Be Prepared, Stay Safe, Keep Social Distance
With all these safer-at-home days together, there’s likely someone in your house who has suggested you “take a hike!” Venturing out is one great way to get some exercise while also maintaining social distancing.
While a desert hike can be a rewarding adventure, it can quickly become a horrible experience without proper preparation. Trekking through Rancho Mirage is lovely but isn’t a simple walk in the park. Here is some insight and guidance before you go exploring.
Where to go
There are many trails in the area where you can begin your journey. They include:
Butler-Abrams Trail: This easy trail is 1.10 miles connecting Frank Sinatra Drive and Country Club Drive via Michael S. Wolfson Park. Hikers will find fabulous views of the mountains along this quiet route.
Bighorn Overlook Trail: This is a moderate to steep trek for 0.27 mile. Parking and trail access are available in the upper parking lot of City Hall. While this is a brief hike, it has several switchbacks and an incredible panoramic view at the top. This trail connects with Jack Rabbit Trail.
Jack Rabbit Trail: Expect a moderately difficult 0.67 mile that travels through the foothills behind Rancho Mirage City Hall.
Chuckwalla Trail: Located at Frank Sinatra Drive west of Highway 11, this is a moderate 1.58 mile hike that circles the Mirada Villas, continues through the foothills and intersects with Roadrunner Trail
Roadrunner Trail: This runs along Frank Sinatra Drive through the foothills and connects Chuckwalla Trail to the Mirada Fountain.
Clancy Lane Trail: Located just west of Monterey Avenue, this 2.20 mile trail is an easy trek as it winds through the Whitewater Storm Channel and goes under Bob Hope Drive. It connects Rancho Mirage Community Park and the residential community of Clancy Lane.
In addition to maintaining social distance between other hikers and wearing a face-covering when interacting with others, be sure to bring adequate water and stay aware of weather conditions when planning your hike.
Timing is everything
Take a little time to plan when and where you’ll be going. Even in the autumn, temperatures can vary. Start early in the day to cover more ground before the heat becomes oppressive. The desert is usually hottest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
As the sun goes higher and temperatures rise, seek shade, conserve energy and take a break to let your body recover. Many hikers will stop to have a snack, get a drink and enjoy their surroundings.
You might also go later in the day or into the evening. Temperatures are more tolerable; desert sunsets can be breathtaking and starry skies can be enchanting. Exercise extra caution in the dark. Wear a headlamp or have other illumination to help you navigate the terrain.
Whenever you decide to depart, don’t hike alone. Be sure to let others know when you are leaving, where you plan to go and when you expect to return. Remember there are areas where cell phones don’t work well, if at all. You don’t want to be stuck somewhere without service and unable to call for help if you need it.
In the Coachella Valley, it’s important to take into account climate, elevation and level of exertion. Keep in mind that the harder you work during a hike, the more bodily fluids you lose through respiration and perspiration. No two hikers are alike, so it’s important to understand your individual needs and listen to your body.
Wear breathable, lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothing. Long sleeves and pants shield your skin from the sun more effectively, but if you wear shorts, apply sunscreen and also be mindful of your face, lips, ears, hands, and neck, which can quickly burn. Don a protective wide-brim hat and consider wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Hiking is as much about the feet as anything else. Do yourself a favor and leave the sandals at home. Lace up some sturdy boots or shoes because even a short trail can contain a number of rocks, cacti or other hazards.
While some local trails are relatively easy loops, if you are unable to see your starting point at all times, getting lost is always a possibility. Carry a compass and map if there’s any chance you might get turned around.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
In general, one quart of water per hour is generally recommended. That said, some hikers will require more water than others. It’s always better to take more with you than too little.
Constantly take sips and never wait until you are thirsty to drink. By the time you develop a thirst, you are already dehydrated. Before beginning your hike, drink at least a half a quart of water and then bring a bottle or other hydration pack with you. Avoid sodas, other sugary beverages and alcohol. These liquids cause your body to lose more fluid.
Recognize signs of dehydration such as confusion, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and fainting. Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be serious. Take preventive measures and know how to provide first aid immediately if it does occur.
Additionally, be aware of hyponatremia (abnormally low sodium levels in the blood). It may occur if a hiker drinks too much water without adequately replenishing electrolytes. In hot conditions, it’s a good idea to mix in a sports drink powder into your water or grab a salty snack such as pretzels or peanuts.
There’s more than dirt and rocks in the desert. Getting poked by most cacti species won’t require professional treatment but getting the spines out of your skin can be difficult. Use tweezers or try duct tape.
Be attune to your surroundings and keep an eye and ear out for bees, snakes and desert animals like coyotes. Snakes typically bask in the sun to increase their body temperatures in the day and startled rattlesnakes may strike without warning.
Always watch where you put your feet and hands and use caution when moving rocks or picking up sticks. Avoid hiking in tall vegetation and stay on well-worn trails.
Using this information to guide you, being prepared and taking steps to stay safe will make your hike an enjoyable excursion.