Environmental Considerations

Mosquitoes and Ticks

Insects are a common nuisance in northern Wisconsin and are particularly problematic when walking on hiking trails such as those in Passport to Wellness. Mosquitoes are not only an annoyance when they bite, they can also carry illnesses such as West Nile virus, La Crosse Encephalitis, and more. It is important to bring insect repellant with you when hiking and to dress appropriately to protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes. Avoid hiking in the evening hours or between dusk and dawn, as that is when the mosquitoes are at their worst.

For more information on mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses, go to:

anopheles mosquito

Ticks are another common insect when hiking in northern Wisconsin. There are many different types of ticks in the United States, but the two most common found in Ashland and Bayfield Counties are the blacklegged (or deer) tick and the dog (or wood) tick. In Wisconsin, the blacklegged tick can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus infection (a rare tickborne arbovirus illness). Always check for ticks after being outdoors for a length of time. It's a good idea to stay on the trails to avoid ticks, as well as to shower as soon as you get home after hiking to try to wash any ticks off of you. Certain insect repellants can also help keep ticks away.

For more information on ticks and tick-borne illnesses, go to:

A woman applies sunscreen to a child

Sun and the Elements

When hiking for Passport to Wellness, consider the elements. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. The combination of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure and wind friction on exposed areas of the skin can cause the redness and skin irritation commonly known as windburn. Rain and cooler temperatures--even in summer--can lead to hypothermia (or low body temperature) that can be life-threatening. In northern Wisconsin, the weather can fluctuate quickly which makes dressing in the right gear and clothing even more important.

Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.

Remember to apply sunscreen before being outdoors for an extended amount of time in the spring, summer, and autumn. It doesn't take a long period of time before you can become sunburnt. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number, with higher numbers indicating more protection from UV rays. It is recommended that you wear at least SPF 15 before spending a significant amount of time outdoors.

You can also wear clothing to protect yourself from UV damage such as hats with a brim all the way around, long-sleeved shirts or long pants to minimize exposure to UV rays, or sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. It may seem like a warm, sunny day, but it's never a bad idea to pack a sweater or warm hat just in case the weather changes. Windproof or wind-resistant clothing is also helpful to bring along, especially near trails along Lake Superior.

Trail Conditions

The featured trails for Passport to Wellness were carefully selected to include trails that are family-friendly and easier to hike. However, not all of the trails are paved or have a level slope throughout the entire route. Proper footwear is an important consideration before hiking any of the featured trails in Ashland and Bayfield Counties. Wearing sturdy shoes is important to avoid injury as some of the featured trails have uneven slopes, course gravel, rocks or other potential tripping hazards along the way. Wearing waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support is recommended for Passport to Wellness hiking trails, or supportive tennis shoes at minimum. Flip-flops or sandals are not recommended.

For other helpful information on Passport to Wellness:

Images courtesy of CDC