Hiking safely, whether it’s in the mountains or the woodland trail behind your house, requires awareness and preparation. Peering down into Tuckerman
Hiking safely, whether it’s in the mountains or the woodland trail behind your house, requires awareness and preparation. Peering down into Tuckerman Ravine (to the left in this photo), it’s easy to see how a moment of carelessness could result in a fatal fall. It’s happened twice now in the past four years. (Tim Jones/Special to The Eagle)

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. It's the most beautiful time of the year for just being outdoors in the Northeast, so more people are out hiking and biking and kayaking ... and more people get hurt or get themselves into trouble somehow.

Now let's be clear that accidents, injuries -- especially serious ones -- and mishaps only happen to a tiny percentage of the folks enjoying the outdoors. If you use your head, and are aware of potential hazards, the great outdoors is a safe, fun place. But it can always be safer.

Pure accidents are pretty rare -- so rare they make the news. Like the two cyclists in a charity ride last weekend in Hampton Beach, N.H., who were killed when a driver drifted across the centerline and plowed into the group they were riding with. They were riding safely in a sponsored event with warning signs alerting everyone that there would be cyclists on the roads. That driver has since been charged with at least four felonies and more charges seem likely.

In this case, the cyclists didn't do anything wrong or, more pointedly, couldn't have done anything more to protect themselves short of not doing something they love doing that's perfectly safe under ordinary circumstances. They were wearing helmets, they were riding correctly -- they were in the wrong place at the wrong moment.

But still, it just makes sense for all of us to take an extra moment and plan to be safe.

Fall weather is unpredictable, everyone knows we can have summer one minute and late fall or even winter the next. If you are climbing Katahdin in Maine or the Presidentials in New Hampshire, or the High Peaks of the Adirondacks in New York, you need to be prepared for anything the weather throws at you. In a couple more weeks, you'll need to carry that level of preparation with you even in "friendlier" locations like Mount Monadnock and the Berkshires.

It gets dark early these days, so get an early start and carry a headlamp with fresh batteries in it and spare batteries. That way, you can get yourself safely back to the road if darkness overtakes you.

That's in addition to the normal precautions you'd take when hiking. If you need a reminder, go to www.hikesafe.com

If you are paddling at this time of year, remember that the water is already cold enough to make hypothermia an issue. Wear your PFD all the time. If you have a wet suit or a dry suit, wear that. If you don't, stay in calm water close to shore. It's just common sense.

The whole point is to stack the odds in your favor as you enjoy this magnificent place we live at this most-beautiful time of year. Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Déjà vu

Yet another hiker died on Mount Washington recently, in an incident that was eerily similar to a tragedy that happened a couple of years ago. On Sept. 19, Luc Paquette, 25, of Boisbriand, Quebec, died after falling while descending the Tuckerman Ravine trail with a group of friends. According to N.H. Fish and Game authorities, he wandered off the trail to get a better look at a waterfall and fill his water bottle, slipped on the wet terrain and fell approximately 150 feet.

He was treated on scene by fellow hikers, some with medical training, even before he was reached by rescue personnel from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Mountain Rescue Service, Mount Washington State Park, Mount Washington Observatory and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department conservation officers. A National Guard helicopter flew him to Memorial Hospital in Conway, where he was pronounced dead.

If this sounds familiar, here's the official account of a 2010 accident:

On Saturday, July 17, 2010, at approximately 5 p.m., Christopher Baillie, age 24, of Forked River, N.J., fell to his death while hiking Mount Washington. Baillie and four friends were hiking on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail when Baillie went off the trail to the top of a waterfall. Baillie slipped on the rocks and was washed over the headwall, falling approximately 100 to 200 feet to his death.

Rescue personnel from the Appalachian Mountain Club, U.S. Forest Service and New Hampshire Fish and Game conservation officers responded to the accident. The first rescuers to reach Baillie confirmed he was dead.

Two men, about the same age, dying in what must be nearly the same location in the same manner. It's disturbing. For me, it brought up the same complex set of feelings I expressed following Baillie's death. If you like to read that, you can find it at www.easternslopes.com /2010/08/06/a-death-on-the-big-mountain/

Tim Jones is the executive editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email: timjones@easternslopes.com