Time. Temperature. Trail. Painfully simple message. I figured if “Be Best” worked for the First Lady of the United States as her campaign slogan why couldn’t my nonprofit Desert Summer Safety slogan be equally simple ? The 3 Ts. Time. Temperature. Trail.
In an attempt to appeal to the masses I created a cartoon version of me to help get this message out. I have made several videos and yes, written blogs but what it takes to truly get a safety message out there that works I have no clue. After all these years and countless commercials Smokey still can’t stop forrest fires.
Every year we get visitors from all over the world coming out to the Superstition Mountains here in Arizona. Some are tempted by stories of lost or hidden gold, many set out on hikes deep into this unique and extreme wilderness. But for most of our tourists, simply seeing this impressive, dangerous area is enough. Take a few selfies, wander around near the parking lot m, go buy fudge at the Ghost Town and be done.
But nevertheless every year we get people who have either ignored the obvious warnings or were themselves oblivious and ended up needing to be rescued or carried away in a bag.
As someone who is born and raised in the desert and who now lives right around the Hieroglyphics Trail, I have seen too many helicopters, read too many news reports and watched in horror as another young life was tragically taken away by this very dangerous desert. I created my nonprofit as education about the wildlife but soon realized I had a bigger mission on my hands.
In August of 2019 , a group of 44 from Kansas came out to the Superstition with plans to hike up to Flat Iron. A simple Google search would tell you that Flat Iron is not for beginners. Roughly a 6 hour round trip up through Siphon Draw, no one should be attempting in 100+ temperatures. To be honest I have never gone all the way up. Siphon Draw stops me. Yes there are local hero’s like Flat Iron Jim who easily go up and down multiple times a week and he’s 92 years old!!!!! But he doesn’t do it in August.
The charter bus pulled into the state park and were met with rangers explaining they had come far too late in the afternoon (roughly 3 pm) and it was far too hot to go hiking. Ignoring this advice the bus drove ahead into the parking lot. Temperature was over 100 degrees with evenings only cooling down in the 90s. Hot.
By 4:30 help and aid was called for and needed. By 8 pm a full rescue was required to safely get this group, that was now scattered along the trail top to bottom in the dark, back down. Rattlesnakes and other dangerous nocturnal creatures call the Superstition home. In the dark, on a treacherous mountains trail is not where anyone wants to be. But our fantastic AZ rescue teams find themselves doing it far too often.
Locals do dumb stuff too like trail blazing, going off the marked path or heading out on the trails close to sunset then having to find their way back stumbling over rocks and praying to not fall into cholla! it’s easy to develop a sense of comfort anywhere you have been living a long time. You let your guard down.
Most people who live in Phoenix don’t encounter the same level of danger we do living so close to protected wilderness areas. With all of the construction and growth over the years, the Valley of the Sun is city living. Sure a random rattlesnake might show up on a porch but for the most part it’s been sterilized. It can be very easy to forget that a simple day hike could turn into a nightmare.
July 30 2021, 31 year old Angela Tremonte flew out from Boston to meet up with a Phoenix police officer she met online. They went to Camelback to hike. Not carrying enough water and one can only assume , being slightly overwhelmed by the flight, meeting a new interest, nerves and not being fully prepared, Angela had no idea what she was getting into. During the hike up she felt ill. The “officer” let her go back down alone and said he would meet up with her. She never made it back down and died from the heat. 1 pm in the afternoon.
That story still hurts to think about and made a lot of us angry.
Camelback isn’t an easy hike especially if you are new to desert heat. Taking someone there in high heat was irresponsible.
“Time” can mean it’s just not the right time to go. Lots of things can factor into how your body will respond. It was not the right time for Angela and there’s no getting that time back. Unfortunately she trusted someone she shouldn’t have. There are no lifeguard towers on our trails. No water fountains. In the summer the trails are empty for a reason.
Time. Trail. Temperature.