I am a woman who trail runs and camps alone: thoughts on safety and doing things solo

After sharing that I camped and trail ran solo for nearly 2 months alone in Colorado I got many questions from fellow women about how I did it while feeling safe. Was I scared? Did I bring weapons? How did I get over fears of being stranded or attacked or worse?

Trail running in Silverton, Colorado alone

To be honest, ever since I can remember I was okay doing things by myself. If I wanted to go try something I would go do it, whether I had company or not. When I began to hike frequently I didn’t have many friends who were interested in it (I had not expanded my friend circles yet) so when I delved into longer treks and tougher terrain, the pool of people who were interested were even smaller. I leaned on my drive to experience new things and my love of the outdoors being a place for clearing my mind and grounding me to get myself out the door, alone.

Now, this drive does not diminish the chance that something may happen to me or that I will feel discomfort and unease if I come across someone alone. From being followed, stared at, having sexually inappropriate comments made, unsolicited invitations, gestures or behaviors towards us, women are made to feel unsafe and at risk while out recreating far too often. This is a reality we women face and when your stomach gets a little knotted and your heart starts to beat a little faster — we have to be very in tune with our intuition and gut feelings on if something feels safe or not. What I will say is that I have always felt more safe on the trail than running alone through the city at night, I think that says something in and of itself. Nights on the trails feel sometimes eerie but calming where nights running on streets may have be checking over my shoulder or avoiding bridges and heavily shaded areas.

View of Ice Lakes trail and Ice Lakes near Silverton, Colorado

With the recent murders of Sarmistha Sen and Sydney Sutherland, safety is at the front of many women’s minds and we are again reminded that our abilities to go out and move without fearing what may happen to us is fragile. In 2016, Mollie Tibbets was murdered while out running, which lead to Runner’s World Magazine doing their first ever survey that focused on harassment experienced by US women who run.

According to BBC, “The 2017 survey revealed that 43% of women experienced harassment while running – with the number rising to 58% for women under 30. Just 4% of men reported the same. The poll also found 30% of women said they had been followed by a harasser on foot, by car or bike. And the vast majority of women said these fears led them to change their habits – to run only during the day, to change their routes, to carry pepper spray or – in the case of 1% of women – to carry a loaded gun.”

There is also a history of victim blaming that appears around women out running alone. There are many questions of, “should she have been out by herself?” or “maybe she shouldn’t have taken that route” or “was her outfit suggestive?” — it is alarming and upsetting that women are not able to run freely, wherever they want to and wearing whatever feels comfortable to them without these decisions being brought up as reasons they may be targeted or attacked. Women should never have to be afraid of being targeted or attacked.

Karen Somers thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail solo at the age of 26 in 1998 and shared that she felt was more in danger driving to the trailhead than at any point while walking through the woods. As Men’s Journal shared, “While one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape, only three percent of men say the same. However, between 62 percent and 84 percent of survivors knew their attacker, making it more likely a woman will be raped by a hiking partner than a stranger.”

Sunrise from the trails near Phoenix Sonoran Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona

Instead of us asking, “is it safe?” or “should I go out by myself?” the true question is, “what can I do to feel safe and comfortable and be prepared when I do go out alone?” I have compiled several ideas on how to stay alert and safe as well as some things I personally do to feel confident doing outdoor activities by myself.

