Hiking and climbing are just as popular in the south western portions of the United States as they are elsewhere. There are however some significant challenges when it comes to hiking in the south west, or the northern deserts. Heat, for one, makes some serious challenges for the hiker, or the active outdoors person, when it comes to taking a hike in the south west.
Sun aside, the heat alone can be more than enough to wreak havoc on your system if you’re not accustomed to it, and even sometimes if you are.
Traveling, hiking or biking in the desert is one of the most exciting and adventurous things you can do. It can also be the biggest disaster if you’re not ready for it. Make sure that you know what you’re doing and how to accomplish it.
The scenery is amazing, the hiking is relatively easy, climbing is fun and the gorgeous landscape is a delight to the senses.The desert can be a harsh environment for travel for those who aren’t aware of what they are doing.
The heat or the weather can and sometimes does turn your outside adventures in the desert into a tragedy that can be avoided. Learn a little something about the desert and how to survive there prior to heading out. Don’t hike alone. Take a partner to make sure that you’re both safe in the desert back country.
Although hikers will sometimes discount this because its heavy, and neglect doing so, make sure that you carry at least a gallon of water per person.Yes it IS heavy.. but there are no really dependable ways to get water in the high desert. Water does weight about 7.5 pounds per gallon, but not having it can weight much more heavily. Unless you are seriously lost, don’t ration the water that you carry. Its going to do you absolutely no good at all unless its inside you.
Make sure that someone knows where you’re going to be and when you’re coming back. Stick to the plan, and let someone know what that plan was. Take along topo maps and know how to use them. Before you set off on any desert hiking expedition, know how to use that topo map and compass. Rocks and land formations can look amazingly alike. Don’t rely on them for landmarks unless you know the area very well.
Dress for success. In the summer, wearing clothing which is loose and layered will delay dehydration and keep your exposure to the sun minimal. Don’t go without sunglasses and some sunscreen. The desert temperatures will reach 100 degrees fahrenheit quite early in the day. Night time will see them drop to about 65 or 70 in the summer and below freezing in the winter time. Plan for these temperature changes.
Wear long pants or zip off pants for your hiking. Sturdy hiking boots or shoes and a pole may be of assistance. Its a good idea to carry matches, a flash light and a first aid kit in addition to your food and water.
The desert will offer you some of the most spectacular sights and sounds that you’ve ever seen. It is teeming with life and with a rough beauty that is certainly worth experiencing, but do take care and be prepared so that you experience it safely.
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