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AS SEASON CHANGES, SO DO YOU NEEDS ON TRAIL

By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

We're all fairly accustomed to the demands of hiking in our region, even when it's a special situation.

Say it's hot - you'll probably make some additional decisions before you head out. That could mean carrying extra water or selecting weather appropriate clothing.

But you might imagine the return of temperate fall weather means an outing requires less planning and consideration.

That would be a mistake.

High on your priority list this fall should be footwear, which could make a huge difference in how enjoyable your hike turns out to be.

As the rain returns many trails in the area soften, making previously solid footing considerably more unstable. This autumnal change puts a premium on ankle support, so instead of selecting low-top, breathable shoes you might instead pull the high-top leather hiking boots out of the closet.

Rolled ankles are a common hiking injury and one which can be largely avoided simply by selecting adequately supportive footwear.

Other seasonal concerns tend to be more trail-specific.

"There could be washouts, and we try to keep the front desks of the Gold Beach and Brookings offices appraised of trail and road outages," said Nancy Schwieger, recreation staff member of the Gold Beach Forest Service office.

Washouts occur when runoff water diverts from its normal channels and erodes trails and roadways. They are especially common in steep areas, where unusual amounts of rainfall cause infrequently filled drainages to turn into torrents.

If washouts are severe enough, they can make the pathways completely impassable. In other cases the damage can be so insignificant that it will not even affect footing.

Another common issue in the fall and winter months is tree fall. Inclement weather often deposits trees onto Forest Service roads and trails, occasionally blocking the areas for motorists and hikers alike.

In the case of trails, fallen trees are generally just a nuisance and hikers normally have little problem getting around or over them. Trees in the road can be trickier and may completely block access to certain areas.

If you happen to be out on a trail and notice any issues with safety or access, the Forest Service staff welcomes your input.

"We'd really like to have people give us information about problems with any trails on our system," Schwieger said.

Constant updates from the public allow the Forest Service to respond quickly and efficiently to issues with the trails and keep them functional and open to recreational use.

Something to keep in mind is that many destructive forces take a toll on the trails throughout the fall and winter. By spring, many trails are in disrepair and require considerable maintenance if they are to be enjoyed for another year.

If you cherish the local trail system and would like to volunteer some time next spring, the Forest Service would welcome your help. Trail maintenance is critically understaffed and depends largely on community members generously donating their time.

A misty fall day is a great time to get outside and appreciate the splendor of the Wild Rivers region.

A little moisture makes our scenic vistas even more striking, and by using the resources and information available to us we can assure our hiking experiences are memorable for the right reasons.

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