  1. Stay aware of your surroundings — if you’re camping or hiking/ trail running in a new area, do research (google, ask in outdoor communities online, etc) on the trails, dispersed camping areas or campsites offered in the area. If you are new to camping or recreating outdoors alone, choose sites or trails that are a little more trafficked and less remote to build up your confidence and feelings of comfort. Look to see how close other campsites are to yours, will there be others near by? Do you have cell service? How close are you to a town or others?
  2. Let someone know where you are going — loop a family member, significant other or friend in on where you plan to camp or adventure. Let them know how long you think you may be gone and be sure to carry your phone or a device someone could track you with. Strava also offers safety features that allow others to see where you are via GPS.
  3. Carrying something that makes you feel safe — it may be pepper spray, a small knife, a sharp-edged ring or carrying your key in between your knuckles, keychains that also work as brass knuckles or even running with your dog for an extra pair of eyes.
  4. Switch up your routine — running the same routes every day at the same time can make it easier for someone to track or follow your movements. Switching up your routes or when you go and not sharing your routes on apps or online at all or until you’re finished is important to keeping you safe.
  5. Lights are your friend — whether you carry a flashlight (can also opt as a safety tool for protection if needed) or wearing a headlamp or lighted vest, staying bright if you’re trail running, hiking or running in the dark gives you an advantage.
  6. Reconsider wearing baggy clothes — baggy clothing can be easier to grab ahold of. It is also worth considering wearing bright clothing and reflective fabrics that are easy to see in the dark.
  7. Stay aware of others that are around you — stay alert to who is in your near vicinity to the best of your ability and pay attention to body language, eye contact and stances. Understanding what aggressive body language looks like can be extremely crucial.
  8. Self defense classes — set yourself up with the knowledge and moves to protect yourself if it is needed. Take a self defense or Muay Thai class to learn basic moves that can de-escalate and protect you in a time of need.
  9. Ditch the headphones — I wear only one headphone or none at all, volume is never maxed out and allows me to hear my surroundings and stay on top of what is happening around me whether that is alertness to other humans or animals or weather.
  10. Do NOT feel bad for feeling unsafe — as one of my favorite true crime podcasts says, “Stay Sexy Don’t Get Murdered” and “Fuck Politeness”. If you feel uncomfortable and your intuition is ringing an alarm — trust it. Don’t feel bad for running/ hiking faster away from an area, removing yourself from the situation, saying no, calling a friend, etc. If it is your safety at risk — do whatever you need to do to get yourself into an environment that doesn’t feel dangerous.
Camping near Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona at sunset

Here are some online self defense courses to consider

Here are some self defense gear options to take while out running / hiking

My biggest check in with myself is to never let the “what ifs” rule my life. I love adventuring, sleeping under the stars, trail running on amazing trails and I don’t want to let fear of what could happen stop me from experiencing beautiful places. I do stay mindful, alert and implement some of these tactics so that I feel prepared and educated on how to take care of myself to the best of my ability.

What I learned from living out of my car and altitude training for 2 months

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You can live out of a red carry-on sized suitcase for two months. I know this because I just did it and that tattered red suitcase became a makeshift table, computer stand for watching Netflix and even a laundry folding station. At the end of June I took a trip to southern Colorado with two of my closest friends to celebrate my birthday early and escape the desert valley heat. After the quick weekend getaway, I couldn’t get it out of my head to take off and work remotely while delving deeper into my own happiness the best way I know how: trail running in the mountains.

Many work situations have shifted and, as someone who works in digital media full-time, I was able to work remotely. I came back home after that weekend and thought of all the things I would need to go back to Colorado for a week or two. I got a new cooler, a portable charging block for my computer and gadgets, a camp chair and more endurance gels and snacks that I could imagine needing (I needed them all!)

I drove up the 8 hours in my Subaru Crosstrek, listening to multiple podcasts on the way and made the back of my car comfy. Standing at 5’3, the back of my Crosstrek is the ideal camping situation that I can make extra cozy. I layered two sleeping pads, several blankets, my sleeping bag and a comforter. I brought a down jacket, a windbreaker, a rain jacket, multiple pairs of shorts and leggings, socks, a sweatshirt, long sleeved tops and tanks, a pair of jeans and casual tops to go out in public looking nicely and even a swimsuit (hello hot springs and cold plunges!)

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I had to bring my laptop, set up a hotspot, an iPad and brought along several books and my journal. Camping in my car made finding spots to sleep easier than setting up my tent (which I also brought along). The small grocery store made it easy for me to restock on essentials: soy yogurt, protein bars, fruit, sparkling water (my addiction), rice and pasta, bread, almond butter and jelly, salad and plenty of beans and lentils. I brought my one burner cook stove as well as my jetboil to quickly make hot water for coffee and oats. My eating was simple and routine, but it worked so well for me.

