By Russ Hodgins
Russ Hodgins took a trip with his family to Grasslands National Park for another hike and spent a night in the badlands. Temperatures are starting to cool off as we head into the fall season. Without the worry of the summer heat, it is a great time to head out and enjoy a trail! Here are a few photos from their Grasslands adventure:
Fortunately, it is uncommon for hikers to experience a wildfire while out on a trail. However, with an increase of people adventuring in back country, and the affects of climate change and drought, it is important for hikers to be knowledgeable about a wildfire scenario.
One of the greatest threats to the environment is a wildfire, but they are also extremely dangerous for individuals as well. Here are some easy to follow tips to avoid wildfires and keep yourself safe if you were to come across one.
Before hiking a particular trail, the smartest precaution to take is to check an online map indicating active forest fires across the country. You can also visit a local ranger station who can warn you about certain high-risk trails. If an official chooses to close a trail in response to a fire, do not ignore the warning even if the fire does not seem close by. Wildfires can change directions and speed at anytime without sufficient warning.
Be Well Equipped
It is important to note what type of clothing you are wearing. Cotton material is fine, but fabrics made of polyester, for example, will melt and stick to your skin. If you are hiking in a more high-risk area it is a good idea to bring along a cotton bandana or n95 mask in case you encounter fire smoke. Taking along a topographic map and a compass as well are great navigation tools to avoid and escape wildfires. Noting the direction of escape routes and large bodies of water is important.
Do Not Panic
If you are out on the trail and see smoke or fire, it important not to panic but to refer to a map to find the best escape route plan. However, not panicking does not mean you wait around and assume the fire will go away in the opposite direction. Get away from it as quickly as possible. Once you are safely away you can notify authorities immediately.
Avoiding Fire and Smoke Inhalation
If fire or smoke is close to you, look for areas away from trees, bushes, and other vegetation that are fire fuels. Find surfaces like dirt roads, trail gravel, asphalt, or rock. If you have to enter a smoke-filled area, cover your mouth with a bandana, mask, or piece of clothing, and lie on the ground or stay as low as possible. Air quality is usually better at lower elevations.
It is best to travel upwind and downhill when trying to avoid a fire. Avoid high areas like hills, mountains, canyons, ravines, and drainage areas because they act as chimneys for the fire. Try to find low areas, a streambed is the most ideal if possible.
Knowing the Characteristics of Fire
White or gray coloured smoke means the fire is burning light, but it usually means the fire will move fast. Brown smoke usually means burning brush, and dark brown or black means the flames have set fire to oily vegetation or a material that burns at a much slower pace.
If you see the smoke of a fire spiraling upwards it is an indication that there is low wind and the direction the fire will go is more unknown. If the smoke arcs in a particular direction, that is a good indication that the fire will travel in that direction.
Protecting Yourself if Escape is Impossible
If you are unable to flee a wildfire, try to find a ditch, gully, streambed, or water source with as little vegetation possible. If you have time to remove vegetation like brush or grass from the particular area you should do so. The more vegetation you remove the more protection you will have.
It is recommended that you lie on your stomach with your feet facing the direction of the fire and dig a hole for your face in addition to covering your mouth. Covering yourself in dirt is another recommendation for protecting yourself against the flames.
We always want to ensure hikers have the best and safest experiences on the trails. Wildfires not only cause destruction, but severe burns can be fatal for hikers. Inhalation of smoke also poses a great risk. Health effects like headaches, eye irritation and shortness of breath can occur. In more severe cases impaired lung function, bronchitis, asthma, and heart failure can also occur.
STA wants to make certain hikers are educated about nasty environmental hazards so dangerous wildfires can be avoided by adventurous hikers.
If you are looking at potentially adding a trail to your community, there are several steps to consider. Successfully funding, building, and maintaining a new trail can be a tough task. Here are a few different preparation steps to consider and plan for before you start building a trail.
