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How to avoid & prepare for dangerous hiking trails in the Coachella Valley

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Watch: How to avoid & prepare for danger

With over 200 hiking trails around the Coachella Valley, hiking is a popular activity for many locals and visitors. The range of difficulty for each path varies based on altitude, elevation gain, terrain, distance, lack of shade, and other factors. One trail that stands out as the most strenuous is the Skyline Trail, also known as Cactus To Clouds.

"I mean going from the bottom of the museum trail all the way up to the top of the tram, some people go all the way up to the top of the peak, by far one of the most difficult trails out here, " noted Jason Bruecks, a local trail guide.

Doug Stevens, Rescue Coordinator for the Palm Springs Mounted Police, explained, "it's a very strenuous hike and this is where we get most of our call outs, most of our rescues". It was on this trail in 2009 where five deaths occurred. Stevens also told of two deaths that occurred on the Lyyken Trail and near Murray Peak in Palm Springs earlier this year.
 
The number of rescues varies each season according to Sergeant Christopher Willison with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, "they can range from something very minor to requiring our aviation unit to come in and do some sort of a hoist rescue".

For those who are new to hiking, Bruecks suggests beginning with trails in the Coachella Valley Preserve and Indian Canyon area.


 

Hiking safety begins well before the trailhead with proper nutrition, gear and mentality. Alma Montalvo, a local hiker, was caught off guard by the heat after a last minute change of plans.


 

Even with proper planning, the unexpected can happen. Search and rescue operations are readily available for when a call comes in, whether it be for lost hikers, dehydration or serious injury. Multiple agencies such as the Riverside County Sheriff's Office, Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, Desert Sheriff's Search and Rescue and the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue work alongside each other to provide coverage across our local mountains and desert.

Most frequently, rescuers are responding to lost hikers, those who haven't returned by a prearranged time, dehydration and/or injury.

Key tips to keep in mind before embarking on a hike include: 

- Stay hydrated. Bruecks says he carries 3 liters of water and in separate containers to ensure there's a full bottle for after reaching the turnaround point.

- Proper clothing. Layered appropriately for the elevation change.

- Cell phone. Bring it with you but turn it off so the battery doesn't drain while searching for service in poor reception areas.

- Always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back. 

- Monitor forecasts. Whether it's the heat, wind or rain, don't be caught off guard by the elements.

 

The Coachella Valley is a beautiful location with many sights to offer. Bruecks reflected not only on why various locations were preferred at different times of the day but also at different times of the year.

Read: KESQ I-Team Investigative Reports

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