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Date Sent:      June 09, 2006
Subject:           A Word About Personal Safety
From:               John Bondon
Special thanks to Andrew and Howard for helping to lead the Remington hike last weekend. We ended up dividing into two groups once we reached the top of the ridge and some of us took the usual route, while the rest of the gang explored new territory. We then regrouped at the end for a bite at Erik's Deli in San Ramon. :)

This Sunday Prachi leads us on a trek at Pleasanton Ridge. Carpool meets at 9:45am, or meet at the trailhead at 10:30am. Refer to the website for complete details.

A Word About Personal Safety

Ticks

This is tick season! And with the heavy amount of rain we received earlier this year, the ticks are out in full force this year. I've been receiving numerous reports -- both from members of this group, as well as others -- of tick encounters. I, personally, had never even seen a tick in my life, until this past weekend when I discovered 3 crawling on me. :) Lucky for me they were of the white, crab like variety, and supposedly harmless. But everyone should be aware of the dangers of ticks, and remember to thoroughly check oneself over (or ask a loved one to help) after each and every hike. And if you have pets, remember to check them as well. For additional tips about dealing with ticks, refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page on the website.

Trail Safety

I don't mean to scare anyone, but whenever hiking alone, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Some recent news story should serve as a reminder as to the importance of this for all of us. On May 3rd, a woman was attacked on the Iron Horse trail in pleasant hill. And there was a similar attack about a week later on a trail in the Antioch area. And let's not forget the case of sexual assault by a 12-year old boy along a Wildcat Canyon Creek trail near Verde Elementary School in Richmond in 2003. Or the sexual assualt and murder of an Antioch woman along a popular Concord trail, also in 2003.

Again, these examples are not meant to scare you away from hiking, but rather, to remind you of the importance of paying attention to your surroundings. There have been no known attacks against groups of hikers. Your risk of attack, particularly if you are female or a child, is actually greater in a parking lot, elevator, or laundry room, than it is on a hiking trail. But these stories should serve as an important reminder to all of us, to exercise caution nonetheless, particularly when hiking alone, even if in an otherwise "safe" area.

Being the prankster that I am (at times), it amazes me how easy it can be to sneak up on an unsuspecting friend walking along a trail or sidewalk. Likewise, if you watch other people while hiking, you'll notice that most never bother to turn around to see who is approaching from behind. Or they are so involved in a conversation that they are unaware of what's happening around them. Or worse yet, they are walking or joggling while listening to their ipod -- which means they can't hear what's happening around them.

If I were to dispense one piece of advice when it comes to personal safety while hiking, it would be simply this, pay attention to your surroundings! Look behind you from time to time. Watch the people that pass you and that you pass and be aware of anyone acting strange. Pay attention to your location as well and think if you had to call 911, where would you tell them to find you?? The Iron Horse Trail, for example, stretches from Dublin up through Concord, so EXACTLY where on it would someone find you? (What was the last cross street or mile marker you passsed?) Officer Tim Chon, of the Pleasant Hill Police Department, also suggests to "avoid getting too close to areas of thick shrubbery that can hide a potential suspect".

Cell Phone Tips

Speaking of calling for help, if you found yourself on a trail needing help, who would you call? Most people would probably answer "911", and if you were calling from a landline phone, such as your home phone, I'd agree. But when calling from a cell phone, avoid 911 whenever possible! While landline 911 calls are routed thru your local police or fire department, most cellular 911 calls are handled by the California Highway Patrol. Not only is the dispatcher likely not familar with the area you are calling from, he or she most likely won't know your exact location either! (Unlike the landline 911 system, which instantly displays your street address to the dispatcher.) Another disadvantage of cellular 911 is the long wait times that are typical compared to landline 911 systems.

So what's the solution, you ask? Simple. Dial the agency you need directly, instead! Take the time now to program the police department phone numbers for the areas you travel to (or hike!) most often. My phone, for example, has Concord, Walnut Creek, and Pleasant Hill PDs, along with the CHP and County Fire, programmed in. Dialing the local police department business line and asking for dispatch, is usually much faster than phoning 911 from your cell phone. Afterall, the 911 operator is only going to have to transfer your call ultimately anyway so why not cut down on the transfer time and dial who you need directly?! :) The white government pages section of your local phone book should list the numbers for the police agencies you need.


As always, you'll find more details about our upcoming hikes posted on the East Bay Casual Hiking website.

Happy Trails! :)

Happy Trails,

John




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