As summer turns to winter, hikers have to consider where to go, when to go and what to wear.
I have hiked in hundred-degree weather and in temperatures so cold that my mustache was growing icicles. I haven’t done that often, and I don’t recommend either except for the most foolhardy and experienced hikers. Hikers have been known to die under either of those conditions.
During summer high-elevation hikes are best, such as the San Francisco Peaks and Kendrick Peak in Flagstaff or Escudilla Mountain near Alpine. For hikes closer to home during the summer, consider Granite Mountain, Groom Creek Loop or the Woodchute Wilderness on Mingus Mountain. Those hikes are also good in the fall. Another good fall choice is most of the hikes in Sedona, including one of my favorites, the Bell Trail, for its flowing stream.
Now that winter is upon us we need to look south for warmer winter trails. Spur Cross Conservation Area in Cave Creek is among my favorites, again because it often offers running streams, although with the changing climate the water doesn’t flow as much as it used to do so.
South Mountain Park, North Mountain Park and the other Maricopa County parks offer endless trails. But again, many hikers want to stay local because work and other schedules don’t allow time for those drives. The trails by Watson Lake and Willow Lake are just a couple of the many good local alternatives.
In summer you want to pick trails that have plenty of trees for shade; in winter you want more open trails, where the sun will warm you up. The lakes will have wintering birds, a big plus.
During summer you want to hike in the early morning, near dusk or even after dark, as your main goal is to avoid the heat.
I like walking at night, because if you are away from the lights you get great views of the stars. I usually carry my flashlight, but then turn it off to get the best view. This can be risky, too, though. One time in Watson Woods when I was walking after dark I came within a couple feet of a javelina. It let out a squeal, causing me to jump backward while turning on my flashlight at the same time. The javelina meandered off into the woods. My heart sped up, but no harm, no foul.
During winter, hiking during the heat of day is best, but at least hike during sunlit hours. During summer you just have to worry about hiking boots, proper socks, shorts, tee shirt and hat, along with sunglasses, of course.
In winter you have to gauge the temperature. Wearing layers is good practice, but if you’re planning a long hike you have to be careful about how many layers you wear. With too many layers you have to make sure your pack is large enough if you have to shed a lot of layers, and you have more to carry. That weight can add up.
In summer, the hotter and longer the hike, the more water you have to bring. You don’t need as much during the cooler winter, but you still need enough keep hydrated. Two liters is minimum for a day-long hike.
You always want to carry more water and food than you expect, because you never know when you might get lost or the hike takes longer than expected.
Hiking is a fun endeavor, but the adventure can present some dangers. Every hiker has to calculate how much food and water they should pack, depending on the length and difficulty of the hike and their own metabolism and physical needs.
Don’t let the winter keep you from hiking! There are abundant natural winter wonders out there. Just watch out for ice!
Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com