Before starting into trail design and construction, the first step is to lay out a concept for your trail. A good concept consists of a few sentences or statements to define your mission and objectives. Design a rough goal that you wish to achieve.
The next step is to study the area where you want to build. Sketch or photocopy a rural municipality ownership map or topographical map to gain an idea of the location, ownership, and terrain.
Why is this trail a good idea?
The next step is to better understand what makes this trail a good idea. What aspects make this trail unique? What is the need for this trail? What target audience or demographic will use this trail? Are adjustments possible to incorporate a greater user group? All of these questions aid in creation of a successful trail. Trail knowledge and ideas can be gained by talking to other trail operators or organizers, these contacts can be found on Sasktrails.ca.
Try discussing the idea with friends and family to see potential opportunities or risks that you might have missed. Keep track of those in support of a trail to add to a mailing list as well as your community’s recreation director. A walk down the desired trail location and route can help to point out any potential problem areas such as cliffs, bogs, rivers, or other difficult to pass areas. As well, consider any environmental concerns like heritage sites which should not be disturbed.
Route evaluation checklist
Creation of a route evaluation checklist helps to compile the vast diversity of the area such as the vegetation, topography, natural features, built features, infrastructure, wildlife, slopes, views, intersections, and access points. Gathering this information into a checklist will assist in designing the path for the trail and potential features to set your trail apart from others.
Contact any outdoor clubs and talk to key people
Grow your stakeholders and connections by contacting outdoors groups and key people who can help to get the trail built and backed. Some of these groups are the Saskatchewan Snowmobiling Association (sasksnow.ca), Saskatchewan All-Terrain Vehicle Association (satva.ca), Saskatchewan Cycling Association (saskcycling.ca), and Saskatchewan Horse Federation (saskhorse.ca). Making these connections will be a huge step towards gaining funding and volunteers.
Call a meeting to clarify your group’s vision
Call a meeting for all potential trail supporters and finalize questions such as: general type of trail, how it will relate to existing trails, approximate route and length, type of uses allowed, preferred surface material, theme or prominent subject of area, name for the project (a catchy name will often attract users).
Select a person for each of the following tasks:
- Research history of site
- Put together a list of influential people in area
- Start to consider where the funding could come from
- Compile a list of recreation, cultural, historic and tourist sites which would be supportive
- Explain how this trail relates to the provincial trail network and other nearby routes
- Have a local artist “add” a trail to a large photo of the site
- put the research material together into a display, emphasizing the community benefits
- put research material onto a map of the area, at a scale of 1:50,000 or more detailed
- compile text information, with reference to the distance from one end and start a scrapbook of all the promotion and support received
This step involves meeting more influential people, organizations, and the general public while recording their contact information. This also includes writing a media release and contacting the media such as newspapers, radios, and televisions to get the word out and gain more supporters.
Expand and formalize the concept
Write a program statement to obtain formal endorsements and funding. The program statement will consist of a one-page narrative documenting the vision and schedule. You should already have some influential supporters and contacts, so now is the time to use them. Contact target groups or people such as an MP, MLA, Mayor, City Council, or Major Industry in search of endorsements.
The project proposal requires a detailed site investigation to determine exactly what work is required. This will be one of the largest steps and require time to document all of the information and build an in-depth report.
Have the financial person start a project budget of anticipated expenses. Getting written quotations at this stage will allow more efficient fund-raising and reduce the approval time.
The design step focuses on land acquisition, path clearing, placing material, obtaining required equipment, creation of maps, creation of signage, and other required design tools.
Have someone start to search for funding. Indicate to all organizations how much you are requesting from others. Everyone wants to see commitment from others. (A great place to start your search for funding would be to visit sasktrails.ca or National Trails Coalition at ntc-canada.ca). Record all of the organizations you have asked for funding, their reply, and the amount donated, this will help to keep the books.
Obtain all approvals including land ownership (lease, licence of occupation, or purchasing), municipality, funding organizations, operating organizations. Sample landowner agreements can be found on the SaskTrails’ website.
