Safety Tips for Hikers on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail pic
Appalachian Trail
Image: appalachiantrail.org

A mental health technician by profession, Todd Belok is an avid outdoorsman in his free time. Todd Belok has hiked and camped along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

When you hike along the Appalachian Trail, you may at times be far from medical or police assistance. This requires you to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, particularly if you find yourself in a social situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Experts recommend that you avoid anyone who seems dangerous or intoxicated, and that you always avoid insinuating that you are hiking alone.

Situational awareness also extends to weather, which can come up suddenly on the trail. Hikers should know how to spot electrical storms and how to seek shelter when one appears to be coming. Similarly, all hikers should know the terrain challenges inherent in the areas they wish to hike, and should plan routes according to party members’ abilities.

Health may also be a concern, particularly as camping often involves communal eating and living. Medical professionals warn hikers to avoid sharing food or utensils, wash hands before eating whenever possible, and filter drinking water. Regular body checks are likewise important, as tiny deer ticks can spread illness to even the most conscientious hiker.

Finally, whether alone or in a group, it is important that you convey your location to someone off the trail. This should be a person with whom you are comfortable checking in on a regular basis, and who is willing to follow a pre-determined procedure if a scheduled check-in does not occur.

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Camping in Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park pic
Torres del Paine National Park
Image: campingpehoe.com

A mental health technician at Temple University Hospital, Todd Belok has years of experience in medicine and patient care, both in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. In his free time, Todd Belok enjoys traveling. Among other treks, he completed a backpacking trip through Patagonia last year.

Patagonia, which stretches across the southern end of South America in Chile and Argentina, is a hiker’s paradise, full of mountains, valleys, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. In particular, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has been often ranked highly by outdoor enthusiasts.

One of the best ways to explore Torres del Paine is by backpacking and camping. Most campers begin in Puerto Natales, Chile, where they catch a bus to the park entrance. Many campsites are free, though they can sometimes be full or closed. Paid campsites are also an option. There are two kinds of paid campsites: private ones, which offer toilets, showers, water, and a place to cook, and those located next to a refugio, which offer a great deal of amenities, including restaurants and minimarkets as well as rental gear. While hikers may rent their gear when they get to Torres del Paine, it is less costly to buy and bring along your own equipment.

Why Philadelphia Is a Great City for Bikers

Schuylkill River pic
Schuylkill River
Image: schuylkillriver.org

Based in Philadelphia, Todd Belok serves as a mental health technician at the Temple University Hospital Episcopal Campus, a position he has held since 2015. In his free time, Todd Belok enjoys cycling, hiking, and running.

Renowned to most of the world for its cheesesteak sandwiches and the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia is also steadily becoming one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation. As the city is mostly flat and its grid layout is easy to navigate, Philadelphia is ideal for bikes. The city has more than 435 miles of dedicated bike lanes, making it easy for bike commuters to get around. Additionally, many of these bike routes run along the Schuylkill River and tributary creeks, providing a scenic view and an escape into nature.

Like many cities, Philadelphia also offers a bike-sharing program called Indego, which allows people to rent and return bikes from numerous stations around the city. Finally, every year the city hosts the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, a 12-mile race through the city that includes the formidable Manayunk Wall.

Consider Backpacking at Torres del Paine in Patagonia

 

Patagonia pic
Patagonia
Image: rei.com

A mental health professional with Episcopal Hospital Public, Todd Belok also maintains certification as an emergency medical technician. In his leisure time, Todd Belok enjoys traveling, and he recently completed a week-long backpacking trip in Patagonia, Chile.

Located 1,500 miles south of Santiago in Patagonia, the Torres del Paine hike covers 52 miles of terrain with spectacular views of wildlife such as the llama-like guanacos and scenery ranging from glaciers to the enormous granite pillars that give the trail its name. The reality far surpasses any pictures. Those wanting a shorter hike (requiring only about four days) can take the W route. Begin in the west and travel east for the best views. The other option, known as the Circuit, includes the rear section of the park as well as the W and requires at least a week. Both trails have clear signposts.

Backpackers can choose to stay at free campsites along the way but should be aware of their scarcity and plan on arriving early. People also can stay at some of the paid camps or in the dorms at the refugios for a more expensive yet comfortable option.