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Summer hiking can be a hellish morass of killer heat, killer animals and Pete Seeger songs rife with danger and chafing. We asked veteran hiker Erin Adams some questions. Adams is the program director of the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park, located within the Mojave Desert, where summer temps typically get into the 110 range. Hiking in the heat, she knows. She also knows what to do if you see a rattlesnake. And where you can stick that cell phone.
One of the biggest mistakes is people overestimating their abilities. My rule of thumb is that if you have doubt whether you can do it, you probably shouldn't—most rescues are for day hikers. Things you want to consider are that you need to let someone know where you're going to be going, the route you're going to be taking and a time when you'll be back, and make sure you leave it with someone who loves you, so they read the note.
Definitely not. Another thing, figure out the maximum amount of water you're going to need and then add to it. Water is the single most important thing you bring with you. And be sure and carry extra water in your car. What else? Oh, a lot of hikers don't dress properly for the summer temperatures; they won't wear long sleeves and long pants because they think they'll be hot. But long sleeves and long pants are the best form of sunscreen. They keep you cool by keeping perspiration close to the skin. You should also have a wide-brim hat to protect your ears and neck.
I don't leave the house without it.
You know, 5,000 to 6,000 people get bit by rattlesnakes every year, and less than three die. Less than a third of all bites contain venom. Rattlesnakes inject venom to kill prey; they don't want to waste it on humans who they don't view as a food source. So normally it's only a bite, on the hands usually, which means most of these people are actually reaching out to the snake. If you're bit, you don't want to freak out. The biggest problem is infection. If I see a rattlesnake, I stop, then I walk slowly by. And I never put my hands or feet where I can't see them. Step over things. As far as mountain lions are concerned, first off, you're unlikely to see one since each mountain lion has miles and miles of territory. If you do meet one, don't lose contact with their eyes. A lot of people are surprised to hear that, but these aren't dogs, it's a cat characteristic. And you want to look big. Stand up as straight as you can, puff your chest out and move slowly.
This is a personal choice. With any decision, you have to weigh the pros and cons. I do carry my cell phone, but it's turned off. If there is a problem, I have it. Of course, one problem with cell phones is there is no reception in many of the areas people go hiking. And there is nothing more annoying then being out in the wilderness and hearing someone scream, "I got signal! Can you hear me?! I'm here in Joshua Tree!"