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Opinion: New to hiking? Get ready to hear a lot of griping

A sign on Mt. San Antonio.
A sign on Mt. San Antonio’s Baldy Bowl trail points the way to the highest point in Los Angeles County.
(Los Angeles Times)

Southern California’s dedicated hikers can come across as an odd bunch: One day, we’re gazing at the San Gabriel or San Bernardino mountains, lamenting that people can spend their whole lives at sea level without experiencing the natural beauty of the adjacent wilderness, and the next we’re griping about overcrowding, litter, mountain bikers and trails degraded by overuse and even misuse.

It’s fitting, then, that the reaction to our special section on hiking in Southern California included letters that were at once appreciative and cantankerous. The truth is, when we hikers (and as a trail runner, I include myself in this group) complain, it almost always comes out of an abiding reverence for nature and worry that our remaining wild spaces are growing a little less wild.

For the record, there’s a better than 50% chance that if you’re reading this on Saturday morning, I’ll be on a mountain trail north of Altadena, basking in the early-morning sun while seething over that plastic trash I just had to pick up.

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To the editor: Nice section about hiking, but there should have been something about safety. For example:

Cellphones do not work in remote areas.

Tell someone where you plan to hike and when you plan to return. If you do not return home, they will know where to start looking.

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Do not hike alone.

Turn back if there are difficulties with terrain or weather.

Hikers used to have a list called the “10 essentials.” Not everyone agrees with what items should be on the list, but hikers should at least consider the tools needed to find their way, protect themselves from the environment and what might be needed in case of an emergency.

As a retired member of one of Los Angeles County’s eight search-and-rescue teams, I have been involved in searches for people in the wilderness who were not prepared. Unfortunately, not every person survived.

Susan Lapham, Glendale

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To the editor: I am disappointed that in 24 pages, there wasn’t one word about trail etiquette.

As a Forest Service volunteer who works on trails, I would have expected something about staying on trails, not cutting switchbacks, packing out what you bring in, keeping your dogs on a leash and protecting sensitive habitats.

You can do better.

Alan Coles, Long Beach

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To the editor: Thanks for nothing, L.A. Times. Your well-meaning but clueless journalists have pronounced a death sentence to the local trails.

In the 1970s, we had to find out about trails by word of mouth. But not you. In the 21st century, everybody has to know.

Now, so many people will hit the trails (as if the trails had not been overrun already) with their shorts, tank tops, flip-flops, plastic bottles of water and of course their smartphones and earbuds, only to get lost and necessitate their extrication by search and rescue teams.

In case you already did not know, the trails have already been swarmed by the hordes that leave all their trash behind.

Bernie Beckker, Long Beach

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To the editor: Your hiking guide brought back sweet memories of many trails I have hiked in the last half-century, and included descriptions of ones I still need to visit.

The biggest danger to hikers, however, is not rattlesnakes, but rather mountain bikes speeding down the trails. Plus, they cause tremendous erosion to the trails, making it difficult in places to hike.

Bill Crane, Chatsworth

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To the editor: Your “hikers of Los Angeles” article forgot one type of L.A. hiker — the “Trash Leaver-Behinder.”

On second thought, you didn’t forget, because all of them are Trash Leaver-Behinders.

David Brant, Lake Arrowhead, Calif.


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