Many writers (me included) eventually find our characters in the woods, usually running at top speed or lost off trail. In the southeastern USA, your character might be able to swing through the tree tops (using kudzu vines), but otherwise they would need to stay on trails to maintain a lope, trot, run, sprint, or canter. Heck, in many spots you would need a machete to amble away from the trail.
I posted a photo of the not-so-deep woods where I live a while back to remind anyone writing about a character running through woods in my part of the world, the character had better be on a trail in summer. I was on another trail this week and a few more thoughts on characters in the woods came to me.
After reapplying my bug spray I remembered how much I loved hiking in Colorado. In the
Rocky Mountains irritating flying/biting bugs are almost unheard of. I miss that. Here in the Smoky Mountains there’s more water and a lot more heat. A walk in the woods without bug spray, makes you lunch! This is especially true if you’re hiking by streams and waterfalls.
And lets not forget the sweat. After hiking only a couple of miles I have sweat pouring down my face, thanks to that oh-so-lovely humidity. I always were a scarf around my neck to wipe away sweat. My back is soaked from the backpack blocking air. My hair is also wet (not damp) so it’s time to pull it back out of my eyes. I rarely wear a hat because it’s just too hot. Sunglasses are also a no go. Once you really get moving, the shades steam up from the heat you’re producing.
When on trails in the southeast, you must be on the lookout for poison ivy, poison oak, and other such plants. ‘Leaves of three, let them be’ is a saying for a reason, folks. Although some poisonous plants have more than three leaves, so research before you hike. Unless the trail is a major use trail, plants grow quickly and it’s common for a branch or leaf steam to brush your leg as you walk by. Failure to pay attention will result in a few uncomfortable days of itching and applying cream to the area of the rash.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking and the southeastern USA is beautiful. All I ask is, when you write about being in the woods, research the area, and make sure your description matches the location.
Of course, if you’ve created your own SciFi or fantasy world, you can make it however you wish. Just be sure you follow the rules you set up for your world.