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Practical Advice When Visiting Sky Meadows State Park


Physical Fitness: When visiting Sky Meadows State Park, patrons

have a variety of trails to explore, ranging from easy walks to more rigorous hikes. And while none of the trails are difficult, they still require patrons to access their physical fitness to walk/hike short to longer distances. When walking/hiking in the warmer months (par-

ticularly July and August), patrons may find walking/hiking more challenging than they had originally anticipated. A realistic appraisal

of physcial capabilities is a prerequisite for an enjoyable visit to Sky Meadows.


Footwear: Appropriate footwear is essential for an enjoyable walk/

hike in Sky Meadows Park. While none of the trails is difficult, and

all the trails are well maintained and clearly marked, inappropriae footwear (e.g., flip-flops, open-toed shoes, etc.) can quickly turn a relaxing walk/hike into a disagreeable, if not painful, experience.

No matter how well maintained, loose gravel, protruding rocks, and uneven ground can not be completely avoided; patrons need to anti-

cipate and plan ahead to prevent foot injuries (e.g., blisters, turned

ankles are common injuries). Some patrons find some styles of "sneakers" (and their innumerable variations) adequate, but for best

results, general hiking boots are recommended.


Insect Repellant: Insects are, in general, not a serious problem at

Sky Meadows. Various forms of gnats and flies can be irritating (particularly around the face) on occasion; mosquitoes and bees

rarely are a problem. Some form of topical insect repellant may be beneficial. One method to avoid most insect problems is to wear sufficient clothing to cover legs and arms; long sleeved shirts and trousers are recommended, although many patrons routinely wear

hiking shorts with short sleeved shirts (particularly in the summer).


Ticks: While insects in general are not a problem at Sky Meadows,

ticks are an exception to this statement. Ticks are common (if not plentiful) in many areas of the park; planning ahead for tick encount-

ers is necessary to ensure against potential serious health problems.


Three ticks have been identified as being of particular interest:


Ixodes scapularis (deer tick): This tick has been determined to trans-

mit agents of Lyme's disease, babesiosis, chrlichiosis (anaplasmosis), tick paralysis, and Powassan encephalitis. Ixodes scapularis may trans-

mit tularemia and bartonella.


Amblyomma americanum (lone star): This tick has been determined to
transmit agents of chrlichiosis, STARI (southern tick-associated rash
illness), tick paralysis, and tularemia. Amblyomma americanum may
possibly transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever.


Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick and wood tick): This tick

has been determined to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick
paralysis, tularemia. Dermacentor variabilis may possibly chrlichiosis
(although a small percentage of dog ticks carry the Lyme bacteria, no
transmission has been proven).


The following safety tips can help avoid tick encounters:


Self examination: Closely check all parts of your body as soon as possible
upon leaving Sky Meadows Park. Recheck yourself several times; ticks
on clothing may attach themselves to you long after you have left Sky
Meadows Park. Especially check small children and any pets (i.e., dogs)
that were with you. Be on the lookout for any unusual rashes or fevers -
these may be the initial symptoms of any one of several serious diseases
(see below for list of possible diseases). Take seriously a small child's
or dog's scratching; while most ticks are visible to the naked eye, some
ticks in their nymph stage can be very small and difficult to see.


Clothing: Wear as much clothing as feasible given the season of the year
and the anticipated level of walking/hiking. Light colored (preferrably
white) long sleeved shirts and long pants are best. Long socks extending
on the outside of the pant legs prevents ticks from getting inside the pant
legs. Always check clothing after visiting Sky Meadows Park; ticks can stay
on clothing for long periods of time and enter your home without ever
attaching themselves to a human. It is recommended that clothing used
for a visit to Sky Meadows be washed in hot water as soon as possible.


Tick repellant: A tick repellent is a substance put on skin, clothing, or
other surfaces which discourages ticks from crawling on that surface. Ticks
can spread germs that cause serious disease. Using a tick repellent can
reduce your chances of being bitten by a tick and therefore reduce the risk
that you will get one of these diseases. Use tick repellants when you are
outside and exposed to ticks. Ticks are usually found on plants near the
ground in brushy, wooded or grassy places. They cannot fly. They can be
active year round, depending on the temperature, but are most often a
problem between April and October. Depending on where you live, you
could get bitten by a tick in your own yard. Different products work against
different bugs. It is important to look at the “active ingredient” on the
product label. Products with DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or per-
methrin are recommended for protection against ticks. Some repellents,
such as picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, have been found to provide
protection against mosquitoes but have not been shown to work against
ticks. DEET is the active ingredient found in most repellent products. It
can be used directly on exposed skin or on clothing. If you use it on your
clothes, be aware that DEET can damage some synthetic fabrics such as
acetate, rayon or spandex. There are over 200 products containing DEET
registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ranging in
concentration from 5% to 100% DEET. Read the product label to deter-
mine the percentage of DEET included and how often it should be reapplied.

