Commentary

July 3, 2014

Respect nature’s power

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Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A male mule deer keeps a watchful eye near the North Loop trail on Mount Charleston, June 14 near Las Vegas, Nev. Always be cautious if you come across any wild animal while hiking, it is best to leave it alone and not approach it. They may perceive human advances as threats and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Many Nellis AFB Airmen enjoy taking in the beauty of nature outside of the Las Vegas area. Two of the most popular destinations for experiencing nature are Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston. While both of these sites offer incredible hiking and breathtaking views, it is important to remember the risks associated with hiking in this climate.

Similar safety tips regarding sun protection, dehydration, getting lost and avoiding contact with wild animals are relevant to hiking at both Red Rock and Mount Charleston.

Dehydration and heat exhaustion are two of the biggest dangers when hiking in the desert environment.

“Water is a huge must in the desert climate but drinking other items such as [sports drinks] are good too. You must have an equal balance to make sure you are replacing the water, salt, and potassium you may be losing while hiking,” said Kate Sorom, a park ranger with the Bureau of Land Management.

Water intake is especially important for those that drink a large number of caffeinated beverages such as soda, coffee and energy drinks. Caffeine is a natural diuretic which will in turn dehydrate the individual.

Sorom advises that when the hiker is halfway through their water it is time to end the hike and make their way back to their car. It doesn’t matter how far they have gone.

Protection from the sun is also vital. Hikers are encouraged to wear sunscreen and hats to prevent sunburn.

In addition to protection from sunburn, hiking during the cooler parts of the day also helps prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Here in the Mojave Desert any month that gets over 90 degrees [Fahrenheit] can post a hazard when hiking. The hours between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. are the hottest of the day. The safest hours to hike are early in the morning and later in the day after the heat is starting to decrease,” Sorom said.

Wild animals can also present a hazard to hikers.

“When you are hiking you need to be aware that you are the visitor in [the animals] neighborhood. The desert has many animals that will defend themselves if they feel threatened,” Sorom said.

There are several large predators that call Red Rock home, including mountain lions, coyotes, and smaller ones such as bobcats, kit fox and grey fox. These animals can present a danger to hikers if provoked.

It is important to remember that it isn’t only predatory animals that are dangerous to hikers.

“The animals we do have at Red Rock Canyon that most people encounter but do not think of them as a threat are the wild Burro’s. These large mammals can bite, and kick when approached or threatened by a person or animal, to include our pets,” Sorom said.

Mount Charleston also has seemingly harmless large mammals that should not be approached.

“Situational awareness is key when it comes to wild animals. It is important for visitors to stay a safe distance from wild horses,” said Cody Dix, a volunteer coordinator with Go Mount Charleston, a non-profit partnership between the US Forest Service and the Southern Nevada Conservancy.

Although hydration, sun, heat protection and keeping a safe distance from wild animals are all important, communication is absolutely vital.

“Let people know where you are going and when you will be back,” Dix said.

The Las Vegas area has numerous places to enjoy the beauty of the desert. But keep in mind, safety comes first. Remember to hydrate, bring sun protection, do not approach wild animals and always let someone know where you are going.




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