By Avery Van Etten, Marketing & Communications Manager
Fall is a fantastic time to get outdoors, whether you’re enjoying the colorful foliage and the crisp, cool air, or taking in the newly revealed views once the trees have lost their leaves. To make the most out of your time outdoors while minimizing your impact on the environments you’re enjoying, follow these tips for safe and smart nature excursions this fall:
1. Wear Orange
During hunting season, it’s important to clearly identify yourself as a human when you’re outdoors. Wear bright orange clothing like hats or vests to distinguish yourself. I hear “human highlighter” is peak fall fashion! Maybe also refrain from practicing your turkey calls and deer snorts while exploring the woods this time of year. If you have dogs with you, make sure they stay safe, too, by giving them some orange accessories and keeping them on leash.
2. Know Before You Go
Prepare for your outdoor excursions in advance. While “not all those who wander are lost,” it’s a good idea to study a trail map before heading out for a hike or other outside activity. The flying eagles may save J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters (he’s the guy who wrote the aforementioned quote, by the way), but sadly, the eagles don’t perform rescues here in Central Pennsylvania. Also, be sure to check the forecast before heading outside, and have a plan in case of rain, lightning, or other inclement weather.
3. Pack Drinks and Snacks
You probably already know that you should bring water with you when you go hiking, so consider this your friendly reminder! What you might not know is that you should also bring a salty snack to help replenish your electrolytes.
4. Respect the Wildlife
I know, that fall wildflower is reallyyyyy pretty! But please don’t pick it. To help keep nature as natural as possible, don’t pick or damage plants while hiking. (The one exception to this rule is that our trained volunteers are allowed – and encouraged – to help remove invasive plant species.) Additionally, it’s important for hikers to stay on designated trails to avoid trampling wildlife. And dogs visiting the outdoors should be kept on leash so they don’t trample plants or bother or chase other animals…or other dog/human visitors.
5. Learn as You Go
Want to know more about the plants and animals you observe as you spend time outside? Check out the app Seek by iNaturalist and use the Seek Camera to help you identify the plants and animals you see. Or use the Merlin Bird ID app to identify birds using their songs, photos, or characteristics. You’ll be your own naturalist in no time!
6. Pack It In, Pack It Out
Anything you bring into a nature preserve with you should also leave with you. This includes food waste, dog waste, and hiking buddies (I’m sorry they’ve been stopping every 30 seconds to identify something new with the Seek app they just discovered, but you can’t just leave them behind).
7. Nature is for Everyone
In addition to respecting the wildlife, please respect other people who are spending time outdoors. Everyone should feel safe and welcome to enjoy nature!