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If I woke up early with the sun I would head out in the cool temps, sometimes in the 40s to start, and begin to climb up a trail or dirt road that would promise alpine lakes or waterfalls or beautiful mountain views. If I slept in a little longer, to the background symphony of ATV’s and jeep off roaders, I would head straight to the Coffee Bear to start my work day after brushing my hair and teeth and changing into clothes that I could go for a run in after I was done with my work day. Coffee in hand, I’d pass my work day and then seek out my next adventure. 

I took all of my camping gear as well: my light one person tent took up almost no room and for a week I set it up on a dispersed site while my friends were in town to celebrate my birthday with me! It was nice to switch up how I was sleeping and gave me versatility no matter where in the San Juan corridor I was. 

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girl near Clear Lake in Colorado

The San Juan mountains took my breath away two years ago for the first time but I’d never been able to spend longer than 3 or 4 days there to explore. With nothing but time, I’d pick any gulch or dirt road to explore, with every route gaining over 2k of elevation, easily. I got very good at power hiking and running downhills. With every hour spent out taking in the views of alpine flowers and sometimes being hailed and rained on, I found gratitude and joy that I hadn’t felt in the heat of Arizona lately. 

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alpine flowers in colorado

Living out of my car in a small mining town slowed everything down. It stripped away the hustle and bustle and I relished in the simplicity of work, running and eating (and repeating). I stopped stressing, my anxiety dropped and my mood increased. When I woke up and went to bed every day, I got to look out at beautiful, rugged mountains and spend hours adventure running with no other agenda than to be out in nature. I cooked simply, read more books, wrote more in my journal, snuck showers and released putting pressure on myself to hit certain miles or speeds. I solely focused on enjoying the moment. I wound up averaging 55+ mile weeks with over 14,000 feet of gain for weeks on end, just from being excited and having a desire to get outside. I was trail running and climbing mountain after mountain and had no end goal in sight. I wasn’t training for a race or trying to optimize my running in any certain way, I was simply recreating and moving for the fun of it. It had been quite a long time since I’d gone out just for the thrill of it without a training plan attached. 

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girl running in basin below Sunshine Peak in Lake City Colorado

I also learned that altitude training adjustment takes time and varies person to person. For me: it takes a lot out of me to do. I never fully felt like I was recovered even when I knew I was eating a lot, getting adequate sleep and using recovery tools (hello theraguns and snowmelt creek plunges). I wasn’t able to trail run consistently without feeling like I was overexerting, so I took the uphill efforts as a gift to get stronger in a different way with lots of power hiking. I will say, I felt better the entire time comparatively to how I feel when I am running in 100+ degree temps. My Coros watch told me almost every day that I was in “Recovery Mode” with my effort where my efforts are always much higher in Arizona summer weather. Clearly I respond more positively to cooler temps, thinner air and longer endurance climbs.

Some research suggests that altitude training and heat training are interchangeable and each of them benefits the other. This Outside Magazine article states, “One of the key determinants of endurance performance is how quickly you can ferry oxygen from your lungs to your muscles via your blood. Specifically, it’s the hemoglobin in your red blood cells that grabs the oxygen. Spend a few weeks at high altitude, where the air is thin, and your body responds by generating more hemoglobin. That’s why the vast majority of elite endurance athletes do altitude training.” I am not fully sure I felt stronger when I came back down to Arizona and began trail running in 107 degree heat again, but I will say that I felt stronger in altitude conditions than I ever had before.

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This Fleet Feet article shares, “Training in the heat does work slightly differently than altitude training, although the main outcome: increased oxygen delivery to the muscles remains the same. Training at higher elevations creates additional red blood cells, while training in the heat increases your blood plasma volume, which enhances circulation, oxygen delivery, and results in a higher VO2 max at a given effort level. Training in the heat will also increase your sweat rate, decrease your heart rate, and improve your running economy. The increases in strength and endurance resulting from your heat training should last for months if your training remains consistent. This is one big reason why people who have trained consistently in the summer heat often feel great when they start running fall races.” 

