General Question

cyndyh's avatar

What do hikers need to watch out for in the Pacific Northwest?

Asked by cyndyh (7588points) December 29th, 2008

I’ve been living in the Seattle for almost 2 years. I love to hike and have frequently gone on solo day hikes before. When I lived in Tucson, for more than 20 years, I knew what the dangers were and where to go and how to prepare for hikes. Here I’ve walked around the city and near the city a lot, but I’ve only been on a handful of out-of-town day hikes because I’m not as sure about how to prepare. So, what do I need to know about bears and raccoons and other things in the woods that I never had to worry about before? I know the desert pretty well and I need to know the forests.

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23 Answers

DrasticDreamer's avatar

If you really like to explore – off trails and whatnot, or even on trails for that matter – be aware of embankments covered in rocks, because rock slides are very typical here and can sometimes be extremely dangerous, due to all the rain. Do not disregard the signs that warn you of possible slides.

You might have to worry about bears in certain areas, but cougars are more likely depending on where you choose to hike. All in all, I just don’t recommend hiking alone. In case of cougars, make sure you have a coat that can make you look larger than you are by extending the sides out and up over your head, should you cross paths. I also recommend carrying something you can bang loudly to scare off any cougars that might possibly be stalking you. Most of the time you’ll never see them, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

cyndyh's avatar

@buster: Ok, why? What does this thing do? I know what to do if I see snakes, mountain lions, spiders, gila monsters, or if I run out of water and feel faint. I also know how to find my way out of the desert and where to salvage water…. I just haven’t done a lot in the way of solo hiking since moving up here.

@DrasticDreamer: Ok, for cougars, that’s the same sort of thing you do when you see a mountain lion in the foot hills of Tucson. I do understand the warnings about not hiking alone. But the alone time is a part of the draw. It’s something I will always do and want to do so I need to know how to handle myself when I do it regardless of whatever is out there to greet me. So, when signs warn about “slides” that means what exactly?

I do appreciate you guys answering even when I say things like I’ll continue to hike on my own when I can. I just want to be as prepared as possible.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

When you see the signs warning of slides it means you’re in an area that has already had quite a few slides for the year (from minor to major), or that you’re in an area that hasn’t necessarily had one yet, but is likely to. In most areas, if the threat is pretty significant they’ll simply close off trails to try and keep people out. Or the trails are closed because you literally can’t pass through due to damage.

Pretty much the signs are a “hike at your own risk” warning. You may get fined if you’re caught trying to hike certain trails, but I’m not positive on that.

buster's avatar

Those suckers are 9 inches long and gooey. You could step on one and it would be just like a banana peel. BAM! There you are with a sprained ankle 10 miles up a trail and you can’t walk. Seriously I hiked a trail at Cape Lookout State Park in Tillamook Oregon and I think they are just amazing critters. Cape Lookout Pics

cyndyh's avatar

@DD: Ah, ok. I was sort of surprised to hear about things like snow warnings above such-and-such feet. I do call ahead for different trails because I got a book called “Beyond Mount Si” for Christmas the year before last and they say to do that. It still seems weird to me, but since calling headed off a trip over to Hoh Valley that would have been bad after the Honukkah Eve Wind Storm and would have cost us several hours out on the peninsula when the road to that area was already closed in early 2007, I do that now. I will watch for trails being closed and not go somewhere that’s marked with a warning. (Tucson has a “stupid motorist law” that charges people if they need to be rescued from flash flood areas when they were already marked, so, I’m used to heading the warnings.)

@buster: I have seem a few slugs in Seward Park and Discovery Park, etc. I do bring my camera and I’ll watch for them for that. I think the main thing I’m wondering is “what will kill me if I’m being a stupid desert girl in the forest?” I don’t want to face unnecessary risks unprepared.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

True ‘dat, Astro. I saw him one time, but it was in the city. Go figure…...

AstroChuck's avatar

I can beat that. I was once married to her.

cyndyh's avatar

You better not be my ex, AstroChuck. :^>

ckinyc's avatar

Sarah Palin!

cyndyh's avatar

We’re not that far north. :^>

EmpressPixie's avatar

Being alone very well could get you killed. We do get muggers and murderers every so often. Being alone makes you more of a target. And you just wind up dead on the trail or at the bottom of some cliff. I mean, come on, if you watch the news there you know this.

cyndyh's avatar

Being mugged or murdered while hiking solo is so incredibly unlikely. I’m not willing to change my life over an irrational fear.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Two or three years ago (the last time I was really paying attention to the news out there) there was kind of a rash of them during the summer. And I didn’t really think you would change your habits over this since you clearly have no interest in doing it over far more pressing concerns.

SoapChef's avatar

I live in the Pacific NW and used to hike alone. I no longer do so, for many reasons, some mentioned above. I still walk on popular trails. I want to know there would be a fellow traveler along before I succumbed because of some relatively minor injury that prevented me from getting out and getting help. We don’t have Grizzlies in the NW and the black and brown bears typically are shy and would prefer to avoid you, but have been known to be aggressive. Depending on where you are going, there is the danger of rattlesnakes which if you are a desert hiker, you know how to deal with that. I did not used to worry about the ‘pumas’ here in the coastal range. That changed the day I saw a cougar warning sign on a beach trail. When hiking in the higher elevations of the Siskiyous in southern Oregon, I had a creepy, hair standing up on the back of my neck experience while on a loop trail. I could not shake the feeling that something was watching or maybe stalking me. I was never so glad to see the parking lot and the safety of my car. I understand the appeal of solitary hiking, there is nothing like it. Is it safe? No, it is not, on so many levels, including human predators. You are at risk every time you step out alone. Please make sure that you tell someone your route and your schedule. Educate yourself on the inherent dangers. Try to be prepared, if you are unfortunately faced with a crisis while out.
The biggest danger when hiking in the PNW is as AstroChuck said, Bigfoot. If she is his ex though she is probably living a life of luxury in some cushy cave and has no interest in harassing you.

Darwin's avatar

I was going to mention the banana slugs but buster beat me to them. As a systematic terrestrial malacologist I rather like slugs, but they are slippery and a mis-step could result in an ankle injury or worse.

What about poison oak? I always seemed to get it when I hike anywhere on the Pacific coast, but I never had a problem in the desert. I know folks may not consider it deadly but if it gets in your eyes or lungs you can have big problems.

b's avatar


cyndyh's avatar

Ok, folks. So, hiker-killers, bigfoot, banana slugs, rain, and manbearpigs. Gotcha. :^> I guess what I need to know now is whether manbearpig is better grilled or braised? Yikes.

b's avatar

Well, actually Manbearpig will be asking that question about you.
Seriously though, your worst danger is getting lost. Just make sure you stay dry, on the trails, and always be prepared in case of emergency. I do believe the biggest killer of hikers in the PNW is hypothermia.

cyndyh's avatar

Yep, I hear you about the hypothermia. That’s one big reason that I’m into hiking but don’t think I could ever go for mountain-climbing. Another is all the equipment.

cyndyh's avatar

@EmpressPixie, I still don’t know what you mean by this: “And I didn’t really think you would change your habits over this since you clearly have no interest in doing it over far more pressing concerns.” Do you want to clarify that?

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