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Weird bugs and other basics of a good hike.

Before you became a trip leader or nature program director at camp, you probably viewed a good hike as a chance to enjoy the peaceful solitude of nature, a time to think and reflect on life and its wonderment.

Now you have six to 10 trail companions who are curious about aspects of nature you may have forgotten. They reach without fear into the wild brush to find weird bugs, frogs, and other cool stuff.

The trick to a successful hike with young people is to make it easy and safe for these hikers to enjoy what they find in nature.

Ways in the wild

Children and teens like to know boundaries. Understanding what their hike or trip will be like helps them to feel more comfortable and confident, ready for their challenge in the "wild."

As the leader, you should learn about the trip route before you begin, including weather patterns, indigenous wildlife, unique topography, and water sources. Review maps, identifying prominent landmarks and terrain features. Plan alternate routes and backup campsites, leaving a copy of your itinerary with the base camp. Review contact points and emergency communication plans with the entire group. (Remember, you could be the one who is injured.)

Hey, look at that critter!

Surrounded by mysterious noises and flutters, it's easy for a hiker to become absorbed in another world and to lose track of the group. It's your job to keep the group together and to provide opportunities for exploring those sounds and movements.

Establish a leader to monitor the progress of all hikers and to wait at forks until the entire group is present. Designate a sweep person to stay to the rear, carry the first aid kit, and keep hikers on course.

Do your hikers know how to use a map and compass? Even for short hikes near camp, this is an important skill; it's a requisite for back trail hiking and overnight tripping. Make sure everyone can find the starting point, trail, true and magnetic north, landmarks, and final destination.

Use rest stops along the trail to orient everyone to the map. Hold a quick lesson on locating terrain features, such as fingers, draws, and saddles.

Water, water, everywhere

Water is a great place to find weird bugs and frogs, and thus attracts many young people. Sometimes, when water crosses your path, you need to cross the water. Next to hypothermia, stream crossings take more hikers' lives than any other hazard. Teach your hikers to cross streams on a log or rocks. If you must wade, and the water is more than ankle deep, have the group form a triangle. Everyone should interlock hands and forearms with the person ahead and behind. The person at the point of the triangle should be the farthest upstream and everyone should face the other shore, never downstream. Move only one foot at a time.

Can we rest? I'm hungry. It's hot.

Help hikers maintain their stamina, strength, and coordination. Being in good trail shape includes getting a good night's sleep, munching on GORP, drinking plenty of fluids, and keeping cool.

Use the 50/10 rule as a guideline for rest stops (hike 50 minutes, rest 10 minutes). Rest time is a great time for "comfort assurance." Adjust sun-safe attire, apply another dose of insect repellent, and check each other's feet for blisters. (Moleskin and foot powder are trail essentials!)

You want me to "go" where?

Adults, mostly impatient parents, often tell young people to use the toilet before leaving on a trip. Depending on the length of your hike, chances are good that someone will have to "go" en route.

Before you hike, demonstrate how to make an appropriate cathole and discuss the rules for using nature's bathroom. Holes should be four to six inches deep and at least 100 yards from any drainage or potential camp-site. Burn or carry out toilet paper. Cover the hole with dirt, not rocks.

Nature's paint and poetry

The colors hikers don and the phrases they remember can help them safely blend with nature.

Do

* wear light-colored (white, khaki, neutral) clothing; it makes it easier to spot ticks

* use biodegradable, unscented soap

Don't

* wear blue; it attracts mosquitoes

* wear bright colors; they attract bees

* use sweet-, flowery-, or fruit-smelling soaps, lotions, or shampoos; they attract bees

"Leaves of three, leave it be" helps hikers identify poison ivy and poison oak. "Berries white, poisonous sight" limits harmful tasting.

Flying nitpickers

It's hard to look for weird bugs when you're swatting mosquitoes and flies. Keep in mind that children are at risk of secondary infection from scratching bug bites. Use plenty of child-safe insect repellent, and keep in mind:

Mosquitoes like cool, moist places; are attracted to blue: tend to bite at twilight; and favor males.

Black flies are attracted to dark, moving objects and are more prevalent in the morning. Deer flies are most active midday.

Yellow jackets are drawn to food, especially sweet foods and garbage.

Bees like sweet, flowery scents and are attracted to bright colors and swift movements.

About those weird bugs

In addition to all the usual great stuff you teach on a hike, find out what really interests your hikers.

For example, do they wonder how frogs catch insects with their tongues? Frogs' tongues have sticky pads that catch the bugs and bring them into their mouths. The frogs' eyes then drop into the mouth cavities and help push the food down their throats.

Do they wonder about the squirrels racing across the tree tops? Squirrels mark paths along the branches with their scent, allowing them to travel familiar routes at high speed to escape predators. Look for a squirrel sniffing or rubbing its face on a branch.

Lead your hikers through the woods and forests, the deserts, and the canyon lands in safe exploration, leaving no evidence of your passing. Help make the "other" basics of hiking second nature so your trail mates can concentrate on the aspects of nature that interest them most, including checking out those weird bugs.

References

American Camping Association. (1993). Standards for Day and Resident Camps. Martinsville, IN: Author.

American Hiking Society, P.O. Box 20160, Washington, DC 20041-2160. 301/565-6704.

Tekiela, S. & Shanberg, K. (1995). Nature Smart: A family guide to nature. Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, Inc.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pack essentials

Each hiker

Sturdy boots, an extra pair of socks, long sleeved shirt or jacket, hat, canteen, extra food (you burn more calories on the trail and get hungry more often), sunglasses, sun screen, insect repellent, flashlight with good batteries, map, compass, rain gear, and a plastic bag to carry out garbage.

The leader/sweep

Above, plus first aid kit (restocked after every hike, with everything clearly labeled), biodegradable/non-detergent soap, water-proof matches, and a knife.

Karen Pavlicin has hiked throughout the United States and in nine other countries. She is the editor-in-chief, periodicals, for the American Camping Association.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on essential backpacking equipment
Author:Pavlicin, Karen M.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1996
Words:1152
Previous Article:Using toys in the camp health hut.
Next Article:Appreciating staff surprises that make a difference.
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