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Fit in the OV: How to stay safe outdoors this summer

As an avid outdoors person, I love everything active there is to do outdoors. My favorites are road cycling and hiking, but I also love mountain biking, running and walking on desert trails, paved paths and roads. Outdoor adventuring in the summer can be a lot of fun, but it is important to stay mindful of the potential dangers that exist so that we can all stay safe.

June 7, 2017

Hydration
Hydration is the most important thing to keep in mind when recreating. The Grand Canyon section of the National Parks website says: “Do not wait until you start feeling thirsty to start replacing lost fluid. If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated! Drink one-half to one full quart of water or sports drink each and every hour you are hiking in the heat. Drink small amounts often.”

I have a friend who is a volunteer for the Southern Arizona Rescue Association (SARA). He has mentioned that many of those who perish while hiking, do so with a bottle of water with them that they are saving for later. Bring enough to drink without fear of running out.

Sun safety
Protect your skin from the sun! Whether with sun block or clothing, protection is needed for any outdoor activity—even gardening. A hat and sunglasses are essential too. In the short term, it will save you from a painful sunburn and in the long-term, from the possibility of skin cancer. More than 3 million Americans develop skin cancer each year (ACS 2017).

Desert dwellers
Be aware of desert dwellers—especially those that are venomous or pose some type of danger such as snakes, insects and certain spiders.

In the Arizona, there are 17 different types of rattlesnakes, and each one is venomous. Rattlesnakes may not take the time to warn you they are there if you startle them with a quick arrival. If you mountain bike, watch where you stop and be aware of your surroundings. Most rattlesnake bites occur when people try to provoke, kill or get too close to a rattlesnake. Observe and appreciate these desert dwellers from afar, and continue on without incident. Do not put yourself at risk. In the event you are bitten by a rattlesnake or other venomous reptile, get to a hospital quickly.

In the Tucson area, we also have Africanized bees. They can be dangerous in swarms. It is important to never disturb a hive, but if you find yourself in a swarm of bees, run. Many hikers make the mistake of freezing and trying to cover their heads. Your best bet is to run (running into the wind is even better), because Africanized Bees are slow fliers, and it is difficult for them to keep up with a moving target. Protect your face as you run, and take shelter as soon as possible.

Common Arizona spider bites include the black widow and brown recluse. Both can be dangerous, and medical help should be sought immediately. These spiders, as well as scorpions, can be found in many locations. Watch where you sit, and be cautious lifting rocks or sleeping on the ground. Check your shoes before putting them on, and be wary of putting on clothing that has been left on the ground. Although Tarantulas look scary, they are the gentle giants of the spider world; however, if they are provoked, they can bite. It’s not a dangerous bite, but it’s not pleasant either!

There are other critters and potential natural hazards in the desert such as mountain lions, bears, coyotes and javelina. The trick to being safe—and to being good stewards of our natural environment—is to recognize that they are all wild animals and have the potential to be dangerous. Do not feed wild animals or leave food where they are able to access it.

Monsoons
Every summer we witness the power of monsoon storms. They bring rapid waters down our washes and rivers. Do not place yourself in harm’s way by being in a canyon, wash or waterway during a monsoon storm or in the hours following one. It doesn’t have to be raining where you are in order for a flash flood to strike. A storm in the mountains can send a dangerous flood downstream, miles away, without warning.

While it may seem that the things which make Arizona so unique, such as its weather and wildlife, are also some of its greatest dangers, that doesn’t mean we can’t get out there and safely enjoy our beautiful state. Just be sure to take the proper precautions and be mindful of your desert surroundings. That way, every outdoor activity can safely be enjoyed. Have a great summer, OV!

By Lynanne Dellerman, Recreation & Cultural Services Manager - Explorer Newspaper, 6/7/17