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group of trail running friends on top of Handies Peak in Colorado

When I came back to Arizona nearly three weeks ago I felt the impact of heat again as my heart rate rose rapidly and my breathing heaved on every run. My weekly mileage dropped back down around 30 miles but I began to increase my cross-training, getting out on my bike frequently each week. Then, over the past weekend, I celebrated my friend Annie’s birthday with her by running a #Pool2PoolUltra, running from her pool to mine until we didn’t want to continue on. After lower mileage training being able to go straight into running 28 miles felt like a stamp of success that recent training up high and in the heat has been paying off, even if it is harder to see in the moment.

When I was up in Colorado I was reminded how little I truly need to be happy, train consistently and to feel strong and good in my own skin. I want to bring that mentality in to every day life, even when I’m not in quarantine and lean in to my new found love of dirtbagging it on a whim. If you have a career that allows you to work remotely and travel, I highly recommend giving yourself the opportunity to try it and see how you feel.

So you want to day hike/run the Grand Canyon….

*the national park does not recommend day hiking to the river and back and highly suggests camping at the bottom for one night instead. But, if you’ve got a crazy hair like me and enjoy challenging yourself or have been considering this for awhile….continue reading!

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The Grand Canyon is one of my favorite places I have ever been. It took me three years of living here in Arizona to get there for the first time, just hiking along the rim at the North Rim. I saw down into its vastness and internally, I felt an urge begin to rise. I wanted to experience the canyon, not from up overhead like this, but from way way down in its depths. After that, there was no stopping me from my first experience hiking down into the canyon and out in a day.

What does it take to be able to go down into the canyon? Not nearly as much as it takes to get back out of the canyon. One of the biggest things to realize first and foremost is that the canyon is at an elevation gain, even the bottom of the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River is at 2400ft. in elevation, while the South Rim sits at 7000 feet and the North Rim at 8000 feet! When you tackle the canyon, you should try to allow yourself time to acclimate to the elevation gain if you can. Even staying at a higher altitude the night before is helpful. Also be prepared for the air in the canyon: humidity usually ranges from 10 to 30%.

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So how do you prepare? Try to hike at higher elevations if at all possible before you go into the canyon. Walk on an incline on a treadmill or stairmaster if you aren’t able to get outside and do hikes with elevation gains and add weights if possible (weight your pack while hiking or carry dumbbells on the treadmill/stairmaster). These practices will help your body strengthen along with adjusting to carrying weight while going uphill. Strength train to prepare as well: training legs will make your base that much stronger while training back and arms will make carrying a pack (if you’re hiking) more doable. Also consider time to prepare: some people will want to train for a few weeks, others a few months, it will truly depend on your starting point of fitness.

Things to consider:

Water — some trails have water access, some don’t. Researching ahead of time is really important and being able to prepare properly is key. Lifestraws are a high recommendation for the trails.

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Temp — the rim will be cooler than what you’ll meet when you get down to the river. Look up weather at the rim and also at Phantom Ranch to get a good gauge of how it will be — then you can properly pack layers, a hat, sunscreen, a buff, a windbreaker, etc. Heat will make the canyon much harder to handle since many portions of the trails are exposed (especially on the South Rim as the North Rim does get cooler).

Shoes — make sure you are wearing shoes that are broken in and comfortable that you know don’t blister you, give you hotspots or irritate in any way. This will make your experience that much better as losing toenails and climbing out with blisters is not fun (trust me!)

Snacks — you need proper hydration and energy when you are tackling this gorgeous place. Your body works hard and you need to be able to sustain your energy to properly get yourself down and out in one piece! Salty snacks and electrolytes are major go-tos for me.

Your Clothes — it is not a bad idea to wear clothes that you know will not chafe you, rub you in the wrong ways or are not made for the conditions you are going in — try to match your gear up as well as you can to the type of weather you will be facing. Go on hikes or runs in the gear you want to wear so you know you won’t have issues as you go!