Determine the need for liability insurance and acquire a policy if required. (Oasis Insurance — oasisinsurance.ca — located in North Battleford offers a discount rate to all SaskTrails members.)
Congratulations, you have officially opened the trail and made a huge impact on your community. Now it is time to plan the opening, recognise the efforts of the group, and thank the supporters and funders. Once opened it is important to focus on ongoing trail maintenance and to continue to evaluate and follow up with trail issues and feedback. By following these steps, you can more accurately and reliably plan out the creation of your trail.
These steps and the full Trail Planning Workbook can be found at https://sasktrails.ca/trail-builders/.
Well this is a blog I have just been itching to write! As we all know, we can only control nature so much, and occasionally on a nice hike through your favorite trail, you can come across some less than pleasant wildlife and plant life. Learn how to identify, avoid, and treat yourself or others if you happen to bump into one of these less than friendly plants!
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac grow everywhere. These plants grow mainly in North America in wooded and marshy areas. There are many myths and misconceptions about these plants as well. The three “poisonous” plants are not really poisonous, they have a sap like oil that covers their leaves that is to blame for the nasty rashes they leave behind. This sap is called urushiol and causes extremely itchy and quite painful rashes on the skin.
These rashes consist of streaks of red raised blisters and while unpleasant, often do not show up for hours to days after contact with the plant’s oil. While the rash and itching are not contagious, if in contact with the plants, wash it off immediately to avoid spreading the oil.
Note: pets (dogs and cats) can be harmed by poison ivy, oak, and sumac as well. An animal that comes in contact with the oils of these plants may not show symptoms immediately because it has to work its way through the animal’s fur. Animals can also transmit the sticky oil to humans.
How to Avoid
Seeing as these plants can be anywhere, the best way to avoid them is to be aware of your surroundings and knowledgeable about their appearance. The rhyme “leaves of three, let them be”, however, is not true, poison ivy has only three leaves, but the other two can grow in leaves of seven to thirteen.
Another precaution to take is simply wearing clothing that covers your skin. If the oil cannot touch and stick to your skin, it cannot harm you. However, you should always be careful and wash any clothing or tools that come in contact with these plants as the oil may still be on them.
Another dangerous misconception or myth about poison ivy, oak, and sumac is that you do not need to visit the doctor to get treatment. In minor cases, you may not need to see a doctor, but it is smart to go anyways. If the rash is close to your face or eyes, or if the rash is accompanied by nausea, fever, shortness of breath, extreme soreness, or allergy like symptoms, you should visit the ER immediately! Doctors can prescribe pills and/or cremes to reduce the rashes, swelling, itching, and any other accompanied side effects.
While there is no substitute for seeing a doctor and receiving treatment, along with treatment, there are some home remedies you can use. Aside from washing the area with water and soap, keep the infected area cool, dry, and clean. Lotions like calamine lotion, diphenhydramine cream or hydrocortisone can help control itching. Cool compresses, baths with baking soda/oatmeal can also soothe the rash to help avoid the terrible itch. Avoid scratching the rash or blisters because it will only make it hurt and itch more.
Nobody plans to come into contact with these plants, but accidents happen when you least expect it. Hopefully this information can help you, your friends, or your family on your next trip through the trails in Saskatchewan!
The weather is warm, and the sun is shining, so it is time to get out and have some fun on the trails! However, increased time spent outdoors during the summer means there are precautions that should be used to take care of yourself. Too much exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat exhaustion and unfortunately lead to heat stroke.
This blog was not created to make you fear the beautiful summer weather. Experiencing sunshine and the outdoors has many positive benefits for your body — both physically and mentally. Although it is important to emphasize that too much of anything can be bad for you. If you learn about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, however, and apply the following safety tips and precautions when you head outdoors, you will be sure to beat the heat!
What Is It?
