An Open Letter About Hitting the Trail
March 2, 2015 at 12:05 am
The time is now. The skies are blue. The desert is green. The mountains are ripe for climbing. Urban trails across the state are teeming with people — locals and visitors alike — eager to bag a peak. Go forth and hike, friends. But before you do, brush up on a few tips to keep your climb from going downhill:
1. Pack water. More than you'll think you'll need. Starbucks doesn’t count, so if you’re trying to climb Piestewa Peak with your latte in hand, reconsider. Chances are good that you’ll feel the slog of dehydration before you’re halfway up.
2. Shoes matter. Vans, Toms and flip-flops may be fashionable, but they’re not built for the trail. Your soles and ankles will thank you if you spring for a good pair of trail runners or hiking boots.
3. Speaking of runners, if you’re a freight train coming down the mountain, please remember that uphill climbers have the right of way. Speed doesn’t translate to an inalienable right to run into and through the lesser mortals with whom you have to share the trail.
4. If you move at a slower pace, don’t fret. Enjoy the hike and the views. But try to stay to the right side of the trail. That way, faster climbers can maneuver past you. If you feel the breath of another hiker on your neck when the trail is narrow, just move to the side as soon as it’s safe. If you’re a neck breather, chill out, OK? Trailgating is not cool. Count to five and look for a place to safely pass. Then use the manners your mama taught you and say “hello” and “thank you.”
5. Save your selfie for the top. The middle of the trail is no place to take 16 test shots before settling on the perfect one. Nor is it a place to run the one through the Instagram filters (Slumber is the best!) and post it to Facebook. Fixing your hair, taking a phone call, applying lip gloss, searching your pack, eating a Slim Jim? Those activities should be reserved for the sides of the trail, too.
6. Music is great, but not everyone wants to hear what you’re listening to — especially if it’s Gino Vannelli, The Notorious B.I.G. or that jazz metal band you’ve been obsessed with lately. Keep your tunes in your ear buds and off your speakers. And for those of you who carry boomboxes in your backpacks ... well, that's just rude.
7. When most people sweat, it stinks. And it’s OK. There’s no need to pretend like your natural fragrance is Axe body spray — because no one believes you. Save the colognes and perfumes for after your hike. Climbing is hard enough. Gagging on Brut just makes it harder.
8. Even on urban trails, the principles of Leave No Trace still apply. Those three words should be self-explanatory. If you're not familiar, visit www.LNT.org. Also, just because things like orange peels and banana peels are biodegradable, it can take six weeks or more for them to disappear into the soil — probably longer on trails like Camelback and Piestewa Peak. The point is, trash is trash. Please pack it out.
Now hit the trail. And be safe and kind.
Photo: Phoenix's Piestewa Peak, as seen from Camelback Mountain. | Kelly Vaughn Kramer