Heat. Fire. Flooding. Lightning. When these conditions don’t cause us to cancel our hikes, hikers have to be prepared whenever they're even possible.
Taking along a cell phone, not hiking alone, and letting someone know where you’re going become even more important under inclement conditions.
During the summer this hiker heads for higher elevations to avoid the heat. Flagstaff is among my most popular places for hikes during most of the summer, with many great trails, including Kachina Trail, San Francisco Peaks Trail, Humphreys Peak and Griffith Springs. This summer started off well, but it wasn’t long before fires hit and you had to be careful to pick a trail that was far away from fire activity.
Just as the fires ended — and we knew it was coming — the flooding began, affecting areas in the Flagstaff region that had not flooded previously. Many trails became risky.
Other great prospects for summer hiking are the Mogollon Rim trails, including Houston Brothers and Barbershop. But we had to cancel a planned trip to Houston Brothers due to rain. It’s about 17 miles down an unpaved road, not a place you want to get stuck in when it’s raining.
To beat the summer heat and rain, you want to be sure to take extra water, a raincoat and proper footwear.
Flooding can hit rapidly in unexpected places, so you have to be aware of your surroundings and prepared to get to higher ground quickly.
For anyone with a little common sense, lightning is a real concern in the mountains. I am not advising that you undertake hikes during this time, but I have to say that I’ve often experienced terrific lightning shows on the trail.
My favorite lightning story happened about ten years ago on the San Francisco Peaks. Hiking with five other members of the Prescott Hiking Club, we came within about a mile of the top of Humphreys when suddenly lightning and booming thunder were all around us. The four with more common sense announced that they were turning around and heading down.
The hike leader said he was determined to forge ahead to the top if anyone else wanted to join him. Being somewhat less sensible, I did, of course. We were within about a half mile of the top when lightning struck a large flat boulder about 50 feet in front of us. I don’t know how the leader knew to do this, but he went up the rock and rubbed his hand across it. You could hear it sizzle.
It was funny and scary at the same time. Okay, it was funny to us, standing there laughing our butts off. Another hiker who was not with us had watched the event unfold, and it freaked him out. He started running down the mountain as fast as he could.
Back in the ‘80s I knew a Vietnam veteran with a peculiar habit. During thunderstorms he would make a point of dancing in a puddle in the road. I must have watched him do this about 50 times without anything happening. Maybe that’s why lightning is more fascinating than scary to me. But again, I don’t advise this, it’s risky and certainly not for everyone.
So for the past three weeks most of my 7.5 daily miles have been done close to home. It’s a good thing I live in the county rather than the city, because I still get to see hawks, owls, quail and toads. After it rains the sounds of the toads are loud and enticing.
My fellow hikers often thank me for bringing my raincoat, because that means it won’t rain while we’re out.
Soon the monsoons will clear and those trails will be lush and inviting, the streams and waterfalls will be flowing. Enjoy!
Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com