As I encourage the masses to come and see the beauty that is the desert there is a small voice inside telling me you better make sure to prepare them properly. So I’m going to tell you like a friend, like someone who actually cares about you getting to enjoy the desert safely.
This weekend we had record breaking heat. This is not new for us desert folk. The news reporters seem to take quite a bit of joy announcing repeatedly the triple digit numbers expected. But a fact I am reminded of as I listen to the news is again we lost a hiker due to dehydration. Rescue teams went in search putting even more lives at risk.
Ok so let’s be reasonable, if I plopped you in the middle of the arctic without a jacket you would freeze right? If I plop you in the middle of the desert without water you will die. It’s not a maybe.
No water = death.
Be prepared for where you are going and KNOW your body and your limits.
I wrote earlier about the fact I am born and raised desert and I don’t go hiking in the summer after about 5am. Yesterday it was 100 degrees at 10 am!!!! It only got hotter. (June 6th 2016) Out here high heat doesn’t hit until later in the afternoon.
And I’m going to be honest the desert isn’t even that pretty in the middle of a hot afternoon. The sky is pale blue and everything is radiating heat. Its nap time. Its shut the curtains and block out the sun time.
The mountain range we live next to is magnetic and draws people to it. The energy is strong and almost overwhelming to those who are sensitive to it. With the added attraction of the possibility of finding gold we have people coming from everywhere to hike. But unfortunately not everyone makes it back home.
I found this crazy interesting book called “Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon” by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers that I have been reading. Arizona has some spectacular natural beauty that draws millions of visitors every year especially to the Canyon but too many seem to come incredibly unprepared and surprised by the weather. I definitely recommend it especially if you want to hike the Grand Canyon or even visit it.
There’s really nothing “soft” out there hiking a desert trail. No couch for you to stop at. If parking and then walking for another 20 minutes before you really get started sounds like too much for you already then guess what? IT IS! Know why? Because your brain didn’t even factor in the 100 degrees part!
Bring WATER. Not soda. WATER. As much as you can carry.
Don’t expect rescue teams to come for you either…at least not right away. They aren’t sitting out there in the desert in towers like life guards with binoculars watching to see you flop over from heat exhaustion. If you get yourself in a bad spot you could be miles away from any real help. And honestly the hotter it is the less people out there so who are you going to yell “help!” to when your phone doesn’t get a signal? How are you going to describe where you are?..
A hat and bright clothing are also good ideas along with sunscreen. If you ever need to be found, wearing brown, gray or camo is not going to help. Think outfit seen from space.
You might also rethink trying to get a tan while hiking. You are better off doing that by a pool… and air conditioning and a drink with ice cubes. Then at least when your body gets hot you can jump in the water. Also some of the lotions for tanning can attract bees. We did recently lose a hiker due to over 1000 bee stings. I don’t think lotion played a part but you don’t want to do anything to attract them.
Having less clothing on is not going to help in regulating your body temperature either and probably just speed up the process of getting you fried to a crisp.
And for goodness sakes wear real shoes! Not flip flops of any brand. Have I not shown you enough pictures of cacti already? Wobble an ankle wearing flip flops and that’s not a fun hike back.
We have in AZ what’s called the stupid motorist law. If you drive around a barrier into a flooded road and have to be rescued guess what? You are in trouble. I don’t think there is a law for dumb hiking but maybe we should look into it? Bad shoes, no water, too late in the day, tried to find gold digging with a spoon? Dumb hiker law
IT’S HOT IN THE DESERT!
Not sure what I mean still? Ever open your oven when it’s been cooking for a while and you get that blast of heat at your face and eyes and you wonder for a second if you still have eyelashes? I have stepped outside before and felt that here.
The desert is an extreme climate. Please do your homework before attempting any of the larger hiking trails. If you are planning a trip to see the fabulous Saguaros then start walking or hiking where you live now and build up your stamina. None of the trails I have ever been on are perfectly flat or paved so don’t say you practiced walking at the mall.
Check weather reports before making plans. Always let others know where you are going hiking and for about how long you think you will be. That way when you don’t come back after too many hours we know we might have to go search. I say don’t go alone.
The Superstition Mountain Range along with Arizona’s other amazing natural attractions have seen enough tragic loss of life. Come visit the desert safely.
Check out HikeArizona.com for great info regarding the trails.