Nature and Summer Travel

by Carolyn Allen

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Summer travel introduces us to a swath of nature that is new to us. And yes, I know that sounds obvious, but consider for a moment the impact of that situation.

We're used to mowed lawns, chemically controlled insects, and familiar bacteria and viruses. And we're used to wildlife not much larger than a loaf of bread! But some wildlife is more dangerous than others.

I've heard of tourists who try to walk up and pet a moose on the nose! And the same with a bull sticking his head over a fence (alright, I know that bulls aren't technically wildlife, but they can sure be wild when provoked!)

  • People who visit a national park for the first time might not realize that bears break into cars that contain food!

  • Wildflowers that look like they are common -- might actually be endangered, and will suffer even if we pick just one blossom!

  • Little children who like to put everything in their mouths might pick up local bacteria or viruses that we are not prepared for.

  • Hyperthermia or hypothermia can happen in the summer, deserts as well as mountains. Even in the flatlands if proper clothing isn't available when wet from sweat or swimming.

  • Pets, especially dogs, are a danger not only to themselves but to wildlife. They are naturally curious, and wander unaware of the dangers of snakes, rodents and bigger beings with hooves! Leave your dog at home if you go to a wilderness park -- and always, always, always, keep them on a 6' (or shorter) leash when you are in a nature it farm, park or hiking trail. They are unnatural -- and thus exotic or invasive -- predators to native wildlife.'s wise to think ahead. If you are planning to go camping or hiking -- talk to experienced outdoors people so that you can prepare safety daypacks for the specific environment, even for short hikes.

My son and a friend took a short hike last summer in a park in the Santa Monica Mountains -- just a short drive from their homes. And on that short walk they stumbled into a very angry hive of wild bees. Were they the dreaded Killer Bees? They didn't stick around to investigate...they had to run as fast as they could -- zigzagging through the woods for about 15 minutes to lose the determined swarm.

So I don't want to scare you -- too badly. ;-) Just enough to encourage you to prepare before going into the wilderness, even when it is close to home. The wilderness is not our backyard, and even though the parking lot is paved, and there are convenient restrooms available, wilderness parks are still filled with the unknown -- both beautiful and dangerous to the unaware or unprepared.

Part of the adventure is learning, preparation and anticipation. Another part consists of safety practices when you are in unfamiliar territory. And the conclusion -- and reason for a celebration -- is a safe return with a glowing memory of the wonders in the wild!

A few web sites that might help you plan ahead are:

Have an extended adventure by planning ahead and walking gently upon the earth!

Carolyn Allen is a Backyard Naturalist. You can reach her Visit her web site, at or subscribe by sending email to:

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