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  1. #1
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    Default Backpack near Phoenix

    Hi, AT east coast hiker here looking to backpack 4-6 days after flying into Phoenix. I did a day hike up Superstition Mt and know that the AZ trail goes through there along with the Enchantment Trail. I do have a friend there who can shuttle me. My big question is that of water, what can an east coaster expect in that area. What would be a good section for that time hopefully with the most water sources? Also any additional area specific info which you can share , like don't lean against a cactus, shake the scorpions out of one's boots before putting them on etc.


    Thanks

  2. #2
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Exclamation First danger to worry about!

    any additional area specific info which you can share
    https://secure.img1-fg.wfcdn.com/im/...at-coaster.jpg
    The danger of a desert's dry heat is that you can easily fail to realize how much sweat you're losing until dehydration & heat exhaustion become a problem. That happened to me after a two-hour hike, on which I carried water AND cameled up before hitting the trail in a county park. At the end of the hike, I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew, so I asked the people at the visitor center if I could use their air-conditioning for about twenty minutes. It was only as I was leaving that I noticed that I had arrived about five minutes before the center was scheduled to close -- apparently they ALSO realized I needed some help.
    Last edited by GoldenBear; 02-07-2023 at 21:25.

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Default

    If you have a shuttle, I'd definitely consider a section of the AZT. Go to the ATA website for info on access and water. Easy access from Phoenix is at Hwy 60 and Hwy 87 with a nice section of trail between. Just south of there from Freeman Rd to Hwy 60 has more water challenges. North of there gets into longer shuttling distances. I don't know if there's still bus service from Flagstaff to Phoenix.

    Desert hiking requires some different tools, such as dry camping and knowing your water requirements per distance. Most people fall between 5-10 miles per liter in temperate conditions, and most need from .5 to 1 liter for camping. That's quite a range, and nobody can predict what you'll need.

    Carrying two day's worth of water is a different skill too. I learned the hard way to carry a max container size of 2 liters, so if you break or lose one you can carry on.

    Carry tweezers to remove cactus spines, and a comb helps a lot if you bump a cholla. A disposable razor easily cleans out fine prickly pear spines.

  4. #4

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    I am primarily an east coast guy, but have hiked extensively all over the US. While I certainly do not know all there is to know about desert hiking and backpacking, I can share some of the knowledge I didn't have when I started hiking in desert environments that may be helpful. Forgive me if some of this is rudimentary.

    Garlic's recommendation of the AZT is good and will provide some acclimation to desert hiking. To that end, this is a good trail suggestion as there is water along the trail (though there may be areas you'll have to carry a day or two water load).

    Clothing. Night temperatures will be much cooler than day temps obviously. Figure out what the temperature swings are (Outfitter stores like REI can provide a lot of that information), bring warm clothing for camp and sleeping and cooler clothing for daytime hiking. As an aside, take a long break from the sun at mid day and try to hike before/after peak sun.

    Water was the first thing I learned had to manage differently than I did out east. As Golden Bear points out, you can get into trouble very quickly to the point of incapacitation due to poor water management. Heat exhaustion during the day can quickly turn hypothermic when the sun sets and body temperature drops below 95*. Rule one, two, and three is Water is life.

    One of my favorite John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn) lines is, "Everything out there will either bite ya, stick ya, or sting ya". To that end, the Jumping Cholla cactus will do all three, strike, stick, and sting ya. This cactus develops seed pods that grow under tension and instantly detach from the plant when lightly brushing against it. But, beyond touch, I have seen these seed pods triggered by proximity to the plant, "flicking" the pod that can strike the hiker. Most of the "hits" I have seen are either below the knee, or on hands oddly enough. Heavy fabric gaiters can help stop incidental contact with the barbed needles from penetrating to your skin. Eventually one learns to recognize these plants and give them some space. I have seen people use chaps for protection, though mostly for bushwhacking.

    Another concern is navigation, bring a map and compass with you as a back up to GPS. One of my first stomach dropping surprises in the he desert is everything looks like the trail, features look the same wherever you look in any direction. Getting turned around without any navigation tools can have poor outcomes. Personal experience illustrates this can happen surprisingly fast with few visual references to get back to the trail. I got lost just 20-yards off trail to look at something and managed to get turned around. Fortunately there was a hill I could identify where the trail crossed over it and was able to return to my route, a much humbler person.

    Sun protection (75 spf or higher) is recommended for exposed skin (zinc for the nose is not a bad idea) and renew it every 2-hours. A broad brimmed hat is requisite equipment for most. Keep in mind UV light reflection off the desert floor, just like water, will easily reach your face. The sunburn you can get in an hour will be remembered the rest of ones life. Though tempting to go without a shirt, long sleeved shirts are recommended which actually can wet out from sweat and keep you cooler. Long pants are a good idea as well. This is an environment where cotton does not kill and can actually help you remain cooler when sweat wets it out.

    Signaling mirror (or CD disc can work) and fire starting equipment (lighter, cotton balls with Vaseline, etc). Never underestimate how far away sun glint off a CD disc or small fire at night can be seen.

    Learn about cactus needle removal and bring a first aid kit with this in mind.

    If you don't think you are carrying enough, bring more water and a couple of extra meals would not hurt in case you get lost or pinned down by weather.

    Scorpions - Of the 30 or so species of scorpions in AZ, only one is considered lethal, though people survive their stings all the time. A small (3") light brown/tan scorpion called the Bark Scorpion (thumbnail below) is one to be concerned with. This species of scorpion does not burrow and will hide under rocks, deadfall, and other structures during the day, coming out at night. For this reason when I am desert camping I bring a small UV light that most scorpions fluoresce at night under the light so I can avoid them.

    Keep an eye on clothing and foot wear in the morning and shake them out well before putting them on. I typically look closely at shirts and pants where they can grab onto and hide if on the wrong side of the shake. Bang shoes/boots hard to dislodge them.

    Snakes - Though I have not experienced this myself, I have heard so many tales of snakes coming into tents, getting into sleeping bags, or piles of clothing, etc that I have to think it happens now and then. With this in mind, I have gotten into the habit of packing up any clothing into the pack or stuff sack to prevent reptilian take over and have a tent that can seal the entrances with zipper to dissuade entry by Mr. No Shoulders.

    Hope this is helpful!
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  5. #5
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    Thanks all, some great starter info - just want I was looking for. Plans have changed and I have put my AZT aspirations on hold for now, but this will be useful in the future.

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