CONCORD — Labor Day Weekend kicked off the fall hiking season in New Hampshire, and in the wake of the COVID-19 public health emergency, many Granite Staters continue to explore their backyards, local trails and other recreational opportunities throughout the state. Being engaged with the outdoors continues to be important for people’s physical and mental health. As the temperatures cool and the foliage begins to emerge there will be a surge in hikers hitting the trails.
While this autumn represents a renewed natural connection for many, all outdoor enthusiasts must be aware that recreation requires year-round personal awareness, preparation and responsibility for oneself and toward others while continuing to practice the recommended social distancing of six feet on all trails, at all trailheads, and in common areas such as parking lots. Face coverings are advised when social distancing cannot be maintained.
“This fall, people hiking must be aware of safe social distancing and their physical limitations,” said state Fish and Game Law Enforcement Chief Colonel Kevin Jordan. “Unpredictable weather, temperature fluctuations and reduced hours of daylight mean that people must be prepared with flashlights, layers of clothing that will keep the body warm and dry, and most importantly, hikers must know when to turn back.
“This is not the time for challenging hikes or dangerous backcountry adventures in ever-changing weather conditions. It is imperative that people enjoying New Hampshire’s natural resources exercise a high degree of caution. Unsafe and irresponsible behavior puts first responders at extreme risk of injury and potential exposure to COVID-19 because social distancing becomes very difficult to manage in search and rescue situations.”
Colonel Jordan also strongly recommends that hikers be prepared and carry with them the top 10 essentials for New Hampshire’s changeable weather conditions and for unanticipated emergencies: a map; compass; warm clothing such as a sweater or fleece jacket, long pants (wool or synthetic) and a hat (wool); extra food and water; flashlight or headlamp; matches/fire starters; a First Aid kit/repair kit;
whistle; rain/wind jacket and pants and a pocket knife.
Read more about safe hiking at tinyurl.com/y4cct6fn.
Outdoor enthusiasts are also encouraged to purchase their voluntary annual Hike Safe card for 2020. Card sales help defray the costs of training and rescue equipment for state Fish and Game law enforcement conservation officers, preparing them to come to your aid if the unexpected happens.
2020 Hike Safe cards cost $25 for an individual, or $35 for a family, and are good for the calendar year ending Dec. 31. The price is the same for both residents and nonresidents.
Cards can be purchased online at wildnh.com/safe and at Fish and Game Department Headquarters, 11 Hazen Drive, in Concord.
Purchasing a hunting or fishing license also provides you with the same protection as a Hike Safe card. In addition to Hike Safe card revenues, Fish and Game’s Search and Rescue Fund is supported by a $1 fee collected for each boat, snowmobile, and OHRV registered in New Hampshire.
It’s your responsibility to hike safe. Be sure to follow the hiker responsibility code by being knowledgeable about where you are going and what the local weather and terrain conditions will be, leaving your plans with someone, turning back in inclement weather or if you are running out of daylight, and planning for emergencies. Visit hikesafe.com for more information.