Limited Water (Dehydration)

Whether you’re in the vast, barren Owyhee desert or on the long, dry ridgelines along the Idaho/Montana Border, staying hydrated is critical to your survival.  In the desert, it is likely to be necessary to cache water along the route as natural water sources dry up very early in the season.  When ridge walking, closely monitoring the water situation and filling up when you get the chance should be sufficient.

Keep yourself out of trouble by taking note of where the trail is going, and the likelihood of finding adequate water.  By being observant you can stay hydrated while avoiding carrying unnecessary water weight.  Most ridgeline hiking takes you away from water sources for 10-15 miles at a time (though there are a few longer stretches).  Identifying your last chance to get water before climbing high above the low-lying streams will keep you out of trouble.

A large water bladder with drinking hose is a convenient way to stay hydrated, but be careful of losing track of how much water you are consuming.  Make sure you know how much water you need and how much you are using.  Also, replacing lost electrolytes with a powdered sports drink mixture can help stave off dehydration.

Dehydration prevention and symptoms
http://www.americanhiking.org/resources/dehydration/

Drinking Water for Hiking: Myths and Facts
http://www.lightandmatter.com/article/hiking_water.html

How to find water
http://www.wilderness-survival-skills.com/how-to-find-water.html

Extreme Heat

The possibility of high temperatures and complete lack of shade make the Owyhee Desert a serious undertaking.  Long-term exposure to the desert sun can quickly escalate to a life or death situation.  Extreme summer heat can be a factor on the rest of the trail as well, especially in the river corridors at lower elevation.  Learn to identify and address symptoms of heat exhaustion and have a plan in place in case of heat stroke.  In the event of heat stroke, medical attention may be required as quickly as possible and can happen when you are hours (or days) from the nearest medical facilities.

After prolonged exposure to high heat, the body becomes unable to cool itself by natural means.  The body is unable to dissipate heat once outside temperatures climb into the 90’s and can begin to overheat.  While early symptoms can be addressed by hydrating, submerging in cool water, and taking shelter from the sun, the wide expanses of desert can eliminate these life saving options.

If any member of your party is showing signs of confusion, anxiety, or loss of consciousness, seek medical help immediately.  A helicopter evacuation may be necessary to save the patients life.

Take steps to ensure your safe travel.  Avoid hiking in the heat of the day.  Stick to seasons with more temperate weather. Protect your body from the sun by wearing lightweight long sleeves and pants. A UV reflecting umbrella can also help keep you cool.  Heat and dehydration are a deadly combination so make sure you always have adequate water.

Heat Exhaustion
http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/heat-exhaustion

Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment
http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/heat-stroke-symptoms-and-treatment

Hiking tips for hot weather
http://www.modernhiker.com/2014/09/18/9-rules-for-hiking-in-hot-weather/

Very Remote

The Idaho Centennial Trail takes you through some of the most remote locations in the lower-48 states.  While this provides a unique and valuable journey into pristine wilderness, it also raises the stakes for any on trail emergency.  In many sections of the trail you will be far outside the reach of paved roads, and you can forget about cell service.  You will travel long stretches without seeing any other trail users, so you will likely be on your own when dealing with any unfortunate events.

Be prepared.  Know your abilities and limitations.  Always plan ahead and be aware of options for getting to safety.  Even in the most remote sections, there are often isolated backcountry ranches or ranger stations and you should take note of their locations.  A satellite phone, beacon, or text message enabled GPS may save your life if you run into trouble.

Respect the wilderness.  Be prepared and stay aware of any potential risks.  Your life is in your own hands out there.  Make sure someone knows your itinerary and make contact with local Forest Service offices to inquire about the trail and let your presence be known.  Developing your backpacking skills will help mediate the risks.

Tips for Hikers and Backpackers
http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ltbmu/learning/safety-ethics/?cid=fsm9_046570

Satellite Phones and PLB’s
http://hikesafe.com/index.php?page=technology

Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Safety Tips
http://www.imsaru.org/?page_id=47

Overgrown Trails

Due to the remote nature of many sections of the Idaho Centennial Trial, trail-maintenance is a serious undertaking.  As interest in the ICT grows conditions should improve.  For now, overgrown and neglected trails are common along the official route.

Without a reliable trail tread to follow, navigation skills become increasingly important.  You will need to be able to locate where you are and identify your route.   GPS and maps are very helpful, but they are not always accurate due to outdated information.  Many trails have been closed or rerouted with out updates to the available maps.  Stay vigilant and your trail finding skills and instincts will help you find your way.  Overgrown trails can often be followed by watching for saw-cut logs, blazes, and other signs of old trail amidst the brush.  Sometimes, abandoning the trail and following a creek or other landmark can be helpful.

Trail conditions can change suddenly.  If you are on a well-maintained trail, conditions may deteriorate rapidly at the next junction.  Plan ahead to know when you are expecting a junction because they may not be signed or obvious.

