July is one of the most popular months for visitors to our area. Tourists and relatives travel long distances to enjoy the outdoor character of the lands around Katahdin and, for the most part, we welcome them with open arms.
But often, visitors are unfamiliar with many of the skills or precautions that are useful, and often necessary, to enjoy the outdoors without discomfort or injury. Even some of our own residents are woefully unprepared for outdoor experiences outside the parameters of tarred roads. So, for those from away who would like to know a little more and those in the Katahdin region who usually wouldn’t be caught dead beyond the confines of pavement, let’s look at a few common outdoor problems and their solutions. I don’t claim to be much of an expert, but I tend to rub shoulders with those who are, and I ask a lot of questions.
Some outdoor problems are the same ones faced in town. Over-exposure to the sun, being chewed on by insects, eating something that doesn’t agree with you… these are just a few. The trouble is, when you’re off in the woods, addressing these problems is harder than it is in town. So being prepared is the first and most important step in the outdoor learning curve. The Boy Scouts have it exactly right. When you go into the woods, try to think of everything that could happen and then prepare for it. That means, in dealing with the above examples, bringing along a first aid kit, as well as sunscreen, insect repellent, and untainted food you are familiar with.
Buy an inexpensive compass and throw it in the glove compartment of your vehicle. Take it along when you go on a hike, even if it’s a short one. In this region, you can’t go far in a straight line without coming out on a logging road of some kind. Logging roads lead to civilization, so if you happen to get lost, the compass is to keep you going in a straight line. Believe in it. Compasses are rarely wrong in direction; humans often are.
Extremes of temperature are common in the outdoors, but living in an urban environment tends to dull our realization of the fact. Pack along a few extra clothes for the different temperature conditions. Sure, it might be 85 degrees when you set out for the lake but clouds moving in or a passing cold front can drop that temperature by 20 degrees in a hurry and you’ll really appreciate the sweater or light jacket you brought. Conversely, a cool, drizzly morning may burn off into a hot and sultry afternoon and a pair of shorts and tee shirt can make you a lot more comfortable.
Taking along lots of drinks is a good idea. Many waters in the outdoor world aren’t safe to drink from and replacing body fluids is a necessity when confronted with long periods of hot weather or drying winds.
Avoid boating or canoeing unless you are skilled in the use of these watercraft. Swimming or diving in unfamiliar waters is asking for an accident to happen. Be especially careful with edged tools and firearms. Always wear stout and comfortable footgear because the ground in the outdoors is mostly uneven. Always tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. If you get lost, don’t panic. Nothing out there will hurt you and if you keep your head, the most you’ll have to put up with is a little discomfort until you are found.
Above all, try to learn all you can about the outdoors and how to get along comfortably when away from the trappings of civilization. Some of this you can learn from reading books, some you will learn from experience, and you can learn much more from listening to those who know.
Enjoying the outdoors in the Katahdin region is a summer ritual for many. Learning a few basic skills about getting along comfortably in the outdoor world can help avoid mishaps and make every outing that much more fun.
About the Author
Bob Cram is a guide and freelance outdoor writer from Millinocket, Maine. If you’d like to contact him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass along the message.
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