Your abilities — be open and honest with yourself about how much you can take on. How are your knees? Ankles? How is your cardio? How is your heart rate? How strong are you mentally and physically? I recommend trekking poles if you do need the extra assistance taking pressure off your knees and any braces you may need for runners knee or IT band, ankle support, etc. The main rule of the canyon is, if you go below the rim you have to be able to get yourself out. Don’t under-prepare or overshoot your own abilities — take on as much as you know you are able to take on and continue to build over time! The canyon has been there for millions of years, it won’t be going anywhere any time soon!

Breaks — allow yourself time to stop and catch your breath when needed. The canyon is steep and rigorous and your heart rate will rise, especially with the thinner air at elevation. Be mindful, not prideful — allowing yourself a few minutes to reset yourself can help you to feel brand new.

Injury — bring a tiny first aid kit at the least. You never know if you’ll take a tumble and having alcohol swabs, bandaids, athletic tape, etc will be a blessing in disguise.

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My first hike down into the canyon was a day hike from South Kaibab to Bright Angel. Taylor and I were in decent shape, hiked often and thought — why not! Nothing can prepare you for how mentally challenging the Grand Canyon is. The hike down (about 7 miles) was beautiful. The first view of the river had us both elated and in awe. We were ecstatic crossing the bridges, seeing the river up close and just being down there — we’d MADE it. Well, not quite. Starting the ascent back up to the Bright Angel trailhead was very challenging. With every rest break, lactic acid would make our legs heavy and even more sore. We leaned on our trekking poles for dear life, willing them to pull us up the 2.5 miles of switchbacks to the top. It was 18 grueling miles and we waddled around to the busses in the most pain. Joyous pain. Our feet pulsed, swollen, numb. All of our energy was completely sucked dry from our bones. But we looked at each other and smiled, completely drunk on the fact that we had DONE it.

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After that, I took up trail running and the canyon became an entirely new playground. Nothing is as exhilarating as running down into the canyon. Some things to keep in mind with running into the canyon are: water sources, energy sources, staying injury free and being very aware of trail conditions and surroundings (we ran into rock slides yesterday), how technical the trail is — some are more primitive than others! Know if you will be around many other people or not (is this really well traveled– like Bright Angel, or less traveled?), always bring a headlamp because you never know how things will go.

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Running the canyon is a very different experience: your pack is smaller, you have to operate more efficiently, you have to be able to handle the mileage and elevation declines and gains in one push, you mentally have to be stronger than the pain your body will face — because it will get uncomfortable, promise. There are many points I would suggest testing out if you want to get a taste (Skeleton Point, Indian Gardens) these points don’t take you all the way down to the river and give you a sampler on how steep the canyon is and if your body is ready/prepared to take a day trip on!

The canyon has many trails to choose from and there will be technical bits to all of them — ranging from easier to very challenging and your trail running shoes should reflect the amount of technicality you are going to face. Set yourself up to feel good, not roll ankles or have pain in your arches, etc.

Make sure you are dressed to not overheat or run too cold or you may be in for a miserable time in the canyon as well. Once you start running, your body will heat up to about 10 degrees warmer than what it is like outside, so preparing for this is key. I always start wearing a pair of gloves and a headband or beanie and can easily shed these as my body warms up — I am sensitive to the cold and this is an easy way for me to regulate my temp in seconds.

 

What has helped you prepare for challenging hikes/runs with a lot of elevation gain?

 

Experiencing A Flash Flood

If you’re anything like me, the term “flash flood” means rapid amounts of water in a very small amount of time occurring right around you, right? Not always. This past weekend I experienced my first flash flood and a flood that didn’t come from immediate rain happening right around me.

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National Geographic explains it by saying, “Most floods take hours or even days to develop, giving residents ample time to prepare or evacuate. Others generate quickly and with little warning. These flash floods can be extremely dangerous, instantly turning a babbling brook into a thundering wall of water and sweeping everything in its path downstream.”

