Staying Safe on the Forest
The most effective way to prevent mishaps is to adequately prepare for thetrip. Knowledge of the area, weather, terrain, limitations of your body, plus a littlecommon sense can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
- Travel with a companion. You don't want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. Tell someone where and when you are going, when you expect to return, and how many individuals are in your party.
- Be in good physical condition. Set a comfortable pace as you hike. A group trip should be designed for the weakest member of the group.
- Think about your footing while traveling near cliffs. Trees and bushes can't always be trusted to hold you. Stay on developed trails or dry, solid rock areas with good footing.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the trail conditions and season.
- Check your equipment. Rock climbers should always safety check their equipment. Inexperienced climbers should have experienced members in their party. Using a helmet will lessen the chance of a head injury in the event of an accident.
- Be weather wise. Keep an eye on current and predicted weather conditions. In this area, weather can change very quickly. Know the signs for approaching storms or changing weather conditions. Avoid bare ridge tops, exposed places, lone trees, streams, and rocks during lightning storms. Find shelter in a densely forested area at a lower elevation. Even in the summer, exposure to wind and rain can result in hypothermia.
- Learn basic first aid so you will know how to identify and treat injuries and illnesses. Carry a first aid kit with you. Learn how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and dehydration, and know how to treat them.
- Make camp before dark. Traveling after darkness has resulted in many accidents from falls, so travel only during daylight. Set up camp well away from the edge of cliffs, and learn the terrain during daylight. If you have to leave camp after dark, stay in areas you have seen in daylight, go with a friend, and always use a good flashlight.
- Be alert for slippery areas and take your time to avoid tripping. Low-hanging branches and variable terrains make running unsafe, and leaves can hide slippery areas underneath.
- Alcohol and cliffs don't mix! If you drink, stay away from the cliffs. Judgment, agility, and balance are all reduced by alcohol consumption.
- Think before you drink! No matter how clean or pure stream water looks, it's likely to contain water-borne parasites and microorganisms that can cause discomfort and sometimes serious illness. Pack your water in, or purify through chemical treatment.
IS MY CAR SAFE?
As peaceful as the forest may seem, a few visitors may experience auto break-ins. Toprevent break-ins:
Lock your car. As simple as this seems, many people still forget. Don't leaveyour travel plans on the windshield of your car. Thieves use this "window ofopportunity" to break in, since they know you may not be nearby. Leave your planswith the district office or someone at home. Include what trails you plan to hike and anestimate of your return time. Don't leave valuables inside your car. If you mustleave valuables, hide them from view or lock them in the trunk. Empty the glovecompartment and leave it open to show that nothing is inside. Don't park your car withthe trunk backed toward the woods. This provides cover for someone trying to breakinto your trunk. If your car has been vandalized, contact local law enforcement officials.
CAN I BRING MY DOG?
ON THE TRAIL If you bring your dog hiking, keep it under verbal or physicalrestraint at all times. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is a multiple-use forest,which means you and your dog may meet horseback riders, mountain bikers, and four-wheelerson the trail. Use a leash in crowded areas. Hiking is hard work for a dog, especially ifit's not used to long hikes in hot weather. Watch your dog for signs of stress andfatigue, and give it plenty water and rest.
IN THE CAMPGROUNDS, dogs must be on a leash and under control. Tie your dog upin a shady spot and give it lots of attention to minimize barking.
AM I SAFE ON THE TRAIL?
Exercise the same caution you would anywhere else. On some isolated trails, help may befar away. On these trails, a hiking companion is recommended. If alone, pay attention toyour surroundings and the people you meet on the trail. Be alert and project an aura ofconfidence.
ARE THERE SNAKES?
There are several venomous snakes which you should look out for while on theChattahoochee or Oconee National Forests. On the Oconee National Forest look out forcottonmouth, rattlesnake, and copperhead. On the Chattahoochee National Forest look outfor the rattlesnake and copperhead. By observing a few precautions and leaving the snakes alone, you can avoid an unfortunate encounter.
- Never reach under or sit on top of rocks or logs without looking first. These areas are usually a snake's favorite spots to lie.
- Also be careful walking in tall grass where you cannot see your feet, because snakes like to lie in the hot grass in the sun and wait for prey.
- Leave snakes alone--do not attempt to capture or kill them. Snakes are rarely interested in harming humans, and they serve a purpose in the forest ecosystem. Observe them from a safe distance and appreciate the beauty of a natural predator in the wild.
Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix)
What about other wild animals?
IF YOU GET LOST...
All trails are marked with signs (where intersections meet) and diamond blazes ormarkers. However, signs are sometimes vandalized or stolen.
- Pay close attention to your surroundings and landmarks, and relate this to your location on a map.
- Stay calm if you get lost. Panic is your greatest enemy. Try to remember how you got to your present location.
- Trust your map and compass, and do not walk aimlessly. If you are on a trail, don't leave it.
- Stay put if it is nightfall, if you are injured, or if you are near exhaustion.
- As a last resort, follow a drainage or stream downhill. This can be hard going but will often lead to a trail or road.
We want your experience on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests to be a safe one.Here are things you should be aware of during your visit to the forest.
Poison ivy has three leaves and is a plant but may also climb like a vine. Remember...If It Has Leaves of Three, Leave It Be!
Ticks are common in both national forests in Georgia. Some ticks can transmit diseases to humans, so check for ticks after every trip in the woods.
Edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms exist on the forest, but we urge you to leave them alone. Errors in identification can have uncomfortable ordeadly consequences.