Hiking and heat don’t mix, officials warn, after spike in rescues
Trails in the hills above Palm Springs may look inviting, but as temperatures climb they become too dangerous for even experienced hikers. (Photo courtesy Riverside County Sheriff's Aviation Unit)

Hiking and heat don’t mix, officials warn, after spike in rescues

Climbing temperatures and an increase in hikers in peril are bringing familiar warnings and advice: Stay off local trails during daylight hours, and if you must hike, do so only with precautions.

Since Saturday, Palm Springs Mounted Police Search & Rescue crews have performed two rescues, adding to an already busy June. In both recent incidents, the volunteer rescuers were called to assist hikers on the North Lykken Trail that stretches 3.5 miles between Las Palmas Estates Drive to West Ramon Road. Unrelated to Palm Springs, but related to the dangers of daytime hiking in the summer, a hiker died on the Pacific Crest Trail near Anza on Wednesday.

Palm Springs recorded a record high temperature on Tuesday, officially measuring 120 degrees. The previous record was 116 degrees. The heat is expected to last through Sunday, with temperatures between 118 (today and Friday) and 113 (Sunday). An excessive heat warning is set to expire Friday at 9 PM.

The extreme heat this is coming weeks before the area usually reaches its peak temperature in July. With it brings early warnings from those on the front lines of aiding hikers in danger.

“The Palm Springs Police Department would like to remind you to please be safe if you choose to hike in the summer months,” the department wrote Tuesday on social media. “If you choose to hike in the heat, please take every precaution against becoming a heat casualty.”

While it’s best to avoid hiking completely in conditions like those seen this week, if you must go hiking, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Plan to hike before sunrise. While that may limit the time you have to enjoy the outdoors, avoiding the intensity of the sun’s rays is the best defense against danger. Nighttime hiking is the next best option, although heat from the day can still linger in the hills
  • Try to hike near shade and water. There’s not much shade, and no natural water in the hills above Palm Springs, but Indian Canyons has options for both
  • Choose light colors and loose, breathable clothing, especially clothing that comes with a UPF rating. It may seem counterintuitive, but covering up offers greater protection, especially to those with sensitive skin
  • Make sure to wear a hat, have a way to cool your neck, and wear wool or synthetic socks (never cotton)
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Strenuous hiking in high heat may require that you drink 1 liter of water or more per hour

Just how long the heat will last, and how intense it will be this summer, is, as usual, unpredictable. Brian Wilson, who authors the popular Palm Springs Haboob newsletter, said Tuesday that while temperatures above 115 degrees are not unusual, having this many consecutive days reach that mark this early in the summer is rare. What’s not rare is confusion when scorching predicted temperatures don’t materialize. On Wednesday, for example, temperatures were predicted to reach 116, but topped out at 108.

“All of us have been checking our phones this past week, watching the dizzying display of fiery temperatures being thrown around,” he wrote in a post this week. “At one point, phone apps were showing 122 degrees for Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Friday, then all three days … only to drop a few degrees, and then rise again.

“This flip flopping in details becomes devilishly seductive for us desert dwellers, as reaching or exceeding the 120 degree benchmark has become a rite of passage of sorts for us locals.”

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