Stay alert. Stay with others. Stay safe.
Part of the Colorado culture is hitting the trails. And most of the time, you can head out on a hike or walk, get some fresh air, and make it back home safe and sound. But despite this, you always need to be aware that no one is 100 percent safe from harm while you are out on the trail.
This year alone, several trail attacks have been reported. In May, a woman was attacked on the Poudre River Trail in Fort Collins. In July, two women were brutally assaulted in separate attacks on the High Line Canal Trail, which winds its way through the Denver suburbs. Suspects were arrested in all the incidents, thankfully, but it can't take back the physical and mental pain inflicted on the victims.
Whether tackling a more urban-based trail or one in the mountains, here are some tips to help prevent an attack or defend yourself, if necessary.
1. Don't hike alone: There's always safety in numbers, and chances are an attacker won't target a pair or a group of people. In addition, a hiking buddy can get help if you are injured or assist you if you need. If you don't have another person, reconsider going hiking, but at least take your dog (if allowed on trails).
2. Tell someone where you are going: It's always important for other to know where you are hiking in the event you don't return when expected. It also gives a starting point for a search.
3. Hike during busy times: Early morning and evening hikes and walks are not likely to have as many people around. This leaves an attacker more space to make their move. Hike and walk when others are around, which will hopefully deter someone who is out to harm others.
4. Know the trail: It will help if you know blindspots on the trail or know when things are out of place.
5. Be familiar with your surroundings: Always be aware of what and who is around you. Be alert, as well, at trail heads and parking areas
5. Wear and carry the proper gear: Don't give anyone an advantage over you. Have proper shoes, wear reflective clothing, and carry your cell phone for quick 911 calls, if possible. Try not to hike if you aren't feeling well and be sure you stay properly hydrated. While 99 percent of people who stop to help you if you are struggling physically on the trail have great intentions, it's also a perfect way for an attacker to get access to you.
1. Learn self-defense: There are several courses you can take out there to help you learn to fight off an attack.
2. Carry pepper spray: It's easy to use and pretty debilitating to whoever gets a faceful, which could buy you some time to get away from an attacker. Bonus: while it won't totally deter a wild animal attack (bear spray has the strength to do this if you are concerned), it might get them to back off, and any space is good space.
3. Carry a whistle: It can possibly deter a human or animal attack, and importantly, can help someone locate you if you are injured and need help.
Do you have other tips for safety when on the trail? Let us know in the comments.