KINGFIELD – Franklin County is home to many of Maine’s highest peaks and has an extensive network of hiking trails. As the snow melts, residents and guests prepare for the summer hiking season.
Spring hiking is a fantastic experience. The world comes to life: hidden in the woods at the edge of the trails hide the first spring flowers and fiddleheads. The trees are beginning to leaf and a soft green mist covers the mountain slopes.
But spring hiking presents unique challenges that need to be considered.
Temperature and weather conditions vary by elevation and across the state. Southern Maine may feel like spring is well set in, but at Saddleback Mountain, a snowmobile event is scheduled for late April. At higher elevations, there is still plenty of snow and ice, which creates trail hazards that need to be anticipated.
Dress according to the weather. “Cotton kills” they say, and the reason is that cotton retains moisture and loses some of its insulating properties. Wool and synthetics don’t have the same problem, so they’re generally recommended for hiking, especially in cold, wet weather.
Rather than dressing in bulky clothes, aim for multiple layers of lighter materials. Layers allow you to regulate temperature by adding or removing items without exposing skin, and provide better insulation by trapping air between garments.
Complete the outfit with hiking shoes with good ankle support to protect your ankles from rolling and spraining. Icy conditions are best avoided, but pack a pair of ice tongs just in case.
It gets dark much earlier in the spring than in the summer, so plan shorter hikes and pack a flashlight with working batteries.
Your pack should always contain the “Ten Essentials”. There should be items from each category. Generally, you won’t need most of them; this is in case something goes wrong. In the woods and mountains, help can take a while to reach you in an emergency, so you should always have tools to stay safe and warm for a long time. Depending on the length of the hike and how remote you may have different needs, so use this list as a guide and plan ahead.
The list of “Ten Essentials”:
Roads and trails may be impassable due to mud, snow, ice or a combination. Have a plan and stick to the places you know. Summer is a better time to explore new or strenuous hikes.
Be prepared for little or no cell phone signal. Know your route without using your mobile phone. As with all outdoor recreation, be sure to communicate your plans to someone ahead of time: where you’re going, what you’re doing, and when you plan to return. If something happens, this information can be critical to rescue personnel.
For any outdoor trip, planning ahead can keep you safe and get the most out of the experience.