As you are heading out the door for that winter hike or ski trip, remember what Mountain Man Bill Williams had to say about the cold: “I’m afraid of only one thing, a cold wind, it’ll kill you for nothing, you’ll just die like a darned fool.”
This phenomenon is called hypothermia, and it just sneaks up on you, even to the point where you think you are as warm as toast. It’s happens when the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees.
But there are warning signs first that you need to be aware of — you need to watch your partner, or anyone in your group, for these signs, beginning with the “umbles”: mumbles, stumbles and grumbles. If you observe that, you should be making a plan: head back to your vehicle, or other place to get warm, or even to stop and make a campfire.
You do, of course, carry matches, fire-starters, chemical heat packs and have the know-how to start a fire, right? It’s quite easy, and especially so if there are any hemlocks nearby. These trees have an abundance of small dead and dry limbs within easy reach, which are one of the best fire-starters going.
If the symptoms advance to the shivering stage, you could be getting into trouble. After that, the person may seem confused or incoherent, at which point you are in serious trouble.
Your goal should be to never let it get to this stage. Cross-country skiing, for example, generates a great amount of body heat, even more than hiking. So avoid getting all sweated up, even if it means removing some layers, but still having a good windbreaker.
This Bill Williams was apparently a real person. He has a mountain named for him just west of Flagstaff, near Williams, Ariz.
Some of the STS lends itself to good skiing: the northern stretches such as the Ridge Trail, Fire Tower Trail (out and back unless you want to ski down Cardiac Climb, which is not recommended), the West Branch Crossover Trail, and especially the East Fork Crossover Trail, with its many stretches of railroad grade and woods roads.
And you’ll find some groomed trails in the Denton Hill, Cherry Springs and Patterson Park areas, thanks to our member, Joe Allis.
As for trail care, which is the primary purpose of the STC, we had a banner year in 2020, finishing with 3,023 hours, with 60 volunteers taking part. This is quite amazing considering we were dealing with the virus threat all year. One can only surmise that people felt it safe and healthy to be in the great outdoors rather than cooped up or “locked down” someplace.
Several members of our team amassed more than 300 hours. And even at that, our shelter building plans had to be postponed until 2021. Just to stay on pace, we located another shelter site, which was approved, so we may end up erecting two of them in the new year.
We would like to invite one and all to join our group. Either sign up as a member, come along with a trail care party or attend a monthly meeting. We operate on dues and donations only, no government or corporate funding. All trail work is volunteer. And we’re looking forward to another great year, so come join in the fun. You’ll like it.
To all, a happy and healthy New Year from all of us at the Susquehannock Trail Club.