Sonoran Desert Dangers
The Sonoran Desert is filled with beautiful flora including saguaro cactus, cholla, prickly pear and many other plants and cactus you can’t see anywhere else in the world. A visit to Scottsdale will allow you to experience the desert on foot by hiking Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Superstition Mountains or other local trails.
Hiking in the desert isn’t all that different from hiking anywhere else with a few exceptions. However, there are some real dangers you need to be aware of before hiking.
- Heat Exhaustion – During this time of year, temperatures can easily get into the 90’s. In just a few short months, they will exceed 100 degrees on a regular basis. Protect yourself by hiking early in the morning or late in the afternoon avoiding the extreme heat of the mid-day sun. You may even choose to do a evening hike so you can see more of the nocturnal creatures. Bring lots of water and make sure to hydrate before you start out. If you are carrying a single small bottle of water, it’s probably not enough.
- Scorpions – Many visitors to Scottsdale and the desert are concerned with scorpions. Scorpions are nocturnal and therefore are most active at night so watch out for them on night hikes. They like to inhabit dark damp areas. Do not disturb rocks and other ground debris. Since they are small and move fast, avoid hiking in sandals or barefoot. Watch where you put your hands and where you sit.
- Rattle Snakes – Rattle snakes will only strike when provoked or cornered. Stay on the tails and if you must go off the trail, avoid tall grass or bushes. Snakes are camouflaged and are hot to spot in these settings. Keep your eyes on the trail and the immediate surroundings. Never put your feet or hands where you can’t see. And check out the surrounding area before sitting and taking a rest. You should always be aware of your general vicinity.
- Gila monsters – Gila monsters are not prone to attack and you almost have to step on them to provoke them. That said, you should still try and avoid them and they do carry a venomous bite. All the same rules that applied to rattle snakes, applies here.
The safest way for a visitor to experience the desert is with a guided hike. Take a Hike Arizona is offering a 2 hour guided hike from now through August 31, 2010 where they will provide the water, snack, use of trekking poles and backpack and the use of flashlight and ultraviolet light. They will expose you to the desert and nightime scorpions and tarantula’s in a safe manner and will help you avoid these other dangers. View the entire ad here.
For more information on desert safety, check out the Center for Sonoran Desert Studies website.