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.

Tips for Beginning Home Brewers

Home Brewing pic
Home Brewing
Image: homebrewersassociation.org

An experienced health professional, Todd Belok cares for patients as a mental health technician at the Episcopal Campus of Temple University Hospital. In his free time, Todd Belok enjoys brewing his own beer.

In order to produce a quality home-brewed beer, the beginning brewer must start with a good recipe. The recipe should be approachable, and as such, should have a minimal number of ingredients. Recipes for beer that include 4 percent to 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) typically fall within this category, while also supporting better fermentation.

All ingredients should be of high quality, particularly the malt extract. Many experienced brewers choose to save half of this extract for the last 10 minutes of the brew, particularly if the recipe is for a light-colored beer variety.

Equipment should be cleaned with a rinse-free sanitizer, as bacteria can seriously affect the taste of the final product. Poor sanitation can also lead to the growth of unwanted yeast, and one of a home brewer’s most important tasks is the regulation of yeast growth. Temperature control can help immensely with this process, but it is also crucial that the home brewer avoid excessively worrying about minute calculations. Often, the natural process of fermentation corrects most issues.