug a tree. Adults need to do the same.”
Leum and Camphouse both agree the number one thing is to not hike alone.
“When we go out in the field our hiking team consists of three people, so if one person gets hurt, one can stay and the other can hike out for help,” Leum said.
To find a copy of the LASD Hiking Plan, go to www.cvweekly.com/Hiking Plan.