I used to be a big outdoors person, so decided for Lent to start hiking again and use that time for prayer. I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather in Phoenix and went on a hike at White Tank Regional Park, west of downtown Phoenix. White Tank Regional Park offers spectacular views of the valley, and fairly easy hiking paths. White Tank also holds a hidden treasure for history and archeological buffs—petroglyphs from the Hohokam civilization that lived in the area between 1 AD – 1450 AD.
Since I was hiking by myself, I choose a trail that was popular with other hikers, so I would not be “alone”. Busy trails are less likely to encounter wild animals, such as the rattlesnake, coyote, javelina, and mountain lion that frequent the area. I did not want to mess with any of those critters, so I hiked the busy, yet still peaceful Waterfall trail.
Take In The Scenery
Some years, when Arizona gets plenty of rain, we have a spectacular wildflower season. Although we received little rain this year, there were still a few wildflowers along my path, including cactus flower. The saguaro cactus and rock formations are beautiful to see as well, so be sure to bring a small camera or your smart phone.
Take In The History
The petroglyphs at White Tank Regional Park are in a protected area, so be sure to look but not touch (kids included). The history of the Hohokam and their contributions to the Sonoran desert are a great learning experience for you and your kids, so do some research before heading out to the park.
Desert Hiking Tips
Hiking in the desert is a different experience than other areas of the country, so be sure to take proper precautions. The following are some suggestions when hiking in Arizona.
1. Because Arizona is so dry, you can become dehydrated very easily. Always carry water when you hike; approximately one liter per hour.
2. Remember to use sunscreen because even in the spring, the sun is strong.
3. Wear closed toed shoes to protect you from cactus prickers, jumping cholla, bugs, and snakes.
4. The landscape is peaceful, so your first inclination may be to wear headphones and listen to relaxing music, but it is important to keep your ears (and eyes) free from distraction. Be aware of your surroundings so you can hear an animal or person approaching, or the rattle of a rattlesnake.
5. Follow park trails and know the terrain. People come to Arizona to hike our gorgeous mountains, but some need to be rescued because they are unfamiliar with the terrain, and “bite off more than they can chew” physically. Others go off trail and put themselves in danger on steep or narrow pathways. There are plenty of trails available for all fitness levels, so be sure to read the maps, stay on trail, and do not wind up on a dangerous path you are not trained to hike.
6. Carry a walking stick. A walking stick can help you keep your balance on trails, maneuver over unstable rocks, and be used as self defense against a wild animal.