Our group decided to go explore Southern Utah this weekend, as the rest of the state of Arizona was getting rain all weekend. After some scouring, the Page area had a little sun emoji for Sunday and we wanted to get in some miles…Page was our saving grace, or so we thought at the time. We camped at Lake Powell, being woken up in the middle of the night to wind so strong it shook the truck-bed we camped in. I sat up, hoping my friends in their tents were still outside as the wind howled around the shell I was safely under. When the sun began to rise, big black looming clouds still hung over the air like sludge.

Slowly, the clouds began to break and shades of orange and pink tinted the sky….soon everything was calm and shining and beautiful. We all smiled, relieved, today was going to be a good day. We hung around the beach, making breakfast and playing with the pups before heading to the trailhead we were going to start from. With one 4×4, a small car and a two-wheel drive truck, we navigated the dirt road that wound down and over a dry wash to the trail. Parking, we all began getting our packs ready and complaining about the strong wind that was still present making us shiver before the adventure.

63BC1A05-F307-47F7-89B9-C74DD76F4133We got 15 miles in the backcountry, seeing beautiful formations and also a lot of dark, ominous clouds rolling around to the north of us. When we reached the cars, beers were cracked and everyone put their feet up to enjoy the efforts we’d just put in on hills we hadn’t expected to be so steep. The rushing water we had seen to our left when we had gotten to the trailhead was still going strong, beginning to web off into small slews to the right and left of the main force. We began talking about food..burgers…fries…and packed up our things to venture back to town for our reward.

CBFDF776-E2EE-4B95-866F-2CC22F7FE598We reached the wash and…no road crossing. Where there had been nothing but dry rock and sand before, there was now rushing water with small rapids and mud so thick it was like a porridge. We all tried to make light of the situation as we began to accept we were stranded with no way across. The water was reaching chests, high thighs, with zero visibility to the bottom. Calls began to be made, what can we do? What are our options? We are stuck, can we get out ourselves? 

The firefighters wouldn’t come because it wasn’t their jurisdiction, the national forest service didn’t have the resources to assist, the deputy gave us the weather forecast and told us that we had two options: wait it out for the water to dry out or helicopter out. How did we get here?

Well, flash floods don’t mean immediate rainfall happening right in front of your eyes all the time. Rain had fallen hours north of us the day and night before our adventure, so, while the wash was empty when we began our run, those rains had been filling and flowing down the wash for miles over hours and hours to reach where we were. In an instant it had gone from empty to flowing strongly. We hadn’t known we needed to check the weather forecast for nearly 100 miles around us, we hadn’t known that no rain for our location didn’t mean no risk. Now we do….oh we learned very quickly. National Geographic even states that, “In the United States, where flood mitigation and prediction is advanced, floods do about $6 billion worth of damage and kill about 140 people every year.” 

4382C41E-0D2E-4D60-95AF-82521E1C9A47While we weren’t in danger we were still stuck. We had some water, not a ton of food but some…for now. We were more worried for more rainfall overnight or the next day to continue filling this flow. Sticks were placed into the bank to monitor water height which was steadily decreasing as the night went on. By 7, we knew we could get the 4×4 across but were really uncertain about the other two vehicles. We called a tow, driving an hour down to assist us in the night. Once he arrived he pulled the 4×4 across with ease. Next was the two-wheel drive truck, gunning the truck across the first bank which had us flying up to the ceiling as we hooped and hollered by the unexpected strength the little truck had. Everyone was slathered in mud as they got underneath the truck trying to figure out where to hook the chains before the tow began lugging us across to safety. We left the car overnight, desperately needing good sleep a shower. We tried our best to relax and recover and the next morning, returned to find…the water still shin high and flowing. The lip of the bank was broken away and the mud consumed the dry sand and rock we tried to lay down to catch tires. I couldn’t watch as our friend said she was going for it as the water was 3 inches above the body of her car. She was confident, I was bargaining with the Universe to let us successfully get out of there with all of our vehicles in tact. She powered over the first bank and gunned it across the flowing water like nothing was even there — a pro. We were so impressed, relieved and…exhausted.