Use extreme caution when traveling over deadfall and blowdowns.  Limbs broken by big game animals often leave sharp points that can cause dangerous lacerations as you step over.  A sudden shift of your weight while your leg is pinned between logs can easily break a bone.  Move carefully and deliberately in these sections.

Map and Compass Navigation
https://www.outdoored.com/articles/guide-backcountry-navigation-using-map-compass

Predators

With any animal encounter, keep in mind that you are a visitor in these wild places.  Treat all animals with caution and respect.  Any wild animal can become dangerous if provoked. Stay alert and avoid situations where you might surprise an unsuspecting animal.

Large predators can be encountered at any place on the Idaho Centennial Trail.  Wolves, bears, and cougars live and hunt along the entire length of the trail.  Anyone spending an extending period on trail is likely to run into at least one of these powerful animals.  It is important to remember that an animal attack is a possibility not a probability.  Human encounters with wild animals are common and as long as you remain calm and treat these animals with respect, negative experiences are not likely.

Your safety is your responsibility.  Every animal encounter is unique, so you must rely on your own knowledge and instincts.  You do not want to freeze up or flee in these situations.  Being prepared will allow you to remain calm and be proactive in avoiding conflicts.

-Bears

There are very few grizzlies in Idaho but they are sometimes spotted in North Idaho.  The majority of bear encounters will be with black bears.  The best way to avoid negative bear encounters is to hike in groups and make noise.  If given the chance, a bear will leave the area if it knows you are coming.  Especially in thick brush, where visibility is limited and bears tend to feed in dense berry patches, singing out loud or giving frequent shouts is a good way to alert animals that you are coming.

Make sure you check on food storage regulations regarding bears in the areas you will be traveling through.  Bear canisters are not required on any sections of the ICT but some campgrounds have rules to protect the bears and your own safety.  Bears have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to food odors.  Preparing and eating meals and hanging your food outside of camp will likely be sufficient to keep bears out of your campsite.

Wild bears are likely to be much more cautious than those near campgrounds that have been desensitized to human interaction.  When in the backcountry, long distance hikers have little to fear as long as they remain alert and aware of their surroundings.

In case of a confrontation, bear spray has been demonstrated to be more effective than a firearm in stopping an attack.  Whichever kind of deterrent, if any, you decide to bring along, be sure that you have researched and understand its proper use.

Bear Smart
http://www.bearsmart.com/play/overview/

Bear proofing your camp
http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/training/bearbag.html

Hiking in Bear Country
http://www.idahotrailsassociation.org/hiking/hiking-in-bear-country/

-Wolves

Seeing wolves in the wild is a rare opportunity.  Wild wolves are extremely cautious of humans and they will avoid them when they can.  Wolf attacks are the least common of all predator attacks.

Wolves were reintroduced in Idaho in 1995 amidst controversy.  Today there are healthy wolf populations from the Sawtooths to Canada.  Virtually the entire trail North of the Sawtooths passes through areas claimed by local wolf packs.  You will certainly see signs of nearby wolves, but encounters with them are unlikely.

Most negative interactions with wolves involve dogs, as the scent marking and territorial behaviors of your dog can trigger a wolf to establish its dominance.  Keep your dog under control at all times and, without a rock-solid recall, a leash is a good idea.

When encountering wolves, stay calm and do not flee.  Running away can provoke a wolf by triggering its chase drive.  Stand your ground.  Make yourself as large and loud as you can.  As long as you don’t present yourself as an easy target, the wolves will almost always retreat.  Keep a close eye on small children or any member of your group that a wolf might identify as vulnerable.

Traveling in a group and making enough noise to signal your presence will generally be all that is necessary to keep wolves at a safe distance.

Reintroduction of Wolves to Idaho
http://www.forwolves.org/ralph/wpages/idaho-o.htm

Wolf Safety
http://westernwildlife.org/gray-wolf-outreach-project/wolf-saftey/

What to do if you are attacked by wolves
http://www.businessinsider.com/what-to-do-if-you-are-attacked-by-a-pack-of-wolves-2012-6

-Cougars

Mountain lions express a natural weariness of humans, so odds of encountering one are low.  However, they are likely to be nearby at any point along the trail.  When confronted by a mountain lion, like all animals, it is imperative that you remain calm and act deliberately.  Presenting yourself as large, loud, and aggressive is the most effective way to deter a cougar from judging you as prey.

Hiking in groups and making noise to announce your presence will generally ensure that any cougars in the area will get out of your path long before you arrive.  They are not usually interested in humans as prey, but dogs may draw them in.  Keep your dog under control and in close proximity to avoid giving a lion an opportunity to separate you.  Also, keep a close eye on small children and vulnerable members of your party.

