Proper prep makes for a pleasant day

It's summer in Colorado, which means it's time to get out and enjoy our incredible natural areas. Whether you're headed up Arthur's Rock trail in Lory State Park or Bear Lake trail in Rocky, put in a little prep time to set your family up for a pleasant hiking experience. A few minutes to complete the following tasks makes all the difference. 

Protect from intense Colorado rays

You know first hand that Colorado sun feels stronger than other parts of the country. That's because the sun's intensity increases 6 percent for every thousand feet we climb above sea level. That means along the Front Range at about a mile high we get 30 percent more intensity than our friends at the coast, and 60 percent more at 10,000 feet. At a minimum, apply an SPF sunscreen of 30 and bring it along for reapplication every few hours. Sunburns can happen in as little as 15 minutes. 

Full water bottle required

If your son is dragging and complaining on your hike, resist the urge to tell him to buck up and hand him a water bottle instead. Dehydration can cause irritability and lethargy and can happen quickly in high heat, especially the dry variety we have in Colorado. It's easier to prevent dehydration than to treat it so bring a quart or two of water and have your kids sip it throughout the hike. 

At the start of summer, let your kids pick out a new water bottle. One that's just theirs might help motivate their desire to drink during the hike.  

Snack with a purpose

Replenishing electrolytes is an important way to prevent dehydration and keep kids' energy up. Pack snacks that contain salt and potassium including sports drinks, oranges, bananas, nuts and trail mix.

Skip the sandals

Tell your son to save his flip flops for the beach. When hiking a rocky trail or one through tall grass, insist your kids wear socks and hiking shoes to protect against such hazards as ticks and rattlesnakes—as well as stubbed toes.

Ticks are a problem in Colorado, but thankfully not because they carry Lyme's Disease or, ironically, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The illness to watch for with ticks in our state is Colorado Tick Fever. It’s a virus that causes significant fevers for about two weeks. Unfortunately, there’s not much to do but treat the fever and let the virus work its course. To avoid tick and mosquito bites, consider packing DEET or an effective natural spray. Ban your kids from going off trail into tall, grassy areas or exploring deep woods with heavy undergrowth. That goes for Fido, too. 

If you do find a tick, forget the crazy notion of removing it with a lit match. The simple and most direct way to remove a tick is to grab it firmly by the back of the head with a tweezers, apply steady traction, and back it out slowly and steadily. The tick will naturally open its pincers and release itself.

Avoid rattlers 

If you hike regularly in the foothills, chances are you’ve seen a rattler at least once. The key to avoiding rattlesnakes is staying on the trail and not letting your kids stick their hands under rocks or shuffle through tall grass. If you see a rattler, back away slowly.

If you or someone with you gets bit, stay calm and follow these directions: 1. Immobilize, then clean the wound. 2. If the bite is on the ankle, have the person lie down or carry them out. 3. Keep the limb below the level of their heart to slow blood flow to the area. 4. Use your cell phone to call for help. Whatever you do, don't try to suck the poison out.

Now you're ready to summit your favorite peak and tell happy stories about it later.