What I want to say is, flash floods are not uncommon and come in many forms. From slot canyon risks to washes and roads being wiped out…Nature never waits for anyone and it was a beautiful, tough reminder that we don’t control the outdoors, the outdoors controls us. Always do research (even outside of where YOU are for what may effect you).  Some signs to look for for a potential flash flood provided by Backpacker.com are:

Check the Weather

Get the forecast for the entire watershed: Storms can trigger floods miles downstream. Recent rains? Be extra alert–saturated soil makes flooding more likely.

Scout for Signs 

Water stains on canyon walls and debris lines indicate likely flood sites. Take care in areas with rocky ground that won’t absorb excess runoff.

Watch the River

If water suddenly gets deeper, faster, muddier, or begins carrying twigs, needles, or leaves, get to high ground ASAP. Likewise, head up immediately if you hear the roar of an approaching flood.

I’ve also read that strong winds can indicate flash flooding (another thing to keep an eye on).

We were lucky we had cell service, a shovel, blankets, fire and many basics for being stuck — it is not a bad idea to always have an emergency kit in your vehicle for the just in case situations.

Soon, this can be looked back on as a party story to share and a big learning experience that humbled us all!

Top Trails in Regional Parks Near Phoenix You Don’t Want to Overlook!

  1. Lake Pleasant Regional Park

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image credit: azcentral.com

Lake Pleasant is just that….so pleasant! With camping sites branching off the main road like a web before you hit the marina, you have plenty of options to set up camp and enjoy the starlight and calming sounds of the water from your tent. Even better? The trails that surround and overlook the lake itself. For a short hike (3.1 miles) with amazing views and under 500 feet of elevation gain, Yavapai Point is one that can’t be beat! It climbs to a lookout point where you can see lake, boats and all the rolling mountains in the back. You can even connect trails to add on if you’re feeling good and have more time.

2. Skyline Regional Park

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image credit: azcentral.com

If you’re anything like me, a loop trail is the preferred kind of trail to explore. You always see something new and that makes being outside even more enjoyable. Skyline Regional Park offers beautiful 360 views of rolling mountains and traditional desert-scape. The trail here you should give a go is Skyline and Quartz Mine Loop!  With just under 1k in elevation gain in 4.5 miles, this hike is still leisurely although exposed, so make sure to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

3.  Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

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image credit: azutopia.com

I am a big fan of this conservation area. It is more remote, quaint and the views of the mountains here are stunning. You need to pay cash, so please remember to bring it with when you go explore! For a more challenging hike I highly recommend Elephant Mountain Trail — a 7 mile loop with roughly 1300 feet of elevation gain. When you reach the top of Elephant mountain you can see for miles, the wind a welcomed visitor after the climb. This trail is exposed and you will need water and fuel for the effort!

4.    White Tanks Regional Park

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image credit: tripstodiscover.com

This regional park is rugged, exposed and oh so beautiful. The White Tanks hold seasonal waterfalls and plenty of trails to choose from whether you want something easy or something that will really push you. A quick, beautiful trail to explore for a seasonal fall is aptly named: The Waterfall Trail. Not only may you find flowing water but also many petroglyphs with very minimal elevation gain. I consider that a win! Want to really challenge yourself? I recommend the 16.4 mile haul on the Goat Camp Trail. This trail rises nearly 3116 feet in elevation and some steep climbs — my favorite kind of trail! If you enjoy light scrambling and climbs, this is the long route for you.

5.  Usery Mountain Regional Park

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image credit: eastvalleytribune.com

Usery, within the Goldfield mountains is a beautiful, jagged, raw-looking area which makes it very unique to what we see surrounding Phoenix. If you haven’t been out to this area yet, what are you waiting for?! For a lightly trafficked, gorgeous adventure, Meridian Trail offers jaw-dropping views and only 260 feet of elevation gain in 5.3 miles. This trail would be great for beginner hikes or trail runners while more advanced hikers/runners may want to tack on some other trails to this one.