As a scout and leader in BSA Troop 79 I had hiked the Misha Mokwa trail also known as the ridge trail at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park that borders three states. This weekend David Beatie and I hiked the ten mile loop trail to Sand Cave one of the eight wonders of Kentucky and the white rocks observation area. The white rocks are a limestone formation that let early pioneers know they were only a day journey from Cumberland Gap. The observation area provides spectacular views.

Spring is a wonderful time to plan a hike and enjoy the sweet smell of wildflowers. You may also see some amazing things that are only a day trip away.

The first step is to prepare and plan for the trip. Are you physically able to take a moderate or strenuous hike and possibly go to high elevations? What is your experience level? There are different degrees of difficulty in trails in many parks.

Prepare for your trip by contacting park rangers or visiting websites of the park. Are there special regulations in the park? Are there poisonous plants or animals to be aware of or bear sittings. Is a permit required say for overnight camping? Are there fire regulations?

Once you have planned your trip you should avoid hiking alone and let someone know of your itinerary, destination and approximate return time.

Remember these essential items;

* Sturdy rubber sole hiking boots with ankle support for dirt and gravel trails not flip flops or open toed shoes. Tennis shoes may be used in an urban paved park. Break in shoes before taking on a hike.

* Wool or synthetic socks that wick away moisture. Use a thin inner pairs and a thicker outer pair reduce friction and add extra comfort. Avoid cotton socks.

* Navigation devices such as a map, compass or GPS or a personal location beacon. Don't depend on a cell phone as there may not always have reception.

* Let the slowest hiker set the pace. Time for uphill portions of hikes usually takes twice as long as going downhill.

* Wear sun screen SP 30 level or sun protecting fabric clothes, sunglasses and a hat or bandana. Depending on weather a jacket or rain gear may be needed. Dress in layers so they can be removed if you get hot or sweaty.

* Take some first aid supplies like band aids, Tylenol and antibiotic ointment. Watch for blisters. An elastic knee brace may help if knee problems. A handy trick David showed me was to go down steps backward to take pressure off the knees especially going into the entrance of Sand cave or the White Rocks.

* Matches or lighter in a waterproof container or fire starter. A flashlight is great to take too.

* Food and snacks such as salty and easy to digest trail mix, nuts, granola bars and apples.

* Water and electrolyte drinks. In all weather it is important to stay hydrated due to the amounts of water you are sweating off and losing through breathing. You may have access to a water source that requires you to purify water. Stay well hydrated to prevent cramps and dehydration. Don't wait until you get thirsty to drink.

* Shelter in the form of a tarp or space blanket is light weight.

*A sturdy walking stick is also great to have on the trail.

There are other trails to hike at the park such as the Tri-state peak that are less strenuous and only 3 miles in length. If you go visit the visitor center please make the trip to Pinnacle Rock for tremendous views of three states.

Dr. Drake is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and is a past-president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and a member of the American Academy of family Physicians. Dr Drake has practiced in Somerset since 1984.

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