Outdoor safety: A message from a Catskills ambulance chief

Photo taken on Cathedral Glen trail at Belleayre by Julia Reischel.

The Catskill Mountains provide myriad activities for the avid adventurer, but they can also be risky for the unwary. Two activities notorious for thrusting unsuspecting souls into preventable precarious predicaments are fishing and hiking.

As area rivers and their tributaries are mostly wade-fishing streams, many anglers find themselves on the waters' banks or in the water itself. Although this is one of the safer ways to fish, your safety starts with adequate equipment and situational awareness. Always use a wading staff (or big stick) to sound the streambed before you step, and shuffle your steps, particularly with increased turbidity or recent floods. Stay away from undercut, unstable banks and strainers as these can be deadly if you become entangled in them. Be ready for weather as well: Bring a rain poncho, check the weather before you go, and get out of the water if you hear thunder.

Use your head: If you are not experienced at wade-fishing (or don't know how to swim), wear a life jacket and don't venture out alone. Fishing is fun with a buddy! Just make sure not to hook anyone. Check your surroundings before you cast, and transport your rods without hooks attached to them. Remember this, and all you will need is a little luck, a silver Blue Fox #2, or a size 16 Adams to catch a monster.

Many of us enjoy a hike once the weather gets nice. Remember to wear proper footwear, hike with a group, carry a map and compass, bring a charged cell phone (just in case), and be mindful of the wildlife, particularly of the slithering variety: Several Catskills peaks are home to timber rattlesnakes. Let someone know where you are that is not involved in your hike, and check in with them when you are 'out of the woods.' If a check-in sheet is present at the base of the trail, please use it. Stay on the trail, and use it for what it was meant for: If it's a hiking trail, do not use it for ice climbing.

Above all, fill the radiator! Stay hydrated no matter what activity you may be engaged in. Temperatures on the trail can become mighty hot quickly in the summertime. Water is vital for all life functions, and we all naturally do not drink enough -- lack of water can cause all sorts of shenanigans to break loose in the body -- so be sure to indulge prior to and during any physical activity.

Stay safe out there!
Rich Muellerleile
Chief, Town of Shandaken Ambulance Service

When he's not busy rescuing people from dire predicaments, Chief Rich Muellerleile writes a safety column for the Watershed Post, 'Stayin' Alive.' He hopes you do.