Staying safe in this Family Weekend’s hiking events

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Cedar Gardner | The Daily Wildcat

Mt. Lemmon is part of the Catalina Mountains and is the site of one of the University of Arizona Campus Recreation’s outdoor hikes scheduled for Family Weekend.

Tucson is well known for its beautiful desert hiking trails and the tall saguaro cacti that often line them.

The city is located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, whose “landscape diversity … rivals that of any other terrestrial ecoregion on Earth” and includes over 560 animal species and 2,000 plant species, according to the National Park Service.

For families looking to explore Tucson’s scenic allure, University of Arizona Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Rec has organized two hiking expeditions through mountain trails for Family Weekend: a Moonlight Hike and a Mount Lemmon Day Hike.

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The Moonlight Hike, which will take place between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, will be through the Tucson Mountains, which are located west of the city.

Andrew Huff, the assistant director of Outdoor Rec, said he hopes the Moonlight Hike will give participants a “different experience.”

“Usually people are pretty connected to their phones … and we’re trying to get away from that as best we can,” Huff said.

According to Huff, headlamps will be provided if needed, but people are encouraged to simply hike by the stars.

The Moonlight Hike costs $10 for Student Recreation Center members and $20 for non-members and includes transportation and leadership and instruction on the trails. A snack will also be provided, according to Huff.

The Mount Lemmon Day Hike, which will be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, will be up in Tucson’s northern Santa Catalina Mountains. The exact place is not specified, but Huff said it’s for a reason.

“We kind of wait until the last minute,” Huff said. “I know it’s kind of vague, and it’s done so intentionally, because we like to see what the weather is.”

The hike on the mountain will ultimately be determined by the weather, and Huff mentioned possible sites range in elevation to accommodate that.

According to Huff, the day hike will also be more extensive, but will feature more beginner trails.

“If you’re an extensive backpacker … it may not be for you, or maybe it’s just something you can kind of turn your brain off and enjoy being outside,” Huff said.

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The Mount Lemmon Day Hike costs $35 Rec Center members and $45 for non-members. Like the Moonlight Hike, the price covers transportation and the leadership and instruction, but it also includes lunch as well.

Despite its well-known beauty, Tucson is still a desert filled with prickly plants, dangerous wildlife and harsh heat.

According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s list, at least five of those over 560 animal species are types of rattlesnakes, the most common being the western diamondback. But these venomous snakes shouldn’t dissuade a hiking venture.

Marc Hammond and Jeff Carver, the founders of the wildlife control company Animal Experts Inc., spoke to the Daily Wildcat in a previous interview on appropriate ways to react to a rattlesnake.

“If you see a rattlesnake or you hear a rattlesnake … the number one thing to do is freeze,” Carver said. “They will eventually lose interest in you and they’ll go away. If you are, you know, any kind of distance away … one good step away from a rattlesnake is going to put you out of their range.”

Both Carver and Hammond advised against running away from a rattlesnake for multiple reasons.

“Most times we see them, we’re out in the desert," Carver said. "We’re on uneven surface, so you decide you’re going to take off running and you stumble and fall. Now you’re laying on the ground, possibly injured, with the rattlesnake.”

Hammond then mentioned the speed of a rattlesnake’s strike, which would be impossible to outrun.

“Their strike is lightning fast,” Hammond said. “So when you try to run away from them … they could strike you right away.”

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Another concern for hiking in the desert is the heat, but since the Moonlight Hike takes place during the evening and the Mount Lemmon Day Hike in higher altitudes, the high temperatures have a lesser impact.

Huff gave a quick list of hiking gear, though he said almost everything would be provided by Outdoor Rec.

“The basics are always, you know, good shoes, a snack, a headlamp if you have one … and making sure you have at least a liter of water, if not two,” Huff said. “We provide all of that, minus the shoes, so if they’re coming with us, they just need to bring their personal equipment.”

As for what the hiking events can offer visiting families, Huff spoke to the unique perspective of the city hiking yields.

"Usually we go over a few [mountain] passes and it opens right up to Tucson,” Huff said. "It’s relaxed, it’s a different way to see Tucson.”


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