Autumn is a great time to hit the trails…the countryside is bursting with fall color, the weather is cool and dry, and trails thick with vegetation are more navigable as foliage starts to drop. But fall also brings sudden changes in temperature, ground wasps and hunting season.
Here are a few tips to keep you safe on the trails this fall…
1. Know the hunting calendar & wear blaze orange! Hunting season in Massachusetts begins this weekend. Game bird season opens on October 19th. Deer hunting begins on October 21st with archery and opens to shotguns on December 2nd. For the full Massachusetts hunting calendar, click here. Remember that hunting is allowed on many of our local private and public properties. Be sure that your pet is also well marked, especially if you are in an off-leash area.
2. Watch out for hornets & wasps. Several species like to nest in the ground or along the trail, and they can be particularly aggressive this time of year. You’re most likely to run into them in small clearings in the woods, where the light opens up and grass is growing along the trail, or along forest/meadow edges. If you are allergic, make sure you bring the appropriate treatment with you on the trail! They should be gone after the first few frosts.
3. Look out below! Layers of leaves can hide hazards along the trail, including roots, rocks and acorns. Take it slow where the leaf litter is thick.
4. Keep an eye on the forecast & dress in layers. The days can start off cool, warm up to the 70s and then drop 20 degrees or more as the sun goes down. Be prepared to add layers, especially if your hike or ride lasts longer than expected! It’s easy to carry a knit hat in your pocket to add on as the temperature drops.
5. Plan your route. The days are getting shorter and you don’t want to find out that your 2 hour hike is actually going to last 4 hours and keep you out past sunset. Bring a trail map and/or GPS to make sure that you don’t get lost. If you are traveling alone, be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
6. Pack snacks. Again, if you end up taking longer than you thought, you’ll be happy to have the granola bar in your pocket! And remember to drink water…you’ll be thinking of it less with the cooler temperature, but you still need to hydrate!