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Staying On the Desert Trail

Hiking in the desert southwest is very different from any other area of the country. In most climates the trail travels through forests and green meadows and the brown trodden path is easily followed.

In the desert there is a lot of brown soil, with brown rock, between sparse vegetation. Quite often the trail looks just a little lighter in color, with finer soil particles ground into dust from being continuously walked on.

If the trail is unfamiliar make sure you take a good map of the area, a compass, a good trail description, and some common sense. Even with all those tools you’ll need to take your time and pick up on the trail sign along the way.

Rock stacks (also called trail cairns), are usually present on established trails and are fairly reliable indications of were the trail goes, since nature tends to never stack rocks on top of each other. Rocks arranged in a line or short wall also indicate that the hiker should not step over them, as they are marking the outside edge of the trail.

Deadwood and cut brush are also indicative of where the trail does not go. In most instances it has been placed there specifically to keep you from stepping off the trail, often onto a side trail taking you in a different direction from your planned destination.

Anytime you feel that you are off the trail, stop and quickly assess where you are, and if you conclude that you have missed the trail go back to the last place where you were sure you were on the trail.

Hike Smart & Have Fun!
Brian

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