Safety on the trail

Roberta Arpan

The majority of hiking related rescues happen in one of the following conditions: technical rock climbing, swift water, caves/abandoned mines or snow and ice. So, the first rule of safety is to stay away from areas where rescue operations are most prevalent!

To further ensure your safety, here are some basic rules: Don’t hike alone. Let a responsible person know where you are going as well as when you expect to return. Check out the expected weather but be aware that forecasts aren’t always accurate. Carry a fully charged cell phone and know your location in case it is necessary to call for help. Stay on well-marked trails. Your backpack should be stocked with essential items such as a first aid kit, blister dressing, headlamp or small flashlight, whistle, pocket knife, duct tape, powder electrolytes, gloves, sun screen, insect repellant, extra food and water, emergency contact information and a mirror.

Know and respect your limitations. Take precautions if you have a medical condition such as asthma or diabetes. Know the early symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. At the first sign of any heat related symptom, lay the victim flat and loosen or remove clothing. Cover the victim with cool wet clothes or, if possible, immerse in cool, not cold, water. Seek medical help if needed.

Bees and other stinging insects are attracted to flowers; therefore, leave your bright colors and sweet smelling fragrances at home. Swatting at a bee will only irritate it and once stung, a chemical is released that attracts fellow bees. Bees are also drawn to moisture so cover your mouth and nose if you are in close proximity to a swarm. Also, before walking through bee territory, tuck your pant legs into your socks.

The best way to survive a flash flood is to avoid being caught in one. Keep an eye on the sky. If a storm is approaching, avoid slot or narrow canyons and climb to the highest ground in your vicinity. Be aware that a flash flood can be caused by a storm occurring on a mesa miles away.

If you are threatened by lightning and there is no shelter or car available to wait out the storm, find the lowest ground possible with the most low-growing trees and shrubs. If you are above tree line, descend immediately. Avoid fences and isolated trees, as well as metal objects such as hiking poles and backpack frames. Keep out from under rock overhangs. When you get to a low spot, squat or sit, balling up, so you become the smallest target possible. Don’t lie down on the ground. Stay 50 feet away from your hiking companions.

If you would like to learn more about the Sun Lakes Hiking Club, club members would enjoy talking with you at one of the Open Houses. Look for the SLHC booths at Cottonwood on October 8 and Oakwood on October 15.

Orientation hikes will be conducted on October 24 and 31. Please consider attending one of these excursions if you are new to desert hiking and/or would like to find out more about the types and levels of hikes offered by the SLHC. Each hike will be four or five miles and will take place at South Mountain Park. Reservations are necessary due to the limited space; sign up at one of the Open Houses or by contacting Greg Jewell at 480-282-0061.

The Sun Lakes Hiking Club will officially begin its 19th season with the kick-off picnic and first monthly meeting November 4 at Oasis Park in Sun Lakes Country Club. For more information visit the club website at