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Plan ahead to Hike the Sonoran Desert National Monument Safely

All_states_halfzones_title_legend_logos_300dpiWhile the summer months may not be the ideal time to hike the Sonoran (or any desert), it is possible to enjoy the Sonoran Desert National Monument throughout the seasons with some planning for health and safety.

First, make sure you have a good map. Download this one, or order Arizona Road & Recreation Atlas from the Public Land Information Center.

The Washington Trails Association suggests these essentials (find a more comprehensive list here):

  • Moleskin for blisters,
  • Bandages,
  • Aspirin
  • Lip balm,
  • Sunscreen,
  • Insect repellent,
  • Multi-use tool,
  • Small roll of duct tape

Wilderness Medical Associates also suggest you bring knowledge of CPR & basic first aid. This advice is particularly poignant as mobile phone cover at the Monument is weak except in the vicinity of Gila Bend or Maricopa. The Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter at the Piper Center, Phoenix, provides local classes.

Bring enough water. How much water is enough water? Backpacker Magazine Medicine Man columnist Buck Tilton suggests, “3-5 quarts per day for the average desert spring hiker. It’s a range because individual responses to desert heat and dryness vary, partially due to how acclimated you are to desert heat and dryness.”

Leave your trip details with friends & family & bring plenty of water for the duration of your visit.

Grand Canyon National Park Service suggests 4 liters of water per day in warm weather. In addition, the Service suggests, “During the summer months, your fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed two quarts per hour if you hike uphill in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Drink one-half to one full quart of water or sports drink each and every hour you are hiking in the heat.”

WebMD advises that you pay close attention to the symptom of heat exhaustion before they progress to heat stroke:

  • Confusion,
  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration),
  • Dizziness,
  • Fainting,
  • Fatigue,
  • Headache,
  • Muscle cramps,
  • Nausea,
  • Pale skin,
  • Profuse sweating,
  • Rapid heartbeat.

To treat heat exhaustion:

  • Drink plenty of fluid (avoid caffeine and alcohol),
  • Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing,
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath,
  • Apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.

“If such measures fail to provide relief within 30 minutes, contact a doctor because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.” Nearby emergency medical aid is in Gila Bend, and Maricopa. Dial 911.


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