Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Use this hiking form to make sure the important information will be available in an emergency. Give the completed form to a responsible person who, in case of emergency, can share the form with the proper authorities that will assist with search and rescue efforts.
If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area not knowing which direction to go, sit down for a few minutes and gather your thoughts. Think calmly through your situation. If you believe you can track yourself back to a location where you can absolutely identify where you are then do so. However, it you cannot or you still are not finding the right trail, then immediately stop to prevent wandering further away on an unknown path. If you are somewhere along the front country and have a cell phone then dial 9-1-1 and ask for the Santa Barbara County Dispatch Center. Explain your situation and request search & rescue be activated to find you. If you do not have any reception and you believe you can safely climb to higher ground then do so and try again as this may improve your ability to get a signal. Find an open area so you can be spotted easier from the ground and air. Once you have contacted County Dispatch the important information to quickly give is your name, location, how many are with you and your reason for calling. Further details can be given if needed. Stay put after you hang up! If you move without telling anyone then SBCSAR will have more difficulty in locating you. Stay off of your cell phone as much as possible to save battery power as SBCSAR or Sheriff’s personnel may be calling or texting you back in order to locate you much more quickly.
Be familiar with some of the natural hazards in the area such as rattlesnakes and Poison Oak. While potentially dangerous, rattlesnakes very rarely are deadly. Unless provoked, surprised or cornered, they will do everything they can to get away from you. The best way to avoid an unwanted encounter is to make noises while hiking and watch where you put your feet and hands. If you do encounter a rattlesnake give it room to escape. Do not poke it with a stick or throw rocks at it as it will only become defensive and strike out. If it doesn’t move out of the way, you will want to walk carefully around it, giving it a lot of space.
Poison Oak is a woody shrub that is related to poison ivy and poison sumac. It is plentiful below 4,000′ and is generally identified by its oily leaves in groups of three. The leaves can be green, yellow, or red and fall off each year. The leaves and stems contain an oil (Urushiol) that causes a nasty, itchy rash in 85% of the population. It’s powerful stuff so treat this plant seriously.
For more information on hiking hazards in our local area please visit the Santa Barbara Trail Guide website.