So I hate to say it, but we’ve gotten some calls recently that some hotel guests have been getting lost on our trails, and in some cases needed to be “rescued”. I won’t name names, because I don’t want individuals or establishments to be called out, but these people broke most of the rules one would follow when heading out into the desert. So trying to not sound condescending, here are some pointers for HIKING in the desert during summer months.
1. It gets hot. Really hot. I mean really really hot. If you’re from Florida or Texas, you still don’t know what hot is until you’re roasting under the afternoon sun in temps over 110 degrees with absolutely no shade. Oh, and “It’s a dry heat” doesn’t help you when you dehydrated. And one more bit of science, the ground gets even hotter as the superheated air gets trapped within the fist few inches from the surface. Almost 20 degrees hotter. I’ve seen peoples soles actually melt off of their shoes. Don’t be that guy and think you can handle the heat. No one can. Ever wonder why desert animals are nocturnal?
2. It is dry. You won’t find water along most of our trails. And during the summer, this is even more exagerated. If you forgot water, you’re pretty much screwed. You won’t find a stream or puddle down here in the desert. And that myth of getting water out of a cactus is exactly just that, a myth. Most cacti are high in alkalines making them rather poisionous to humans. Moral of the story, take WATER with you and take MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED!
3. The sun can kill. This goes back to #1. It gets really hot. Heat stroke can kill, and it happens more than you would think. And in an environment such as a desert, it happens even faster. Not to mention the horrendous sun burns it causes. So keep it off of you by wearing long sleeve shirts and a hat. It can be almost 20 degrees cooler in the shade, and since there aren’t really shade trees on our trails, you’re gonna have to make your own with a wide brimmed hat. It’s also much cooler in the early morning (5am), so plan outdoor activities for the early hours.
4. Don’t get lost. Any fun outing can quickly turn into a disaster if you get lost. Our terrain, while very beautiful, often looks similar wherever you go. So take a map, and probably a compass. If you don’t have a compass, take your phone but don’t relay on a signal. Don’t count on trail signs to get you around during your hike as they often “move” or disappear, and especially so in county run parks. Trail signs are not always a given. Get a map, understand where you’re starting from and where you’re planning on going. If you do get lost, at least you’ll have the right tools to get out.
5. Ever see 127 hours? Make sure to tell someone where you are planning on hiking. If you haven’t, at least leave a note on your call with the following information: Date and time of departure, intended route, and number of people in your party. That way, if you don’t come back to your car, instead of a Park Ranger giving you a ticket for violating the parking lot hours, they’ll send someone out looking for your party. If you’re stranded in our desert without water during our summers, you’ll be lucky if you make it through two days. So every minute counts in a rescue situation.
6. Heed advice of others. Take it all with a grain of salt, but if an experienced trail guide tells you heading out at 2pm for a 5 mile hike when it’s over 100 degrees is a bad idea, they’re probably right.
Exercise the common sense and follow these basic rules and you’ll be fine. Be safe and have fun out there.