Take a Walk & Walk Safely!
Taking a walk is a wonderful way to explore Rhode Island’s rich natural, scenic and historic heritage. Planning ahead and safety are an important part of the journey. Before hitting the trail, be sure to review the trail description and trail map for the trail you plan to walk.
Preparing for Your Walk:
- Choose a trail that is suitable for you, your family’s or your group’s physical abilities, current health, and hiking experience. If you are new to hiking, consider joining an organized hike or guided walk to gain experience.
- Consider likely trail conditions. Locations perfect for summer hiking may be too wet and muddy after spring rains or too icy for safe walking in winter. It’s best to avoid some trails at high tide or in high wind conditions. Some trails without shade might be too hot during mid–day in the summer sun.
- Do not expect amenities such as bathrooms and drinking water unless you know they are there.
- Wear appropriate clothing:
- Wear shoes that are sturdy and appropriate for trail conditions. Comfort and foot protection are both important. Hiking boots, running or athletic shoes or other sturdy shoes with a closed heel and toe are best for most hikes.
- Wear layers that can be removed or added as you warm up and cool down during the hike or in response to changing weather. Synthetic clothing such as nylon pants and polypropylene shirts are better in wet or cool weather. Wool is another good choice. Cotton tee shirts and jeans will absorb moisture and cool you down quickly — a good thing in the summer but dangerous at other times.
- Will you need?
- hats and sunglasses for hot, sunny conditions
- hats and gloves for cold weather
- rain gear
- required daylight fluorescent orange vests and hat for safety during hunting season
- Take a copy of the trail map. It can get you home if you know how to read a map. Trail maps provide an overview of your hiking area and a basis for making informed on–trail decisions. Do not totally rely on a cell phone for this purpose. Many hiking areas do not have good cellular service and you need to have an alternative for finding your way if your cell phone fails for any reason.
- Learn how to use a compass and take one with you.
- Pack water and extra food that will remain safe without refrigeration. High calorie foods such as granola bars, candy, nuts and dried fruits supply energy. Drinking plenty of water is essential to help prevent dehydration.
- Take first aid and safety supplies including:
- insect repellant
- watch — keep an eye on your watch and allow enough hiking time to return to the trailhead well before the sun goes down.
- first aid kit — bring the basics such as bandages, pain relievers, antiseptic ointment.
- whistle — a far–reaching, energy efficient signal for help. The uniform distress signal is three audible or visible signs.
- flashlight — even on a day hike, an injury or miscalculation may keep you on the trail after nightfall.
- medications such as asthma inhalers or insulin.
- waterproof matches/fire starter — the warmth of a fire could save your life.
- cell phone and GPS units — see the safety note below
- Let someone know your plans, the trail you plan to hike and the time you expect to return.
- Review the hunting seasons calendar and permitted hunting locations where you hike. Wear a solid (not camouflage) daylight fluorescent orange hat and vest for safety when hiking during hunting season.
- If pets are permitted and will be part of your group, plan for their specific needs such as leashes, water, portable bowl, bags for waste, and orange safety gear.
A note on cell phones and GPS units. Cell phones may be helpful in some cases to summon assistance. Keep in mind that cell phone coverage is not universal and you could be hiking in an area without coverage or have a dead battery. In addition a 911 call from a cell phone does not supply the dispatcher with your location. That is information you must provide. GPS units can be useful in giving location coordinates, but you will still need to provide a reference related to a map landmark e.g., nearest state highway. It is your responsibility to know which town you are in and your approximate location.
Trip Day — Before You Hit the Trails:
- Be sure the day’s conditions are suitable. Assess the current and anticipated weather, daylight and available time for your outing. Don’t hesitate to cancel or postpone the trip when conditions aren’t right.
- Apply insect repellant. It is now recommended year–round to avoid ticks that carry disease and during non–freezing weather to repel mosquitoes that are also potential disease carriers.
- Plan to stay together and plan what to do in case of an accidental separation. The main reason people become lost is because the group is allowed to separate. Adopt the pace of the slowest person. Children can carry whistles with the instruction to ‘stop and blow’ if they become separated from the group.
For your safety and to protect the properties where you are hiking, please follow standard trial etiquette and “Leave No Trace” principles.
- Stay on the trail; do not wander off the footpath. Trails may go near property boundaries. Please stay on the trails and do not trespass. Respect the property rights and privacy of neighboring landowners.
- Pick up litter you find on the trail and ‘Carry In — Carry Out’ — everything you bring. Bag and carry out your pet’s waste.
- Take breaks whenever needed to rest, adjust clothing layers, drink water and apply sunscreen. Make sure any pets also have water breaks.
- If conditions change, be prepared to cut short your trip.
- Be sure to allow enough time to return safely before nightfall. The sun sets earlier in valleys and it gets dark in valleys and in forests sooner than on hilltops, ridges and in open fields.
- Leave all gates and barways as you found them.
- Keep your dog on leash and under control at all times.
- Do not pick plants and leave soils and rocks undisturbed.
- Take time to enjoy the views and special features along the trail: wildflowers in bloom, fall leaves, birds, and interesting rock formations.
- Take photos.
- Respect peace and quiet on the trails.
- Be friendly with those you meet on the trail.
- Trail use by vehicles — motorized or mountain bikes — and horses is prohibited on most trails unless posted on the trail information.
- If you encounter hazardous conditions such as fallen trees, report them to the land owner. If you encounter illegal activities report them to the local police once you are in a safe place to do so.
- Special emergencies — if you have to relieve yourself while on your hike, please remember to get safely off trail, pack out any tissue you used, and bury any human waste in a six inch deep hole. Tissues left near the trails are not only unsightly but a danger to animals who may try to consume them.
Post Trip — After Your Walk
- Check in promptly with the person keeping your trip plan.
- Check every person and pet for ticks at the parking area and again when you return home. It is a great idea to shower up and wash all clothing; brush down all pets outside.
- If anyone has encountered poison ivy, prompt washing of any exposed skin with a soap effective in removing oils, using cool water, can be the critical step in avoiding a rash. Various over-the-counter topical medications available at most pharmacies can also be effective at removing the oils that cause a poison ivy rash and in treating the rash if one develops. Exposed clothing should also be washed in soapy warm or hot water to remove the oils. Oils can be transferred from any item such as clothing, shoes or pets to skin long after your hike.