• Planning, preparedness ensures return from hike

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  • FORT RUCKER, Ala. — Todd Orr is a lucky man.
    After being attacked not once, but twice, by possibly the same bear while hiking near his Montana home, the 50-year-old drove himself 17 miles to the nearest medical facility for treatment and to alert authorities.
    After the incidents, Orr posted a video of his injuries online with the comment, “Life sucks in bear country. Be safe out there!”
    He was bleeding following the attack and suffered a fractured forearm, but was otherwise none the worse for the incident. The county sheriff told a local newspaper Orr should “go out and buy a lottery ticket” to celebrate his good luck after the encounter with what was believed to be a mother bear with cubs.
    Run-ins with wildlife are a hazard while hiking, but just one of many.
    Dennis Martin was 7 years old when he and some young friends played in the woods at a popular campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the children came out of the woods, Dennis wasn’t with them.
    That was June 14, 1969, and Dennis has never been seen since.
    An extensive search for the child turned up nothing. He is one of three people who disappeared without a trace in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park over the years. The others were a 16-year-old high school student who vanished while walking with a group, and a 58-year-old woman who walked around a turn in the trail ahead of her friends and was never seen again.
    Foul play? Accidents? People who wanted to disappear? Whatever happened in the Smokies has occurred at other national parks and venues as innocent as a hiking trail in a local park.
    Jeremy Barnum, a public affairs officer at the National Park Service, reports that from 2007-2013, in the 59 national parks, there were 1,025 fatalities from all causes. On average, about 160 visitors per year die, most from hiking-related falls, at national parks.
    In general, visitors can stay safe if they follow simple rules, Barnum said. His advice applies to any hiking trip: Always plan and prepare for your hike, select the most appropriate activity that matches your skill set and experience, seek information before and when arriving at your selected hiking area about hazards and environmental conditions, follow the rules and regulations, and use sound judgment while participating in recreation activities.
    Other safety tips from the American Hiking Society include:
    • Avoid hiking alone. The buddy system is safer during any type of activity.
    • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
    • Stay on marked trails.
    • Never climb on waterfalls.
    • Always carry quality rain gear and turn back in bad weather.
    • Dress in layers and avoid cotton.
    Page 2 of 2 - If you’re planning a hike, don’t hit the trail in a remote wilderness or in your own neighborhood without a good dose of common sense in your pack. Hiking can be fun and/or dangerous, you decide.
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