SPRING HIKING: 3 important “know before you go” tips
Getting outdoors in the Spring time is one of the most beautiful experiences in Southern Arizona! The desert is alive with flowering cactus and its the perfect season to enjoy all sorts of hiking trails with idyllic weather throughout much of the state.
Of course when exploring out with your Girl Scouts, there are many different considerations to take into account to ensure your venture into nature is a fun, safe and enjoyable one. We’ve put together 3 important “know before you go” tips. You can also visit the National Park Service website to find a park near you and learn about its natural and cultural resources.
And if your Girl Scouts are looking for even more ways to get outside, don’t forget that Camp is officially here! Click the link here to register.
It’s a good idea to check out your local National Park Service website for information you may need ahead of time; such as trail closures, COVID-19 safety protocols, prescribed burn information and much more!
Planning your route ahead of time and bringing map and compass resources in the event of poor or limited internet access is a great way to be prepared. Once you arrive most parks have printed maps available, but you can also download hiking apps like All Trails where you can find and save trail information and maps for use during your trip. This basic planning is a life saver to ensure for maximum trail safety so that you don't get lost while outdoors.
Highlighting your route, and getting an idea of the distance, elevations, and obstacles on your path ahead of time will help you estimate how long your day hike will take, decide what to wear and what to pack, and most importantly, plan for any avoidable geographical barriers or obstacles.
While on your hike, you may encounter some helpful trail signs to guide you along your route. Make sure to familiarize the group on basic trail signs (or trail-specific signs if available) before heading out for your first hike.
Pro Tip: Planning for a day hike is the perfect time to start to explore how a map and compass work. REI, Appalachian Mountain Club, GSUSA, and the Orienteering Club have great articles on how to use a map and compass!
What to pack
Sun Protection: As we all know the Arizona desert sun is HOT! We live in a place that has an average of around 300 days of sunshine per year, which means we need to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays all year and especially in the summer when UV rays are strongest. No matter what time of day you are hiking be sure to apply and bring with you sunscreen. SPF 50 blocks 98% of UV rays so be sure to apply at least that amount. Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas, bring extra sunscreen with you to reapply at the appropriate times, use SPF-rated lip balm, and wear sunglasses, a hat, and lightweight layers of clothing to cover up if you feel your sunscreen is failing. Even on cloudy days, the sun’s UV rays shine through, so remind your girls to protect their skin and use sunscreen before going outside.
Clothing: When packing, avoid clingy cotton clothing and adjust each layer based on the forecast; always prepare for shifting temperatures, precipitation, and wind speeds. Basic day hike clothing might look like this; sturdy but lightweight hiking boots, a breathable sun hat, an ultra light daypack, hiking pants or shorts, a quick-dry travel towel, and a bandana. Always check the local weather for the start, end, and duration of your hike and pack appropriate attire for the day’s forecast.
WATER! Don’t forget to keep your girls hydrated! Every hiker should have a water bottle or hydration reservoir. The Pima County Sheriff's Department recommends bringing along around one liter of water for each hour you'll be hiking.
First-Aid Supplies: Be sure to inventory and restock your troop’s first-aid kit before your day hike. Have the volunteer first aider carry the first-aid kit in a backpack or if you have multiple kits, split the supplies among a few adults’ packs. Not sure how a hiking first-aid kit might be different from your regular troop kits? Check out this hiking specific kit from the American Hiking Society to reference what items might be missing from your troop’s first-aid kit.
Pro Tip: Spring means higher temperatures, and that means more rattlesnakes are out and about in the deserts of Southern Arizona. Arizona is home to 13 rattlesnake species and most of those typically begin leaving their dens around this time of year. Practice common sense and avoid areas where snakes may be hiding, such as under rocks and logs. If you encounter a snake on your hike remember: Freeze, Listen, Retreat.
Freeze. If a rattlesnake is in a position where it feels threatened, the best way to avoid attack is to stop all movement and assess the situation. > If you're hiking in rattlesnake country with kids, practice having them freeze at the trailhead and several times along the trail.
Locate the source of the sound. If the rattlesnake cannot be seen, it is important to locate the sound before you try to move away from the snake. You want to avoid putting the snake in a position where it feels trapped or more threatened than it already is.
Slowly move away from the snake. Once the snake is located, move away slowly with no sudden movements. If you have a hiking pole, hold it up between you and the snake. If the snake does attack it might go for the pole instead of your leg.
If a rattlesnake bite happens, SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION. You are always better safe than sorry. For additional resources on this topic, visit here.
Hiking Etiquette and Rules
Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout. You are all ambassadors of the Girl Scout movement, whether you are in town or on a trail. Understanding and practicing basic hiking etiquette will help you represent the organization to the best of your ability, setting a great example for your Girl Scout hikers as well as any future Girl Scouts you may encounter during your expedition. Hiking etiquette is a natural partner to the Girl Scout Law with similar guidelines in the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles. In addition to these basic principles, remember to check out local rules and regulations for the trail you and your girls will be hiking.
Getting outdoors allows our Girl Scouts to continue to build on their strong sense of self, seek challenges and have fun!