PHOENIX — Taking a trek up a Valley mountain trail is a must for many Phoenicians this holiday weekend.
People around the Valley have family members in town celebrating the holiday, some for the first time. However, it's the inexperienced hikers that have the most problems, so there are specific do’s and don’ts Phoenix Fire Captain Todd Keller wants you to know.
“At least once a week, we are going on mountain rescues,” he said.
Captain Keller doesn't want the next reason he has to fly a helicopter up a trail to be due to an easily preventable hiking incident. Here are the five things you can do to make sure you're not having to be rescued:
1) Maintain social distance of at least 6 feet
COVID-19 is still rapidly spreading around the Valley, and the CDC has still said that one of the best ways you can protect yourself is by social distancing.
"Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces," the CDC's website said.
Captain Keller agrees and says that you should be careful both inside and outside.
“You know a lot of people don’t think it plays into effect if it’s not at a restaurant or at a bar, but we do recommend and advise that you do keep your distance on the trails too,” said Keller.
2) Be sure to dress weather appropriate and wear sunscreen
“It may be 75 degrees, but 60 minutes or 90 minutes directly in the sun, it is going to take a toll on you,” he said.
He also recommended wearing a hat, light-colored clothing, and proper shoes.
The National Parks Service (NPS) lists both sun protection and insulated hiking wear as two of the "10 essentials" people should bring while visiting a trail or park. You can see all 10 of the essentials on their site here.
3) Stay hydrated
Hydration is key when on the hiking trails, especially in the land of notoriously "dry heat."
“If you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. So hydrate before, hydrate during, and hydrate after,” Keller said.
The NPS agrees with Keller, as it also listed water and water treatment supplies as one of the 10 essentials, saying that "if you’re active outdoors (hiking, biking, running, swimming, etc.), especially in hot weather, you should drink water often and before you feel thirsty."
4) Know your limits
The American Hiking Society says that hiking should test a person's limits, but only up to a point. Knowing your limitations, whether they are physical conditioning or medical conditions, is important before heading to the trails.
“Make this a round trip,” he said. “If you’re feeling tired, you’re feeling dizzy, turn around... it’s not going to get any better at that point.”
Bring a phone and bring a friend, but if you are going alone, always let someone know where you’re headed. That’s especially important if you’re going somewhere without cell reception.
5) Follow the rules of the trail
“Don’t get off the designated trails. They’re there for a reason,” said Keller. “There may be loose rock, and that’s where you’re going to have fall injuries.”
If you don’t follow the rules of the trail?
“We’re probably going to have to come visit you,” he said. “The goal is for you to have a safe and fun hike and enjoy your day out.”