When preparing for a family hiking trip or solo adventure through an area trail system, being prepared before you head out can make your experience more enjoyable. Not knowing the dangers of plants such as the stinging nettle or poison ivy or how to look for ticks after a hike can make a peaceful walk through nature stressful. Louisa County Naturalist Lana McComb knows it can be tempting to go off the trail and explore forested areas, but if you are inexperienced, staying on the trail is the best course of action to take, “So somebody ends up going out thinking that they’re only going to be out for an hour or they end up going off the trail and get a little bit turned around. They didn’t bring anything with them, they didn’t have enough water. Then they start to have panic set it and that can make your situation a whole lot worse compared to if you went out and you were prepared, maybe over prepared, you have plenty of water and you can actually sit down, drink some water, and think yourself out of the situation. The other thing that we run into, in Louisa County especially, is people assume that there’s going to be cell service where they’re going. So they assume that their GPS unit is going to be able to get them out or that their cell phone is going to be able to get them out.”
McComb recommends hikers wear longer socks, pants, and a hat if they choose to explore other parts of a forested area away from a paved trail. She recommends checking for ticks after a hike because in their baby stage of life, they can be as small as the head of a pin. Ticks can be removed by grabbing them as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and pulling straight out to remove the body and head of the tick. Washing your hands with soap and taking a shower after coming in contact with a stinging nettle or poison ivy can help to relieve skin irritation caused by these plants.