Editorial: Stay safe, prepared when hiking in the Canyon

As the weather grows warmer across northern Arizona, many are beginning to turn their attention to the outdoors. There may be some snow headed our way still, as well as a little rain, but temperatures are definitely on the rise. Spring hikers are beginning to dust off their walking sticks and head outside, but many who visit the area may not be completely prepared for the expedition. While the Canyon's hottest months are June, July and August, it doesn't mean hikers shouldn't be prepared at all times of the year.

There are a number of smart and easy tips that will help ensure a safe and successful outdoor experience at the Grand Canyon National Park. One rule is to never hike alone. It is always a good idea to have a buddy with you as you explore the national park. Know what the weather will do while on your hike. Always check the weather forecast before starting out. Stay on the trails when in the park. Taking what you may think is a shortcut could lead to a much longer hike than anticipated. Always bring plenty of water and know, if possible, where more water can be found. Carrying water purification tablets is recommended when hiking into the Canyon. While food and water should be the heaviest items in a hiker's pack, it is also a good idea to bring a flashlight with you when hiking in and out of the Canyon, as some hikers find themselves hiking in the dark. Always pick a hike that matches your abilities. Problems can often arise from hikers who chose to hike in physically challenging terrain.

As many learn when they traverse the Canyon, getting down is the easy part and coming back up, often, takes far longer than anticipated. Don't overdo it. Park service officials recommend a 10 minute break for every hour of hiking. There's no hurry worth your safety. When it comes to mules, the National Park Service recommends that hikers step off the trail, away from the edge, on the uphill side. Always listen to the wrangler in charge of the mules and wait until the last mule is at least 50 feet away before starting onto the trail.

Remember to pack light on your journey. The following is a list of essential items that most experienced hikers carry with them on long Canyon hikes: Flashlight with a change of batteries, a compass, a map of the area, a signal mirror or whistle in case of emergencies, sunglasses, sunscreen, water purification tablets, a first aid kit and a hat. It is always a good idea to wear comfortable, well fitting hiking boots (preferably ones that have been broken in for a while before hiking the Grand Canyon). Walking sticks will also take some of the weight off your legs as you make your way along the trails.

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