Extreme temperatures don’t slow Arizona hikers

Temperatures at the Echo Canyon Trailhead at Camelback Mountain reached close to 120 degrees on Tuesday. (Photo by Greg Macafee/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE- July 10, 1913, is widely regarded as the hottest day recorded in the United States. On Tuesday, temperatures in Phoenix reached 119, only 15 degrees lower than that scorching day in Death Valley, California.

That didn’t stop Valley residents and visitors from pursuing their daily fitness fix. They took to trails, bike paths and tracks early in the morning to avoid the temperatures that were coming later in the day.

At 6:30 a.m., the parking lot at Echo Canyon Trailhead, one of two trailheads for Camelback Mountain, was almost full. Some hikers were there for the first time to take in the views that Camelback offers, while others were there to exercise.

Alana Shadowens, a 20-year-old student who is training for the show “American Ninja Warrior,” was one of those hikers trying to exercise before the temperatures spiked in the middle of the day.

“The temperature does get to you,” Shadowens said. “Especially coming down the mountain in the sun, it starts to get real hot so I always look for shade spots to pause in.”

The “American Ninja Warrior” hopeful typically trains at a gym three times a week and then takes care of her cardio at the mountain.Tuesday, she had to alter her training to avoid the record-high temperatures.

Because trails in Phoenix never close due to extreme weather conditions, hikers can always find their way to the trails, even in the blazing heat. Although they cannot stop them, park rangers and firefighters suggest citizens stay indoors during the days with extreme heat. It’s easier said than done, said Captain Reda Bigler of the Phoenix Fire Department.

“You’ll find that people will go and hike and put themselves out there regardless of what the temperature is, so knowing that, we hope people don’t do that,” Bigler said. “One of the things with temperature like this is you can face heat stroke immediately, you can skip right past heat exhaustion and get to a point where you’re into heat stroke, that can actually result in death. Now, you put yourselves on the mountain in terrain that makes it a little tricky for firefighters to get to you.”

Preventing those extreme situations and avoiding health problems that may arise while on the mountain in the high temperatures, are possible, said Chris Webb, a park rangers at the Echo Canyon Trailhead.

“They should take a ton of water with them and be prepared by dressing appropriately, with a cap, sunscreen, good sturdy shoes, bring a charged cellphone as well and let people know where they are going and go in a group and don’t split up,” Webb said.

Hiking trails in the Phoenix area attract visitors from all over the country who may not be educated about the weather. Arizona natives like brother and sister Jesse Johnson and Camber Wilson, however, have become accustomed to the extreme temperatures.

“We were born and raised our whole lives in Arizona so it’s something you kind of learn to get used to and live with,” Wilson said. “But, it’s definitely something you want to come out here before it gets too hot during the day and not be in the middle of it. It gets kinda warm.”

The Arizona record-high of 128 degrees won’t quite be reached this week, but weather.com still predicts high temperatures of 118, 112, 113, and 115 through the rest of the week in Phoenix.