Angeles National Forest Wildland Hazards and Travel Tips

Contact your nearest Forest Service office for additional information.

ALTITUDE SICKNESS AND HYPERVENTILATION

Altitude sickness may occur if you overexert at high elevations where oxygen supply is reduced. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath on exertion. Victims should stop and rest, breathe deeply, and move slowly to lower elevations.

Hyperventilation is caused by too rapid breathing and the decrease of carbon dioxide level in the blood, causing light-headedness and a cold feeling.

Calm the victim and have them relax and breathe into a glove, bag, or hat until normal breathing is restored.

Exhaustion occurs because the person may be pushing too hard. They may be embarrassed to ask the group to slow down. A good principle of backcountry travel is to take it slow, rest often, and drink and snack frequently to restore body energy.

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FIRE

The fire danger level and conditions change on the forest based on many factors.  Please check this web site often and know before you go! What the current fire conditions level is in the Forest.  

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HYPOTHERMIA

Caused by a rapid loss of body heat, hypothermia is the most dangerous illness of backcountry travel. It can strike on a balmy day, under conditions you least expect. Often victims don't recognize the symptoms, simply because they can't believe hypothermia could strike under comparatively mild travel conditions. The victim may have to rely on fellow travelers to spot the attack and act to insure recovery.

Drastic lowering of the inner body temperature causes rapid and progressive mental and physical collapse. Symptoms include fits of shivering, vague, slurred speech, memory lapse, fumbling hands, lurching walk, drowsiness and exhaustion, and apparent unconcern about physical discomfort.

Get the victim out of the wind and wet. Restore body temperature. Skin-to-skin contact is quickest. Place the victim in a dry sleeping bag, then have one or two heat donors surround the victim. If the victim is conscious, give warm drink - even hot water (not coffee or other stimulant.) When fit for travel, carry the victim out in windproof and waterproof covering.

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SEVERE WEATHER AND LIGHTNING SAFETY

Sudden, unexpected mountain storms are common throughout the year. Be aware of the possibility of thunderstorms during the summer, and snow in late spring or early fall. Steam flows will be high and swift following rainstorms and during the snowmelt runoff in early summer. Stream crossings can be hazardous. Check with a local Ranger Station for current conditions. Check current weather conditions at the National Weather Service

Lighting Safety:

During a lightning storm, seek shelter in a building immediately!

If unable to find shelter in a building, follow these guidelines:
 

Outdoors:

  • Get in a hard topped vehicle.
  • Avoid open areas such as meadows, ridges, and mountain tops - any area higher than the surrounding landscape.
  • Stay away from isolated trees, and avoid standing near tall objects.
  • Get away from bodies of water immediately!
  • Stay away from metal objects including fences and machinery.
  • Turn off all radio and telephone equipment.
  • Spread out - don't stand around in a group of people.
  • In all cases, drop hand tools and remove metal frame backpacks and metal tent poles, as lightning is attracted to them.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, lightning may be about to strike. Immediately crouch down and cover your ears. Do not lie down or place your hands on the ground.

Indoors:

  • Stand clear of windows, doors and electrical appliances.
  • Unplug appliances well before a storm nears - never during.
  • Avoid contact with piping including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Do not use the telephone except for emergencies.

TRAVEL TIPS

  • Be prepared, practice safety, and have a unique wilderness experience.
     
  • Plan the trip well in advance. Leave a travel plan with friends or relatives, and follow it. Let them know where you are going and when you plan to return.
     
  • Avoid traveling alone. If you must travel alone, stay on the more frequently used trails.
     
  • Carry a lightweight, waterproof ground cloth or plastic sheet that can be used for emergency shelter. A storm proof tent, however, gives the best shelter.
     
  • Carry lightweight foods and cooking gear. Use trail food such as nuts, dried fruit, candy, and jerky for nibbling. Always be sure to carry extra food and water.
     
  • Stop to make camp well before dark or at the first evidence of bad weather.
     
  • Do not take unnecessary chances. Abandon the trip if anyone becomes ill or if bad weather sets in.
     
  • If you think that you are lost, stay calm, do not panic. Stop, and use the map and compass to determine your location. Do not continue traveling until you know where you are. Use your head, not your legs!
     
  • Three of anything (shouts, whistles, fires, flashes of light, etc.) is a standard distress signal. Use these only in an emergency situation.

Be sure to take these essential items along:

  • A cell phone, if possible.
  • Sturdy boots, warm jacket and extra clothing
  • Canteen, water purification tablets and extra food
  • Whistle - Three blasts is a distress signal. Please use whistle only in an emergency
  • Sunglasses and sunburn protection
  • Pocket knife
  • Waterproof matches and fire source (such as a candle)
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid and snake bite kit
  • Flashlight
  • Map and compass
  • Trowel for sanitation and fire

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WATER and WATER TREATMENT

Water from mountain lakes, streams, and springs is often very inviting - clear, cold, and free-running. However, even though it may look, smell and taste good, you need to be aware of possible danger. Only piped water at developed sites is safe to use for drinking without first being treated.

CRYPTOSPORIDIUM and GIARDIASIS are diseases that may be contracted from drinking untreated "natural" water. Although incapacitating, they are not usually life-threatening for people with healthy immune systems. They do, however, pose a serious threat to people with AIDS or other diseases that weaken the immune system. Symptoms usually include diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps and bloating. These discomforts may appear a few days to a few weeks after ingestion, and may last up to 6 weeks.

Most people are unaware that they have been infected and have often returned home before the onset of symptoms. Other diseases can have similar symptoms, but if you have drunk untreated water you should suspect cryptosporidium or giardiasis, and inform your doctor. With proper diagnosis these diseases are curable when treated by a physician.

All water from natural water sources should be boiled at least 5 minutes. Chemical disinfectants such as iodine or chlorine tablets or drops are not yet considered as reliable as heat in killing cryptosporidium and giardiasis. Although these products work well against most waterborne bacteria and viruses that cause disease. In an emergency where a chemical disinfective must be used, iodine is often more effective than chlorine. If possible, filter the water first, and then allow the iodine to work at least an hour before you drink. Some filtering devices now on the market may also be effective.

For short trips, take a supply of water from home or other domestic source.

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TIPS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BEGINNING ANY HIKE!

  • Take into account your time available. 
  • Have a good knowledge of the area (maps help!). 
  • Check out the weather for the area you will be hiking in and dress appropriately. Take extra clothing and the necessary equipment. The time of year will help determine your needs for your trip.   
  • Consider what the terrain is like where you're going. 
  • Check with a local Forest Service office for information concerning trail conditions and fire restrictions. 
  • Please leave the Forest clean - dispose of your trash in trash receptacles or bring it back with you. 
  • Keep the wildlife "wild". Please never feed the wildlife, and watch and enjoy from a distance! 
  • Let family or friends know where you are going and when you expect to return. 

Suggested Equipment Checklist:

  • Small shovel or trowel for sanitation. 
  • Whistle (3 blasts is a distress signal). Please use the whistle only in an emergency! 
  • Flashlight 
  • First aid kit 
  • Snakebite kit 
  • Pocket knife 
  • Dark glasses and sunscreen lotion 
  • Waterproof matches