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Caution! How to deal with common fears on Georgia trails


Caution! How to deal with common fears on Georgia trails

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Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Getting mauled by a bear
Although they can exceed 500 pounds and run 30 miles per hour, wild black bears are generally skittish and won’t approach humans. A bear attack has never been recorded in Georgia, but you can carry a whistle or bear spray if you’re paranoid.
How likely is it on a scale of 1-5? 0

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Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Getting poison ivy
Some 50 percent of the adult population is allergic to urushiol oil in poison ivy—the plant with three-leaf clusters that can cause itchy rashes. It’s found year-round all over Georgia, so wear long pants if you’re in the brush, and watch for the dastardly weed. Wash yourself quickly in a stream if you touch any.
How likely is it on a scale of 1-5? 3

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Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Getting a tick-bourne disease
Lyme is prevalent above the Mason-Dixon line but quite rare below it. Although there were three times as many confirmed cases of Lyme in Georgia in 2012 than 2003, the number of cases two years ago totaled just thirty-one. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted in Georgia, but that, too, is very rare. Do a tick check in the shower after visiting the woods.
How likely is it on a scale of 1-5? 1

Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Getting bitten by a snake
There are six species of venomous snakes in Georgia, including the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. The cold-blooded slitherers are most active in summer and all but disappear in winter. There are no publicly available stats on snake bites, but the anecdotal evidence suggests you needn’t worry: Jonah McDonald hiked dozens of trails in the state (including all the ones on our list) multiple times in two years and saw only a few snakes. Just stay on the trail and watch where you step.
How likely is it on a scale of 1-5? 1

Illustration by Peter Oumanski
Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Running into fugitives
My dad swears Eric Rudolph broke into our well-stocked family cabin a few hours from Atlanta when the Olympic Park bomber was on the run in the late nineties; an unknown burglar took only a bag of rice and a bowie knife. Crimes and tragedies do occur in the woods, as they do anywhere, but they are few and far between. Still, hiking using the buddy system is always advised for safety (more for ankle twists than anything).
How likely is it on a scale of 1-5? 0

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