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke/sunstroke and is a direct result of the body overheating. When heat exhaustion is not addressed, heat stroke will soon follow. These occur with overexposure to extremely hot weather as well as strenuous activity. Heat stroke is the most severe degree of heat related illness and is very common when temperatures spike upwards.
Heat stroke has many symptoms and the complications that go along with it should be taken seriously as it can be fatal. When the body reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you have heat stroke. This temperature can cause major lasting damage to you brain, muscles, heart, kidneys, and other vital organs.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Overheating will cause many of the following symptoms. These symptoms will let you know to get out of the sun, drink water, and relax until your body can effectively cool itself before heatstroke is reached.
- High body temperature
- Altered mental state/ Confusion
- Flushed skin (Sweats followed by clammy cold skin)
- Rapid breathing
- Racing heart
- Sweating or lack there of (Explained later)
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle aches/cramps
How To Protect Yourself
It is important to know your body’s limits and to take steps in order to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion before it happens.
- Wear loose fitting, lightweight, light coloured clothing
- Wear sunscreen
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take precautions with medication
- Take it easy through hottest part of the day
- Wear a hat
- Take frequent breaks in the shade to cool off and relax
- Avoid over exerting or over exercising
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol which will dehydrate you
To avoid this heat-related issue, get out of the sun or seek immediate shade if possible. Evaluate the situation, if symptoms are major and there is vomiting, seizures, extreme dizziness, or other dangerous signs, seek a doctor or call 911 immediately.
If possible, apply cool packs or cold compress to key body parts such as your back, neck, groin, head, and armpits. The next immediate step is to drink lots of water (preferably cool water). Water will help your body to cool itself through the act of sweating. If it has gotten to the point where you are no longer sweating and have become very dehydrated, you have most likely reached heat stroke and should seek out a healthcare professional. Gatorade or sports drinks with electrolytes work as well, however. avoid soda or other caffeinated beverages.
It is always smart idea to consult a physician or doctor if you think you may have heat exhaustion or heat stroke to receive proper medical care. If you are showing symptoms of heat exhaustion, take a cool shower, remove tight or unnecessary clothing, drink plenty of fluids/sports drinks and apply any other cooling methods. After cooling yourself down, revaluate your situation, and if symptoms persist, seek medical help.
We hope you gained some important knowledge about heat exhaustion and heat stroke so you can avoid it this summer and maximize your fun in the sun!
The 8km Klinger trail project connecting Marean Lake and Greenwater has begun construction. The project was created to honour the memory of Kleon Swahn (aka Klinger) who was killed in a workplace accident at SaskPower. The area was significant to him because he grew up in the area, spent time as a child at the family cabin at Marean, and then purchased his own cabin there as an adult.
Friends and family are thrilled to announce that 2 km of the trail have been completed, after years of planning. This would not be possible without all the donations, assistance from volunteers, and receiving permission from Christ the King Camp, who owns that section of land.
The planning committee of nine dedicated volunteers has raised $25,000 in cash donations so far, a large donation of $10,000 came from SaskPower. Generous individuals have also committed to supplying all the gravel and crusher dust needed, as well as the equipment and hauling required which is a huge contribution.
A total of six benches have been purchased so far by sponsors to go along the trails. The planning committee wants to stress how grateful they are to all the individuals and businesses who have helped out in anyway. Check out the Klinger’s Trail Facebook page to see the various ways people are supporting the project.
In order for the construction to continue, the committee is waiting on approval from the Government of Saskatchewan to construct on Provincial Park land. While the committee waits for approval, they have started constructing a ball diamond which will be another feature of the project, located at the trailhead.
The Klinger Trail committee hopes to finish the trail this year, but they still need to raise an additional minimum amount of $50,000 to accomplish this goal. The trail will not only showcase the beautiful terrain connecting the two areas, but it will also include multiple bridges two of them over 53 ft long.
It will be really good addition for the community because right now they do not have anything like that at Marean. Most importantly, it will be a tribute to Kleon, a friend who deserves a legacy.
