Have you ever gotten the itch to just get out there and head into the wilds, and when you arrived had an “oh no” moment? Suzanne Cheree Ellis, the creator of the Ellis Collapsable Isolation Box, is a Paramedic in Texas. Suzanne is here to tell us about her recent family adventure. She is starting off a new series of informative posts with two main themes: beginners’ outdoors tips and safely managing outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. We realize social distancing is often the goal of outdoor adventuring, so let’s do it safely while we explore and have fun. Thanks Suzanne, so glad you made it back to us!!

Frey, Argentina. This site is a common day hike for locals in the city of Bariloche!

Hiking for Newcomers by Suzanne Cheree Ellis, NREMT-P

COVID-19 has created a world where we are all looking to find safe and healthy ways to get out of the house, exercise and be around friends and family. Many people are taking to local parks and outdoor areas when they reopen to get out and enjoy physical activity and nature. This is leading to an increase of visitors to our parks and wilderness areas of people with very different experience levels. This is wonderful in so many ways, but it can lead to some unexpected surprises!

I found myself in this predicament just over a month ago. My family was ready to go hiking at Colorado Bend State Park. (We were only able to reserve a spot in the afternoon, meaning temperatures were in the 100s °F.) I ended up taking them 8 miles. During that time, I had to run over a mile back to the truck to get more water. Then I had to make sure that I could get my family back out before dark. Many things were learned. I hope that I have not destroyed their interest in hiking! I know they enjoyed a great deal of the trip. However, I placed everyone in a precarious situation. 

So here is a short list of things I did wrong and things that I did right while hiking with newbies during COVID times.

Hiking in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

Things I did wrong:

Not making sure that I understood everyone’s experience levels and expectations

I have hiked with more experienced friends. However, my mom and sister were finally ready to venture out on a hike. It turns out that we had different ideas of what this meant. My idea of hiking is that once you start, you do not return to the vehicle until you are ready to go home. Their idea was to go on many different short hikes, picnic at the truck and return.

Communicating beforehand to understand everyone’s expectations is important. It is exciting to get people outdoors, but do it safely.

Not having enough water for everyone

While I did ensure that everyone had a handy dandy camel back pack on, I may not have gotten everyone the correct size…or estimated correctly how much everyone would consume.

Even our backup supplies at the truck were not adequately checked. I assumed that my mom would throw in extra water. She did, but it consisted of 3 bottles total. Sure, we could have stopped for more, but I was trying to keep our interactions with stores limited.

Not understanding people’s experience levels

When people say that they exercise, understand that not all habits are created equal. Perhaps they walk or run 2-3 miles on occasion…but at what time of day? How often? And at what pace?What is the terrain like? All of these factors can be incredibly important.

Hiking view in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

Things I did right:

Carrying a few extra snacks in my backpack

Depending where you hike, snacks in a vehicle aren’t always the best idea. If you are in bear territory, don’t keep snacks or scented air fresheners in your car. Bears are extremely gifted at opening cars like a can opener and helping themselves. (Look online for fun videos and photos!)

Carrying everything out that we carried in

Staying on marked trails

Understanding the area and your own abilities

I understood the area that we were in and emergency resources that could possibly be used, including what I felt comfortable assisting with if needed.

It would have been even more helpful to make certain of the weather conditions and to carry an additional resource for communication, in case cell phones don’t work.

Staying positive and encouraging to keep us going

Knowing that you have people with you, gives you great responsibility. So it helps to be mindful of the emotions of the group and if anyone might be struggling. Find the way to balance it out and be understanding. 

All in all, we survived a hike and will live to go again. If you are interested in hiking, camping or exploring the great outdoors we hope this starter information will help.

Hiking in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

Know where you are going and let other people know as well. Texas Parks and Wildlife (where we hiked), keeps updates available on their website for each park. National forests and national parks also keep this information available.

Various available apps give great details of trails and campsites. It is always good to check with others to find out additional information.

Put together your hiking pack and understand that each experience will help you learn what worked best and what you might need to add. We will continue with more tips and expand on some of what we covered here in future posts. Jam Jam!!