DEET products should not be used on infants under 2 months of age. Children older than two months should use concentrations of 30% or less. There is limited information available on how well and how long different concentrations of DEET work against ticks. Permethrin prod-

ucts are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin. Apply the permethrin to your clothes before you put them on and follow the product’s instruc-



A number of plant-derived products are also available for use as repel-


Limited information is available regarding how well these products work
and how safe they are. The information that is available shows that these
products do not work as well or as long as products like DEET or per-
methrin against ticks.


The following precautions are strongly recommended:


1) Follow the instructions on the product label. If you have questions after reading the label, such as how many hours does the product work for, or if and how often it should be reapplied, contact the manufacturer;
2) Don’t use repellents under clothing;
3) Don’t use repellents on cuts or irritated skin.
4) Don’t use repellents near the mouth or eyes and use them sparingly
around the ears. When using spray products, spray the repellent on your
hands first, then apply it to your face.
5) Use just enough repellent to lightly cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Putting on a larger amount does not make the product work any better.
6) Don’t let children handle the product. When using repellents on children, put some on your hands first, then apply it to the child. Don’t put repellents on a child’s hands.
7) When you come inside, wash your skin and the clothes that had repellent on them.
8) If you develop a rash or other symptoms you think were caused by using one of these products, stop using it, wash the affected area with soap and water, and contact your doctor or local poison control center. If you go to the doctor, bring the product with you to show him or her.


Snakes: Snakes are common throughout most of Sky Meadows Park and
while most encountered snakes are harmless, there are some species that
are venomous and could cause serious health problems to patrons. The
timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead are two snakes that might be
encountered in Sky Meadows; both snakes can cause serious, even life-
threating, health problems. Even harmless snakes (such as the blackrat
snake) can easily intimidate an unwary patron who inadvertainly steps on or near a snake. The bite of a five to six foot blackrat snake, even though not poisonous, can still cause a painful infection if not adequately treated.


The best way to avoid unwanted encounters with snakes is to understand
the general habitats that are most likely to harbor snakes. Old wood piles, dense brush, downed trees and rotting logs, rock crevices and cracks, hollowed cavities in trees, are all potential places where snakes inhabit. Staying on designated trails substantially reduces potential unwanted encounters (although it does not completely eliminate the possibility).

Three general "rules-of-thumb" to avoid unwanted encounters: 1) recent
invasive species of plants (e.g., Japanese stiltgrass) has greatly increased
the ground-growth throughout much of Sky Meadows Park, particularly
in areas where ground cover had formerly been scant. Snakes, including
large snakes, now have extensive cover to move about, making them much more difficult to see. Stay on designated trails; 2) sources of water
become more scarce during the summer; snakes can often be found in
areas adjacent to Gap Run and other permanent or semi-permanent
sources of water. Be careful when walking/hiking near permanent
sources of water; 3) expect the unexpected - several species of snakes
are abroeal and can be found climbing trees. Do not presume all en-

counters with snakes will take place on the ground; snakes three to four feet long have been observed slithering along limbs and up trunks of trees. Be fully aware of your immediate environment and its potential
for snakes.


If you do have an unwanted encounter with a snake, remember: No matter how surprised you are, the snake is invariably frightened and will almost always seek to escape the situation. Snakes are rarely aggressive and, in general, pose no serious threat to humans. Do not interfer with the escape (e.g., "flight") behavior of the snake. Most encounters are
over in seconds with no harm done to either human or snake.


Poison ivy: Eastern poison ivy (Toxicodenron radicans) is common
throughout much of Sky Meadows Park. As a vine, poison ivy is strongly associated with climbing trees; however, poison ivy, particu-larly in its early stages of growth, may be an independently growing vine, free of any immediate tree or shrub. For a complete discussion of poison ivy, read the species entry for eastern poison ivy (Toxicodenron radicans) in the "Vine" section of this website.


Water: Bring water for your walk/hike. The only potable water is located
near the old Bleak House in the historical/parking area. Bottled water or
canteens are strongly suggested, particularly if you intend to 1) hike more than a mile, 2) hike up to the higher elevations, and 3) walk/hike from late Spring to early Autumn.


Sunscreen: Depending on clothing worn, sunscreen is strongly recom-
mended for the hands and face under all conditions, and for arms and legs if wearing shorts and short sleeved clothing (as many patrons do from May through September). Hats are also a good idea, particularly when walking/hiking in the open sun (parts of the Piedmont Overlook and South Ridge).



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