Health and Safety
Have an emergency anywhere in California? Dial 911. Inside hotels and resorts, check your emergency number as soon as you get into your room. In urban and suburban areas, full-service hospitals and medical centers abound. But in the more remote regions, help can be more than an hour away.
If you’re planning a backcountry expedition, follow all rules and guidelines for obtaining wilderness permits and for self-registration at trailheads. These are for your safety, letting the rangers know roughly where you plan to be and when to expect you back. National and state park visitors centers can advise in more detail as to any health or wilderness alerts in the area.
There is only one major variety of plant in California that can cause an adverse reaction in humans merely upon touching the leaves or stems. That is poison oak, a common shrub that inhabits forests up and down the state. Poison oak has a characteristic three-leaf configuration, with scalloped leaves that are shiny green in the spring and then turn yellow, orange, and red in late summer and fall. In fall the leaves drop, leaving a cluster of innocuous-looking branches. The oil in poison oak is present all year long in both the leaves and branches.
Your best protection is to wear long sleeves and long pants when hiking, no matter how hot it is. A product called Tecnu is available at most California drugstores—slather it on before you go hiking to protect yourself from poison oak. If your skin comes in contact with poison oak, expect a nasty rash well known for its itchiness and irritation. Poison oak is also extremely contagious, so avoid touching your eyes, face, or other parts of your body to prevent spreading the rash. Calamine lotion can help, and in extreme cases a doctor can administer cortisone to help decrease the inflammation.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition