San Jose, California
What to Bring
What to Wear, What to Bring
It's important for your personal safety and enjoyment, and for the group, that you take responsibility for your own needs, and provide yourself with the information and simple equipment that you will need. It will prevent emergencies and stop trouble before it gets started.
Clothing and Gear
Day Pack A small day pack can come in very handy, with a little snack, a liter or two of water, a trail map, some insect repellant, sunscreen, and a light jacket. No need to take too much.
Hat and Sunglasses are both useful and fashionable. Sunburn is the most common injury for hikers, and too much UV light is not good for the eyes. An ounce of sunscreen prevention prevents a pound of wrinkle-cream and skin cancer cures.
Maps A road map in the car can really help you out. It pays to check the route before you leave; we try hard to provide accurate directions, but mistakes slip by once in a while. A map just makes more sense to some people than words. Trail maps are usually free or cost a buck or two. Never enter the backcountry without a trail map on your person. Signage is not always what it could be, and the group tends to spread out on the trail. Some will trail behind, some like to race ahead, and you need to be able to find the way for yourself. If you are one who likes to race ahead, be sure you know where to stop. Sometimes we lose people because they overshoot the meeting site.
Footgear People get by with sneakers or hiking sandals but sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, light hiking boots or cross-trainers will give you good service. We stay on the trails, but there can be rocks, mud, loose footing, a bit of scrambling, stepping stones or logs over creeks. Some ankle support, good traction, and protection for the soles can prevent sprains, bruises, blisters, falls and twisted ankles, etc. Avoid brand-new footgear, break in your new shoes before you hit the trail. Flip-flops are for the beach or pool, not the trail. Unlaced sneakers lead to falls and injuries.
Trekking Poles prevent injuries from falls and protect the knees, hips, and feet by taking some of the load off of them. They're especially good for stream crossings or steep downhill trails. Models with canted grips molded to the shape of the hand are more ergonomic and comfortable.
Camera If you bring your camera, you can share your experience and help the Wild Recovery website, without disturbing the environment at all. Sometimes you see things that are so incredible you wouldn't believe them unless you had a picture. Please respect our Traditions by honoring the anonymity of the group members, and don't photograph your buddies unless it's ok with them.
Water and Snacks
Be sure to bring
water, at least one to two liters, and especially be sure to bring
enough for your kids. You never know how delicious a drink of plain
be until you get really hot and dried out. It helps to bring a
little snack, too--- trail mix, dried fruit or fresh fruit, power bars,
etc. You will burn some calories on the trail. It is very
smart to eat breakfast before you hit the trail, and if you show up
with coffee you will be a very popular person. For some reason many people show up without water, or
complain that they don't want to carry it because it's bulky and
heavy. But, you need water. The body has different needs
sitting in an easy chair watching television for two hours than it does
hiking up to a ridgetop on a warm day. We're somewhat past
bailing these people out by carrying extra water for them. We've
learned that a measure of suffering prevents a repeat performance.
A few tissues
or baby wipes (there are no ladies' rooms) can make you more
comfortable. A few simple first aid supplies may prove useful:
band-aids, antiseptic, windex (gets off poison oak). Better yet,
stay out of the poison oak.
Trail Radios If you have an FRS radio (walkie-talkie) you are welcome to bring it . We use Channel 1 with no code and try to have at least one radio at the front of the group when we are hiking and one near the rear. The radios help us stay on contact to ensure our common welfare and group unity.
Know Before You Go
Poison Oak If you're not familiar with this plant, study the picture of it on this page. People will be glad to point it out. Washing right away can help if you touch it, or use an alcohol wipe or windex, within two hours of exposure. It really pays to keep your eyes open on the trail, poison oak can mooch over from the edges. Poison oak can take a wide variety of forms, from ground cover to shrub to bushy thicket to a mass growing sixty feet up a tree trunk, and its leaf shape is also variable. It turns flame orange to red-purple in summer and fall , and loses its leaves in winter. Its nude, light gray branches, with a distinctive pointed tip and sometimes berries, can still cause a rash. Deer eat it, but that is their problem. Dogs and children that are allowed to rummage through the underbrush can transfer it to their owners, and that could make it your problem.
Ticks and Lyme Disease It
good to check yourself for ticks, and check others around you, every so
often. Ticks are easy to brush off if detected within the first
However, they like those dark, secret places and will head for
Think that one over, ladies, before you see just how short your shorts
get; longer clothing can help you out here. If you need to use tweezers, grasp the tick by the head and twist, like a bottle cap,
without crushing it. Be sure to get the head out. Insect
repellent will keep
them off you in the first place (or discourage them from biting), and
you stay on the trails and avoid contact with their habitat (like
you are less likely to get them.
There are several kinds of ticks in Bay Area
parks. You are more likely to see the bigger ones, but it's the
smaller ones (that look like a speck of dirt) that are the vector for
Lyme Disease, a very
serious bacterial illness. Lyme often reveals itself with a
rash surrounding the bite and flu-like symptoms, though a fair amount
cases show different, or no obvious symptoms. It can be treated
antibiotics. See your doctor if you know you have been bitten and
this kind of rash; it is a critical ID sign and Lyme Disease can be
hard to diagnose otherwise. Fortunately, in our area it's only
10% as common as it is on the East Coast, thanks to the Western Fence
This creature has an agent in its blood that cleanses the nymph stage
ticks, which feed on it, of the Lyme Disease bacterium. So even
you're bitten by the tick, the chances are much less that you will be
to Lyme on the West Coast. There is a vaccine for Lyme Disease,
it is not risk-free. This is another good reason to wear boots
socks when hiking, watch where you sit, and check for ticks about once
West Nile Virus
Arriving in California in 2003, West Nile Virus is transmitted by
bites and can cause a type of encephalitis, an inflamation of the
in some people. Most people who have it don't become especially
beyond flu-like symptoms, but it can be fatal. A vaccine is in
Meanwhile, it is worth your while to avoid being bitten by
Protective clothing can help (mosquitoes are said to be
attracted to the color blue), and repellants such as DEET are useful.
research indicates that DEET is not so good for pregnant women.
are other repellants. Avoiding mosquito habitat, such as swampy
or bodies of water like ponds and lakes, can help.
