Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hiking fears: Keeping things in perspective

Professor Hike (a.k.a. Jason Stevenson) has a thoughtful article on the Backpacker Magazine website regarding the things that hikers fear the most.

He makes the point that many hikers spend far too much time and energy worrying about scary — but low percentage — threats like bears, cougars, and poisonous snakes, and not enough time concerning themselves with dull but common dangers like germs, blisters, and hypothermia.

I agree with him for the most part, but hiking in grizzly country still makes me uncomfortable. I once saw a grizzly on a trail in Yellowstone. That glare he gave both my wife and I was quite frightening. Fortunately there were a couple of other hikers in the vicinity at that exact same moment, so the bear didn't bother us.

For those that find themselves worrying about any or all of these low percentage threats, hopefully this article will help tyo keep things in perspective the next time you hit the trail.



TandR said...


That is indeed a great article. Indeed the main things to be careful of on the trail is exposure, etc. I can count on one may two hands the total number of snakes I've seen while on the trails and of those I can count on one finger the number of them that were poisonous.

I am deathly afraid of snakes, but I don't let that keep me from the trail. As long as you stay aware of your surroundings take large steps away from logs/rocks, then one should be fine. If you see a snake on the trail and can tell that it is venomous, the best thing to do is wait it out for it to move. That snake is just as afraid of us as we are of it but it will strike in a defensive manner if provoked or threatened.

Thanks again for the article.


P.S. Interested in a Link Exchange? We would love to list the site on our link list. Your site is always very informative.

Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Tim - thanks for your comments. I just added you to my blog roll. Looks like you have a wealth of information on your site.

I used to hike in the Red River Gorge quite a bit in my younger years. I had heard that RRG has the highest concentration of poisenous snakes in the world - I've never been able to verify that so I don't know if it's true. However, in all my hiking in there, I've never even seen one.

I had never seen a snake in the Smokies until this past summer, when I ran into two on the same trail!

So, yes, seeing snakes is pretty rare. You can probably thank Hollywood for the wide spread of ophiophobia!


TandR said...

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the link. Your blog is not listed in our list as well. I've only seen one snake while on a trail in the Smokies. It was early last year when Robin and I was hiking up to LeConte Lodge. It was a small guy but didn't look venomous. He apparently was out for a sun bath and slithered away under the brush as we approached.

We did come across a copperhead at Big Ridge one time. Luckily I was still at the trail head reading what was posted at the kiosk. Robin had started in already and came back real quick like and told me to stay where I was because of the snake. I didn't venture from my spot until she reported it had moved on. LOL.