Cougars stash their kills and will fight to protect them so when you encounter animal carcasses, stay very vigilant and get out of the area.  Cougars are most likely to strike when you are crouched or looking down.  They will take advantage while you are distracted and your neck and back are exposed.  So stand tall, stay alert, and put as much distance as you can between you and the carcass.

Do not approach kittens, as the mother is likely to be near by and will fight to defend her young.  Keep your distance.  These large predators can easily overpower you, so make sure you give them adequate space and respect.  Stayingaware rather than afraid is the best precaution.

Stay safe in mountain lion country
http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectstaysafe.asp

7 ways to avoid cougar attacks
http://www.theclymb.com/stories/tips/avoid-cougar-attacks/

How to prevent and survive a mountain lion attack
http://www.backcountryattitude.com/mountain-lion-safety.html

track2

Predators

With any animal encounter, keep in mind that you are a visitor in these wild places. Treat all animals with caution and respect. Any wild animal can become dangerous if provoked. Stay alert and avoid situations where you might surprise an unsuspecting animal.

Large predators can be encountered at any place on the Idaho Centennial Trail. Wolves, bears, and cougars live and hunt along the entire length of the trail. Anyone spending an extending period on trail is likely to run into at least one of these powerful animals. It is important to remember that an animal attack is a possibility not a probability. Human encounters with wild animals are common and as long as you remain calm and treat these animals with respect, negative experiences are not likely.

Your safety is your responsibility. Every animal encounter is unique, so you must rely on your own knowledge and instincts. You do not want to freeze up or flee in these situations. Being prepared will allow you to remain calm and be proactive in avoiding conflicts.

There are very few grizzlies in Idaho but they are sometimes spotted in North Idaho. The majority of bear encounters will be with black bears. The best way to avoid negative bear encounters is to hike in groups and make noise. If given the chance, a bear will leave the area if it knows you are coming. Especially in thick brush, where visibility is limited and bears tend to feed in dense berry patches, singing out loud or giving frequent shouts is a good way to alert animals that you are coming.

Make sure you check on food storage regulations regarding bears in the areas you will be traveling through. Bear canisters are not required on any sections of the ICT but some campgrounds have rules to protect the bears and your own safety. Bears have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to food odors. Preparing and eating meals and hanging your food outside of camp will likely be sufficient to keep bears out of your campsite.

Wild bears are likely to be much more cautious than those near campgrounds that have been desensitized to human interaction. When in the backcountry, long distance hikers have little to fear as long as they remain alert and aware of their surroundings.

In case of a confrontation, bear spray has been demonstrated to be more effective than a firearm in stopping an attack. Whichever kind of deterrent, if any, you decide to bring along, be sure that you have researched and understand its proper use.

Seeing wolves in the wild is a rare opportunity. Wild wolves are extremely cautious of humans and they will avoid them when they can. Wolf attacks are the least common of all predator attacks.

Wolves were reintroduced in Idaho in 1995 amidst controversy. Today there are healthy wolf populations from the Sawtooths to Canada. Virtually the entire trail North of the Sawtooths passes through areas claimed by local wolf packs. You will certainly see signs of nearby wolves, but encounters with them are unlikely.

Most negative interactions with wolves involve dogs, as the scent marking and territorial behaviors of your dog can trigger a wolf to establish its dominance. Keep your dog under control at all times and, without a rock-solid recall, a leash is a good idea.

When encountering wolves, stay calm and do not flee. Running away can provoke a wolf by triggering its chase drive. Stand your ground. Make yourself as large and loud as you can. As long as you don’t present yourself as an easy target, the wolves will almost always retreat. Keep a close eye on small children or any member of your group that a wolf might identify as vulnerable.

Traveling in a group and making enough noise to signal your presence will generally be all that is necessary to keep wolves at a safe distance.

Mountain lions express a natural weariness of humans, so odds of encountering one are low. However, they are likely to be nearby at any point along the trail. When confronted by a mountain lion, like all animals, it is imperative that you remain calm and act deliberately. Presenting yourself as large, loud, and aggressive is the most effective way to deter a cougar from judging you as prey.

Hiking in groups and making noise to announce your presence will generally ensure that any cougars in the area will get out of your path long before you arrive. They are not usually interested in humans as prey, but dogs may draw them in. Keep your dog under control and in close proximity to avoid giving a lion an opportunity to separate you. Also, keep a close eye on small children and vulnerable members of your party.

Cougars stash their kills and will fight to protect them so when you encounter animal carcasses, stay very vigilant and get out of the area. Cougars are most likely to strike when you are crouched or looking down. They will take advantage while you are distracted and your neck and back are exposed. So stand tall, stay alert, and put as much distance as you can between you and the carcass.

Do not approach kittens, as the mother is likely to be near by and will fight to defend her young. Keep your distance. These large predators can easily overpower you, so make sure you give them adequate space and respect. Staying aware rather than afraid is the best precaution.