In these strange times since coronavirus, COVID-19 and derecho have become common terms in Eastern Iowa, one thing has remained the same.
We can still get outdoors for walks, runs, bike rides, whatever we want — as long as we keep our eyes out for the debris left by the aforementioned derecho.
It appears, more and more people are getting outdoors, taking breaks from home seclusion as well as day trips to state parks instead of weeklong vacations.
But with more people hitting our parks and trails, it’s important to do it right — to be respectful of the space and the others who are using it.
With that in mind, here are some tips when sharing that trail with others or taking a hike in your favorite park.
The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation notes that trail uses increases in “nice weather.” Fall is officially here and while it may not consistently provide summer-like warmth, it is a favorite time of year for many outdoor enthusiasts.
“To ensure the safety of all trail users, INHF would like to remind you of some general rules and etiquette tips to follow on Iowa’s 1,800 miles of trails:
Be courteous — Acknowledge others on the trail. The trail is a shared resource for all to enjoy. Slow down when passing others. Alert them to your passing by ringing a bell, saying “passing” or “on your left” when passing. Do not wander off onto private property. Stay on the trail.
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Be alert — Be ready to yield to other trail users. If you are on “wheels” (bicycle, skates) you must yield to those on “heels” (pedestrians, horses). Pedestrians must yield to horses (if allowed on that particular trail). Ride or walk to the right and pass on the left. Be aware of location of other trail users. If you’re listening to music or on a phone call, make sure you can still hear other trail users approaching.
Be safe — In case you are injured, know your location, bring a cellphone, travel with a buddy and inform someone you are heading out on a trail.
Be prepared — It is a good idea to look at a map, check the day’s weather and know the trail hours of operation and usage rules. Bring water, sunscreen and other weather-appropriate gear. Equip yourself or your bike with the proper accessories if going on the trail at night.
Maybe heading out on a multiuse trail isn’t adventurous enough. Hiking can provide a little more challenge, but also has rules to follow. There are from the American Hiking Society:
These “unwritten rules” from the American Hiking Society “can help make your hike and the hike for others more pleasant.”
— Hike quietly. Speak in low voices and turn your cellphone down, if not off. Enjoy the sounds of nature and let others do the same.
— If taking a break, move off the trail a ways to allow others to pass by unobstructed.
— Don’t toss your trash, not even biodegradable items such as banana peels. It is not good for animals to eat non-native foods and who wants to look at your old banana peel while it ever-so-slowly decomposes? If you packed it in, pack it back out.
— Hikers going downhill yield to those hiking uphill.
— When bringing a pet on a hike, be sure to keep it on a leash and under control. Don’t forget to pack out pet waste as well.
— Don’t feed the wildlife. While many animals stay hidden, others are not so shy. Giving these creatures food only disrupts their natural foraging habits.
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— Leave what you find. The only souvenirs a hiker should come home with are photographs and happy memories.
— When relieving yourself outdoors, be sure to do so 200 feet away from the trail and any water sources. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
— Walk through the mud or puddle and not around it, unless you can do so without going off the trail. Widening a trail by going around puddles is bad for trail sustainability. Just because it looks easy to cut the corner off a switchback doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Help preserve the trail by staying on the trail.
— If hiking in a group, don’t take up the whole width of the trail; allow others to pass.
There still is plenty of time to enjoy outdoor spaces. Just stay safe and follow these simple “rules.”
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