How do you usually start a group hike? We start with a group warm-up and stretch to make sure everyone is limber, so no one gets hurt on the trail. Lots of dynamic stretches for the legs, knees, hips, and ankles. Warm up the joints and the muscles.
Are cougars a real danger? Not when hiking in groups but you should always be alert.
So…bears? I do see them, but any bear encounters I have had have been pretty friendly, as long as we stay out of each other’s way! I carry a bear bell too.
What’s in your backpack? Well, first, there’s a towel for wiping the sweat off, regardless of the season! It will keep you dry and warm. Wool gloves. The tighter the better, so no cold air gets on your skin. Merino wool is the best fiber I’ve come across for keeping warm, and it wicks the moisture away to keep you dry. My toque is merino wool too.
Um, you’re talking a lot about being cold and wet. Even if you are out on a day when it isn’t raining, when you’re in the forest under the canopy getting dripped on, and there’s 70, 80 percent humidity, you’re going to sweat and get wet.
You have some pretty cool equipment. What are your survival must-haves? Water, of course. It would surprise you how many people don’t even bring water when they go on a hike. It doesn’t take long to get dehydrated—you’re exercising! Water will also protect you from injury. I always carry a walking stick, a watch (phones lose power and are affected by moisture), a gps unit, a flare gun, a personal locator, survival blanket, duct tape, a signalling device—you want an audible signalling device that doesn’t run on batteries, like a whistle, and something for signalling visually, like reflector tape. Of course, I also have my survival-kit-in-a-can! You never know what’s going to happen, so you should be prepared for anything, especially if you don’t know the trail. I know that 90 percent of the time, I could go out on a hike and not bring anything. But I also know that I could fall and sprain an ankle or fall and hit my head. Or come across somebody else who has. I’m always thinking about other people on the trail.