That first warm and sunny day of the spring practically begs us to run outside and hit the trail again. As everything turns green and wildflowers shout their colors, spring can be one of the most exciting times to explore our National Forests.
Regardless if this is your 50th or 5th spring hitting the trails or finding the perfect early season camp spot, it’s always a good idea to review safety.
Spring weather is fickle. The day may start out clear and sunny and before you know it, snow is falling. Be sure to pack extra layers of clothing, including socks. Is there anything worse than cold, wet feet?
Heading up into the mountains? You’ll most likely encounter snow. And where there is snow in the mountains, avalanches are always a risk. Check your local avalanche forecast before heading out.
In a word, spring hiking is wet. Rivers may be low in the morning, but can be high by afternoon and roads are muddy. Snow is melting and rain is often falling. Be wary of wet surfaces, stream crossings and muddy roads. Be especially wary of rising waters and flash floods. Warm spring days and spring storms can cause very sudden rises in water levels. Pitch your tent well above the highwater mark even if it means a longer walk to the stream, or a slightly less impressive view. If you’re in a campground with designated sites, be sure to think through grabbing that sweet riverfront site. Just because they’re designated, doesn’t mean they’re safe for spring time camping.
Speaking of wet, remember the old adage, “cotton kills.” While it’s great to have a cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt to slip on after the hike, wet cotton clothes rob the body of heat and take a long time to dry out. Be sure to wear synthetic clothes appropriate for the sport and conditions you’re experiencing.
If you’re a paddler, don’t forget that if the air temperature and water temperature aren’t more than 100 when added together, hypothermia is a real concern if you get wet. Probably best to wait for a sunny day, or at the least, be sure to bring some dry clothes and fire starter in your dry bag should you go for a swim.
Joints, muscles, and lungs may have also been hibernating over the winter along with the bears. Don’t start out on a 20 miles trail run if you haven’t been running in months. Be sure to warm up slowly and stretch when you’re done. This goes for peak-bagging, paddling, biking, or any other sport. Work up to longer outings so you don’t injure yourself and miss the rest of the summer.
Check out your gear. Remember that last camp out of the season? The one where the fuel nearly ran out, it rained the morning you broke camp, and you discovered a hole in your sleeping pad. Well, if you’re like most of us, the fuel canister is likely still empty, the tent likely reeks of mildew, and the pad is still punctured. Spend an evening examining, cleaning, and fixing your gear before you head into the wild with a broken tent pole or busted stove. If you’re bringing kids or a newbie, this is especially important.
Speaking of kids and newbies, start easy early in the season. Maybe the three night backpack you’ve been dreaming of all winter isn’t the best early season trip for your new sweetie. Start with something easier and adopt a positive attitude. Remember, you want this person to like camping, hiking, paddling, trail running, or whatever.
Share your experiences and expertise! If you see someone who looks in over their head, who is obviously exhausted, or who is setting up camp in an obvious flood zone when thunderstorms are in the forecast, politely suggest they take a rest, share some of your water, or find a safer place to camp. You don’t have to be a know it all to help someone out.
Have you had a memorable outdoor spring experience? Let us know about it on Facebook or in the comments below.
At first glance, our nation’s National Parks and National Forests may appear to be just about the same thing, with both as public lands. Under closer comparison though, each has their own unique history and priorities.
1891 - Forest Reserve Act, allowed the President to establish forest reserves. Shoshone National Forest set aside, originally part of the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve.
1905 - Transfer of forests from Department of Interior to Department of Agriculture. U.S. Forest Service created.National Parks
1872 - Yellowstone National Park established as first National Park.
1916 - National Park Service created.
National Forests - The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
As said by Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, National Forest land is managed, “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”
|Torres Del Paine, Chile|
Hi, my name is Emily and I could not be more excited to be starting off the New Year as the new Administrative Assistant at the National Forest Foundation.
I was born in Maryland, raised in Michigan, and came into my own in Montana. (It appears I have a thing for “M” states.) I have always loved the woods; that was instilled in me from a young kid growing up in northern Michigan camping and playing with my family. But my love for the mountains was an outcome of spending almost every summer growing up, at camp in Colorado learning every possible way to play outside. Sanborn Camp was a very molding experience for me and the first chance I got, I moved away from Michigan, back to the mountains and started going to school in Missoula at the University of Montana.
I did a summer semester abroad participating in a NOLS course in Scandinavia where I spent my summer sea kayaking, backpacking and further solidifying my addiction to travel and being abroad. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Marketing and Event Management, I moved to Seattle dazzled by the charm of a big city near the mountains. It almost seemed too good to be true… And it was… After only a year and a half my boyfriend and I packed up everything again, and moved back to a place we both love, Missoula.
I spent the last few years working at REI and a local brewery. I was starting to feel like I wanted a change but before I could settle down; I wanted to go back abroad with my fiancé Tim. We decided to take two and a half months and explore the bottom of the world in Patagonia. It was incredible and would have stayed down there forever if we could. The snow and our dog Russ eventually lured us back to Missoula, and after a while, I realized I really did want to settle down and find a meaningful career with a fun, inspiring organization.
In my free time I love to cook, read, ski, hike, bike, camp, really any way to get out play
outside in our beautiful Montana Mountains. If I had to choose a favorite activity, it
would be skiing without a doubt. I spend time almost every day in our nearby Lolo National Forest
and was thrilled to land a job with the NFF. I think it is amazing the hard work everyone does
here to support our National Forest system and could not feel luckier to be a part of this
- Fun forest fact in your Facebook newsfeed
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- Fun and latest National Forest news tweeted throughout the day
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A bi-monthly newsletter that has it all - NFF happenings, Forest Service news, Environmental info and fun links about the outdoors!