I love to hike. I used to trail run every day now I hike every day and occasionally run. Living Tucson and in the high country of the White Mountains of Arizona allows me to have two very different and diverse places to explore. I see it as a blessing. I try to take advantage of each diverse location. As all of us hikers know it’s true …. something magical happens to us when we are out in wide open outdoor spaces surrounded by nature. I feel as if I am part of the environment I am exploring and just soak it all up.
Sadly, something happens far more frequently in the desert than in other areas where hikers explore. It seems that every year a few solo hikers goes missing. As I am out on the trails, often by myself, I try to be as proactive as possible always thinking safety first. The desert can be very harsh, to say the least, to any visitor. The temperatures can be extreme as well as the risk of venomous reptiles. I take plenty of water, make sure my phone is fully charged (find my iPhone down loaded), have snacks, a whistle, a sharpie and always let someone know where I’ll be hiking or running. But what I DO NOT do is dress like every other khaki wearing hiker, even the forest service wears khaki clothing with a shade of green. I understand that light colored clothing absorbs less heat in the hot sun, but it does nothing to assist you if you are lost. So, I dress like an Easter egg.
I dress bright…. Really bright. I prefer to wear running shorts and tank tops. I occasionally will wear a hat. And fortunately, the trail runner shoes I love are also brightly colored. Why you might ask? Well….my motto became very clear inside my head as I hiked on the trails that the missing solo hiker were said to have been on a couple years ago. I secretly prayed for them to be found….by someone other than myself. But continued to think why it was taking so long to find the missing hiker. My conclusion was always what they were wearing. Those Khaki or desert colored clothes allowed the person to blend in the desert instead of strand out. So, my motto then had significance. BE WISE … BE BRIGHT … BE FOUND THE FIRST NIGHT! Why not be really bright out there against the brown and light green landscape of the desert?
I believe in my motto so much I tell fellow hikers and runners who are also solo when we stop to exchange pleasantries on the trail. For some reason, I am often stopped by others to ask for directions on the trail. I usually know the trails very well and can give direction at which time I also divulge my motto. “Be wise…be bright…be found the first night!” The trails are supposed to be happy places for every hiker regardless of skill level. Proper trail knowledge and safety precautions are often over looked by the frequent visitors to the Sonoran Desert with unfamiliar conditions. Water, sunscreen, trail map, snacks and BRIGHT COLORED clothes can save your life in the desert.
I dress like an Easter egg in the mountains too, just to be safe. But hikers or runners going missing in the high country is rare. I’m not sure why that is true, but it is. Although I know many people cautiously dress with bright colors, so they are not accidently shot by a hunter in the woods. Maybe less people are out in the woods? Or the woods don’t have the dangerous conditions of the desert such as the likelihood of being dehydrated? I’m not sure but ‘safety is first’ where ever I am, and I will always BE WISE and dress very BRIGHT. I am often solo (because my hiking buddies work during the week) I want to be found the FIRST NIGHT!
Hope to see your bright self out there soon!