Warmer temperatures and longer days call for more outdoor adventures and especially in the mountains surrounding Las Cruces, a city that sees more than 320 days of sunshine each year.
Hikers, bikers, campers and four-wheel enthusiasts should take the necessary precautions to avoid mishap – or worse – while exploring the great outdoors. What seems like the start to a beautiful adventure can turn downright dreadful with temperature swings of more than 40 degrees, an unforeseen change in weather or some unexpected change of plans.
On May 16, 2021, 24 hikers had to be rescued after the group became separated, disoriented and stranded during a trek in the Organ Mountains. Some of the hikers suffered relatively minor injuries – mostly scrapes and bruises – and some complained of dehydration. One hiker was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The City of Las Cruces suggests all outdoor adventurers follow these and other safety tips:
- Know your capabilities and the terrain for which you will be in.
- Plan your trek carefully and take into consideration weather reports, the expected duration and other conditions which may be faced during your adventure.
- Never hike, bike, backpack or adventure alone.
- Keep groups together unless it is necessary for survival to separate.
- Follow all signage and refrain from straying from established trails.
- Carry a fully charged cellular or satellite phone in case of an emergency. Avoid depleting a cell phone’s battery by overusing the camera function.
- Pack a power bank and the proper cord to recharge a depleted cell phone battery.
- Carry a flashlight and extra batteries even if your hike is during the daytime.
- Avoid pushing daylight to take in a glorious sunset or full moon. Once the sun sets, it’s difficult to find your bearings on unknown trails.
- Take plenty of drinking water and food to sustain you during the trek.
- Keep in mind, warm daytime temperatures and relatively high elevations expend energy quickly.
- Wear or carry proper attire for the trek. It’s best to dress in layers that can be easily removed – or added – depending on conditions.
- Wear a hat or proper head covering.
- Wear boots or hiking shoes that are comfortable and suitable for the terrain to be covered.
- Be aware of changing weather conditions and the potential for flash floods from rains that occur upstream from your location.
- Be extremely cautious of setting or using fire.
- Beware of snakes that are more active during warmer weather and as daytime temperatures rise. Snakebite victims should seek help immediately.
- Beware of wild animals that are known to frequent the Organ Mountains and other areas nearby: bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, deer and African oryx. Never approach or attempt to handle a wild animal.
- If hiking with a dog, take into consideration its needs and safety requirements for the trek.
- Refrain from allowing your dog to run off-leash as it might give chase to wild animals and could easily become lost or injured.
- Do not exceed the limitations of your vehicle (or your driving skills).
- Ensure your vehicles, tires and the spare are in good condition for the terrain.
- Keep an eye on your fuel gauge to ensure you do not run out of gasoline.
- Stay on developed roads or dedicated tracks.
- Respect signage and avoid driving onto private properties or dedicated wilderness areas.
- Do not attempt dangerous water crossings.
- Properly wear seatbelts or harnesses at all times when vehicle is in motion.
- If stranded, it is recommended to first try calling for help. Abandoning a vehicle and walking for help could be more dangerous than staying put and waiting for help to arrive.
- Tell a friend or relative where you are going and when you expect to return. If you have not returned by the designated time, they should know to contact authorities.
Dispose of waste properly and use the “Pack it In – Pack it Out” motto to help keep wild areas pristine.