Brake Burnup When going downhill on those mountain roads, use the low gears to slow down the car and only apply the brakes every so often. Riding the brakes can cause them to heat up, smoke, glaze, catch fire, or even stop working. Putting your auto transmission into the 2 or 1 setting will not damage it.
Wildlife Good rule of thumb: leave wild animals alone, and give them their space. In most parks, all wildlife is protected anyway. Baby rattlesnakes are born fully venomous, but without rattles, and can resemble a garter snake. Do not try to touch or pick up a snake. It pays to watch where you put your feet, and stay on the trails. Snakes are not likely to bother you unless you step on them or try to take their food away. A snake does not need any help from you to eat a lizard.
Giardia and Crytosporidium These protozoa contaminate many streams and lakes. Coliform bacteria, polio and hepatitis viruses, and agricultural chemicals can also be present and can make you very ill. So, don't drink from streams or creeks. For longer backpacking trips, you can get filter pumps that will make the water safer to drink. Boiling or treatment with chlorine or iodine is also recommended. Over 95% of groundwater resources in the US are polluted these days. Bring drinking water.
Plague and Hantavirus Bubonic plague is a bacterial illness carried by fleas from infected squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, etc. Staying clear of wild animals and their burrows is the best way to stay out of trouble; using insect repellant can help make you distasteful to biting insects. The inhaled dust from mouse droppings is the main vector for hantavirus, sometimes encountered when deer mice get into closed-up cabins, woodsheds, etc. These are both serious illnesses, well worth avoiding by using the simple precautions. Bubonic plague is treatable but hantavirus is not, and is often deadly. Think twice before you feed that chipmunk. Besides, potato chips are not really good for them.
Adorable, but not good for either of you.
Mountain Lions You will be very lucky if you see one, sightings are rare. They are more active at twilight and dawn. Experts advise: (1) Don't run; it triggers chase and attack behavior. This may be one reason lone trail runners have been attacked. (2) Hiking alone is a risk factor. (3) Look big, open your arms, spread out your jacket, make noise, etc. (4) Slowly back away, don't turn your back. (5) They are especially fond of young children. Pick up your child if you see a mountain lion (squat down, don't bend over, and face the lion). Don't let kids run ahead out of your sight. (6) If attacked, fight back fiercely. They're only as big as a German Shepherd. Protect the back of the neck. (7) Report the incident. This is all highly unlikely, mountain lions avoid people and are very seldom even seen from a distance. Still, it never hurts to know what to do, and they do live in the parks where we hike... and even the suburbs we build in their habitat. You are far more likely to see a bobcat or coyote, which are normally harmless to humans.
Feral Pigs With no natural enemies and a very high reproductive rate, wild pigs' destructive habit of rooting up the ground is often seen in parklands. You may also see their tracks or hear them grunting or squealing, probably out of sight in a ravine. They are normally shy of humans and will take off as soon as they are aware of you. Make some noise. They are large (up to 400 pounds) and tusked creatures, and due caution is just as well. Don't sneak up on them or stand between them and their only exit, and don't get anywhere near a sow and her piglets. Injured pigs have been known to attack humans, and food carelessly left around a campsite will attract them. Many parks have trap-and-shoot abatement programs to reduce the over-population. Stay clear of the traps (large cages) if you see them.
Black Bears These wild residents of the high Sierra and north woods require some precautions when you go to their habitat. They want an easy meal: your food, and at 400-600 pounds they are strong enough to tear up your car, pack, or tent to get at it. Black bears seldom attack humans, though it's not unknown. Report any aggressive bear incidents promptly to a ranger. The precautions in black bear territory are: (1) Don't leave food, or anything that looks or smells like food, in your car, including items in the trunk. They can open it like a soup can. Black bears have a nose 100 times keener than a dog's. They will also go after aromatic items such as toothpaste, cosmetics, Ben-Gay, chewing gum (even wrappers), or empty ice chests that they can see in you car. In Yosemite, rangers will issue you a $500 citation if you leave food in your car and bears break into it. There are metal bear boxes you can leave your food in safely.
On the trail, take a bear canister. This is a heavy-gauge plastic, fat, tubular container, too big around for a bear to bite. Canisters weigh about three pounds. They can hold enough food for a six-day trip, and can be purchased for about eighty dollars, or rented from camping stores or the US Forest Service for $4.00 plus a refundable deposit. Put all food and aromatic items in the canister and leave it at least 100 feet downwind of your campsite at night. Cooking, eating, and washing should also be done at a distance from the site. Packs should be left empty and unzipped (so marmots and chipmunks don't gnaw through the nylon to get inside). The old-school way of suspending food from a high branch or over a cliff with cable doesn't work anymore, bears know how to get it, and their efforts seriously damage trees. Keeping food with you in your tent is a recipe for a dead tent and a bad scare.
You can often frighten black bears off with noise or
looking as big and threatening as possible. There is also a
spray that is sold for emergencies. Black bears' charges
often a bluff, rangers say. Do fight back if attacked by a black
(not a grizzly; with grizzlies, play dead). Never try to get
back that a bear has in its possession, or get between a sow and her cub.