What you need to know about waterfall hikes
Seven Tubs Nature Area in Wilkes-Barre. DESHA UTSICK/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Left: Another picturesque area is right in our backyard: Hawk Falls in Hickory Run State Park, White Haven.
The waterfall at Wild Creek in Beltzville State Park provides a tranquil setting. PHOTOS BY DESHA UTSICK/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Above: Bridal Falls is the second set of waterfalls at Glen Onoko.
Far left: Austin Blakeslee Natural Area in Blakeslee is a nice place to hike.
Walking and hiking can be such a wonderful and rewarding experience. There is so much beauty surrounding us, and to be out in it, and experience it can really be amazing.
However, it’s always good to take some precautions, and think about and even research the type of hike you will be experiencing, and how to prepare for it, in many ways.
We need to remember that the earth just does not move for us, so we are the ones who need to take precautions.
Keep these precautions in mind as you explore:
Do some research, check the difficulty of the hike you intend to take.
As far as what to take, I know my limit for different types of hikes. This can pertain to backpacks, or anything else you may want to carry. Keep it as light as possible.
I tend to like both hands free, if possible. It helps me to have the hands free for some balance, or to get low, and to even put in front of you as you climb certain areas.
Carry a whistle
This can come in handy for personal safety from another person, or for rescue.
Take water if you’re not comfortable drinking the flowing water, and take a few small snacks — granola bars, etc. It can help you, or even help someone else who may be in need.
I’ve already given some candy to someone who was getting low on sugar while out, and she was very grateful.
It can also be great to have something on us in case we go farther than expected, get lost, or just get caught up and end up spending more time than we’d expect.
Be sure to take the empty bottles, cans and wrappers back out with you.
Support is important! Hiking shoes or boots (preferably) are best, and I never go in anything different, no matter what time of the year. The rocks and moss can be slippery, and even the hiking boots can slip. If something is slippery, the boots may help. They are not invincible to a slippery surface, but they do provide more traction and stability and support more than anything else out there.
Very dry grounds also make it incredibly easy to slide. Loose dirt and rocks can be just as treacherous as the wet rocks and moss.
Give me space
If you’re climbing, leave some room between people in steeper areas.
I have seen rocks get kicked out from people, and it’s happened to me. They can easily hit the person behind or below them. Even dust can get in the eyes of those behind you, causing vision to be impaired.
When I get to those areas, I make sure my dog Bella is in front of me so I can keep an eye on her and can keep her safe from falling debris.
I have also slid down a little bit at times, so it’s better to have some kind of room between people.
I also let people get ahead of me if we come up on others. I just hang around for a bit, sit and soak it all in, meditate, reflect or pray a bit, give Bella more love or take a few pictures.
Or depending on what they are doing (and what we are doing), I continue on and try to get some distance between us. Sometimes we end up walking together for a bit, and it turns out to be a great experience.
It’s how you step
Watch every place you step when climbing or on a more difficult trail. I know this can’t possibly always be the case, but it’s something for which to strive. Watch HOW you step, as well.
It can be fun to take pictures, splash around, walk under the water, talk and laugh with friends and loved ones, but we can’t lose sight of our surroundings, including the ground on which we stand. I’ve already just stepped back innocently, not realizing there was a slight drop behind me and almost tipped backward.
You don’t have to actually go over a waterfall to get severely injured, either.
If you’re going to change direction or step behind you, try to turn your body first and look where you’ll be stepping instead of stepping blindly.
It’s so important to be mindful when up there, or anywhere, for that matter.
Test the ground
Test the ground before you step
Sometimes when I’m unsure of a spot, I will put light weight on it to see how it reacts. If I’m not sure, I try to listen to my gut and not chance it.
Examples: possible loose rocks, not knowing what is under leaves, etc.
Grabbing trees and branches is not always safe. Test them, first, if you must do so.
Roots can come out, limbs bend and even break, and can cause us to lose balance … and after that, who knows what will happen in those few split seconds. Nothing good will most likely come of it.
As you climb, try to map out in your mind where you are aiming to go … your own little line through each area, small areas at a time. It helps to have an idea in mind, being aware that you still may have to switch your line as you step, continually looking ahead, but yet watching where you step. Be mindful of where the rocks are, and be careful that your foot doesn’t get caught between them.
Stay away from the edge
If you don’t go to the edge, you won’t fall off.
Let’s face it — many of us have gotten too close to any edge as we grew up — cliffs, bridges, overlooks and waterfalls. We made it, though. There are those who haven’t, as well. The view from the top of many places can be simply gorgeous, and can also seem neat just to be on a ledge. But edges of waterfalls where water flow may be on the low side, can still be slick — wet or damp, and moss may still be present. On the other end of the scale, it can be extremely dry, also making it easier to slide. Most people are moving around, talking goofing around.
The sad thing is, we don’t ever think it will happen to us, but when it does, that’s the end. There’s no hindsight. Permanent damage is done, or death occurs.
If we don’t go to that edge, we can’t fall over, and we will never know if a fall was prevented that day by staying away from it.
Don’t leave trash behind
Enough said. Seriously — we go to enjoy these places, so why damage it? It’s not good for us, for our future, or for the animals. Teach others; teach children how to be courteous. Please take care of our given places and its beauty.
Enjoy the scenery
Hikes can be such a beautiful, rewarding, lovely and enjoyable experience, and can be so fulfilling. Just take the initiative to take precautions. You never will know when your own life is saved by doing so.