The summer months often bring temperatures of 100 plus degrees to the deserts of the southwest. All too often we hear of lost hikers, heat stroke, or other heat related ailments from hiking and recreation in the desert. Recently, search crews worked for over a week and a half to find two missing hikers in Joshua Tree National Park. As of this writing, they have not been found.
If you are going to hike in the desert, consider these few common sense items to prevent emergency, life threatening situations.
Water – The key ingredient for life. It is recommended that backpackers have at least a gallon per day, but actual amounts vary by person and climate. Make sure you drink water and are fully hydrated BEFORE the day of your hike in addition to bringing ample water supplies.
Alert others of your plans. Include where you plan to hike, when you will probably start your hike, and when they should expect to hear from you. In addition, it is wise to leave a note on your dashboard as to the size of your party, destination, and departure time. In addition, make sure you sign any available trail registry books.
Take someone with you. If you twist your ankle, fall, or in some way become incapacitated, they can tend to you and summon help. Hiking alone is never a good idea whether you are in the desert or are in bear country.
Explore maps and reviews of your trail. Sites such as All Trails have maps, trail descriptions, and hiker reviews of most trails. Invest in a GPS and a topographic map if possible. The following maps are excellent guides to desert hiker destinations.
Responsible hikers stay on the trail and hike in the early morning hours. Desert hikes can have tempting rock formations to climb on and abandoned mine shafts to crawl into. Both have been proven fatal in the southwestern deserts. Mine shafts are always a bad idea, while rock climbing should only be attempted by experienced climbers. Finally, hike in the early morning hours before the heat of the day.
These are just a few items to keep you safe in the desert, and by no way an exhaustive guide. Consult with rangers or local guides for advise before going on new trails.