You can donate to this project at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/saskatchewan-trails-association-inc/ or by contacting Rob Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org
Like Klinger’s Trail Facebook page to stay updated on the project and to get involved in any volunteer opportunities.
Here is some beautiful pictures of wild greenery found along the trail!
By Russ Hodgins
Ghost Towns of Saskatchewan
Looking for something to do during the pandemic? Consider checking out the Saskatchewan Ghost Town Trail. Take the chance to explore places such as Candiac, Frobisher, Shackleton and more, all here in Saskatchewan. Each town is unique and has something new and interesting to photograph.
A recommended ghost town to visit is Bromhead due to its many exciting sights including old, rundown buildings, an abandoned gas station, rusted vehicles, and lots more! Saskatchewan has lots to offer if you just look around in the right places.
Besides the ghost towns you may also find it interesting to find a safe spot to stop on the side of the road. You may see something worth taking a photo of because while driving to the ghost towns there are also plenty of abandoned buildings.
Although the likelihood of crowds is low in a ghost town, it is still encouraged that people continue to practice safe physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart. Aside from that go out and have fun!
Also feel free to post any photos you have taken to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #sasktrails. We would love to see your pictures. You may also want to consider entering your photograph(s) into the Give Us Your Best Shot photo contest that begins June 6 and ends June 30. Further details of the contest are located as a blog post at https://sasktrails.ca/sta-photo-contest/.
If you are considering visiting one of the many ghost towns in Saskatchewan visit https://anywhere.ca/ghost-towns-saskatchewan/ for more information and photos.
Celebrate Saskatchewan Trails Day on June 6 while practicing physical distancing
As people look for new ways to spend their time during the pandemic, many are turning to trails as a healthy and fun way to get some exercise and a little adventure. The Saskatchewan Trails Association (STA) invites all residents to get out and enjoy the trail network on Saskatchewan Trails Day on June 6, while at the same time adhering to provincial health standards.
“Escape the indoors, and experience the beauty of Saskatchewan trails,” said STA President David Powell. “Bring your family and friends, or even have your own solo adventure on a new trail. Keep in mind the safety of yourself and others while practicing social distancing. While out on your exploration, we encourage you to share your experience and photos with us using #SaskTrailsDay. You can follow us and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”
If by chance you do run into other trail lovers along your hike, the STA advises that you adhere to the guidelines set out by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). You can help protect yourself by practicing physical distancing which is defined as maintaining a 2-meter (6-feet) distance away from others and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as well as any other surfaces others may have come in contact with. It is also important to practice good hand hygiene.
If you are looking to find trails in isolated locations, then check out the STA’s on-line trail directory at sasktrails.ca/trail-directory/. The directory provides information about trails, locations, difficulty, length, photos and maps. It can help you get from point A to point B on your journey to experience nature on the trails.
As part of the Saskatchewan Trails Day celebrations, the STA is launching a month-long photo contest. Make sure to take lots of photos while hiking one of the trails and submit them to us through Instagram using #SaskTrailsDay. You can enter as often as you like and the best photo, as selected by the STA board of directors, will receive a prize package valued at $200. All photos become property of the STA and will be used to promote your favourite trails. The contest begins on Saskatchewan Trails Day and wraps up on June 30 as part of June is Recreation and Parks Month in the province. A decision on the top prize will be made the following week.
After you’ve experienced the trail system, the STA encourages you to make a donation to the trail of your choice, and to help support trail development and maintenance programs in Saskatchewan. Memberships to become a STA member are also available for as little as $25 per year for an individual. STA members have accesses to trail funding and other resources and can also attend and vote at meetings of members. Visit Sasktrails.ca to find out more information about trails and activities you can do in your area. Every new trail offers a unique adventure!
Connect With Us
The Saskatchewan Trails Association was created to promote the development and use of recreational trails throughout Saskatchewan.
2260 McIntyre Street
Regina, SK S4P 2R9
1 (306) 522 9326