On December 28 Kyle and I ventured out to the Superstition Ridgeline for a leisurely point-to-point hike that we expected to take about eight hours.
We had never done this 13 mile trek before and none of our friends had either. We turned to online resources to map out our route, print maps and read reviews about the location, distance, elevation levels and experience necessary to hike this Ridgeline. We decided that we were good-to-go so we packed up Kyle’s new hiking back (I got him a great pack for Christmas) with supplies, clothing, extra gear, headlamps, matches, food and water we loaded up the gear, packed up the truck and my car and headed out. This hike was only about 45 mins away from our home in Central Phoenix, Arizona.
We started out hike between 7 and 8 a.m at Peralta Trailhead. We thought we would have plenty of daylight to complete this hike and we expected an elevation gain of 2,790 feet. After we reached the first summit, the sun was already setting. It was about 5 p.m. when we knew that something was wrong. We continued to press forward with out headlights on, stopping to sip water every now and then and making sure that we continued on the marked trail. Despite using a traditional map and a GPS during the hike, we still lost the trail at some points. As long as we could keep the ending point in view we knew that we were traveling in the right direction.
This hike was much more technical than we though it would be. Our maps were also misleading. For example, one canyon, three or four miles into the hike, matched the elevation listed further on the trail. So, we thought we were much father ahead than we were. Also, we weren’t able to talk to anyone else on the trail. During the first two miles we ran into a group of hikers heading in a different direction and towards the three mile mark we passed four guys, also not traveling as far or on the same trail as us.
Judging by the maps we anticipated a steady, slow descent to the bottom of the trail. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We made it to the very last peak, it was beautiful. It was 10:30 p.m. at this time and the city was lit up. We could see the entire valley, Tempe, Camelback Mountain and beyond, it was beautiful. The moon was bright and throughout the night we saw the moon set. It was big, orange and something that a lot of people don’t get to experience. The entire trek was beautiful. I’m still really happy we decided to go.
We knew we were in trouble because we lost the trail and what we thought was the trail led straight down the face of this mountain (between Flatiron and The Wall). It was something we were both not comfortable doing. We thought we would wait it out until morning and continue when the sun was up. But, it was cold (in the teens) and we still didn’t know if we could find the trail when the sun was up. So, we both decided to call the Ranger and Search and Rescue to help guide us down the mountain. We called at 10:30 p.m. and they were able to meet us at 2:30 a.m. Kyle and I were able to build a fire, keep warm and snack on food to keep our morale up. We had plenty of water to make it down the mountain, so we we’re very excited when the search team of two reached us. They reassured us that we made the right decision and that we were more prepared than most hikers. Something that was very important due to the very low temps that night (it was snowing in this area two days later).
We navigated down the hill together, through The Wall and Lost Dutchman. The guides compared this part of the trek to hiking Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon six times. It was pretty tough. We were really happy that we had two guides help us down the mountain, there was no way that we could navigate it at all, even with a map.
We were prepared we did everything we could do in this scenario to be safe and prepared, but we did have to use our best judgement to make a tough call near the end of our trek. We learned a lot and we grew a lot closer on this trip.
Because of my unique experience on the Ridgeline, I was inspired to share my hiking tips. Here are 10 rules that novice backpackers should always follow:
Tell Your Friends and Family Where You’re Going
Loop in your close friends and family and let them know what trails you will be exploring. Before you head out send your friends a text or call your parents to let them know what your plans are. Plan to check back in with them after you’ve completed your hike.
Pack Plenty of Water
We were lucky enough to have packed more water than we needed. For a lot of hikers, this is not the case. You can use a Camelbak hydration system, bring bottles or pack along a filtration system if the area where you are hiking has water. Without enough water your body can’t perform as well as when it’s hydrated. If you drink too little water you could catch hypothermia or experience altitude sickness.
Bring Extra Clothing
When we got stuck at the top of the mountain our clothes were soaked in sweat because we had been hiking all day. We were able to change into dry socks and fresh clothes once we stopped. It was really crucial that we had multiple layers. Remember to bring hats or a headband to cover your ears for cold weather hikes.
I was wearing the following items during the hike:
- Two pairs of Zella leggings.
- Nike Pro Compression Top.
- North Face Women’s Short-Sleeve V-Neck Tee.
- North Face Women’s Thermoball Vest.
- Columbia Women’s Herringbone Full Zip Fleece.
- North Face Women’s Venture Jacket.
- Wool Headband from Target ($14, what a steal!).
Bring Safety Items
Fire starters, whistles, thermoses and headlamps should be tucked away in your pack, just in case. Common items like sunglasses, chapstick and sunscreen, especially in the AZ sun, are important to have as well even if the temperature is cool. My lips were incredibly chapped after this hike. We also brought emergency space blankets. These foil-like blankets kept us warm when we gathered around the fire.
Bring a Buddy
Nothing against solo hikes, but if you’re setting out on a technical or long-distance hike bring a friend along. If you encounter danger, your friend could potentially save your life. I would encourage solo hikers to plan to meet up with friends or other hikers during their treks to check in. Plus, spending a lot of time out on the trail can get lonely, so you’ll want someone to talk to.
Pack Extra Food
We brought oranges, granola bars and pretzels. Bring foods with complex carbohydrates. These hiking foods can help to fuel your body and replenish electrolytes, according to LiveStrong. Jerky, dried fruits and tuna are also good options. Remember to pack all of your trash out and adhere by the leave no trace code when you’re out on the trail.
Bring Maps and GPS Devices
Kyle was navigating the trail with printed elevation and topographic maps. He was also using a map from the All Trials App that had global positioning, so that we could see where we were located on the Ridgeline. The GPS proved invaluable many times when we were hiking at night.
Remarkably, during the times that we got lost on the trail and when we decided we needed to call for help, both of us remained calm and positive. If you lose your cool in an emergency situation you can start thinking irrationally and you can expose yourself to danger. Follow the S.T.O.P method ( stop, think, observe and plan). During the tough times Kyle and I both offered each other encouragement so that we could avoid going into panic mode.
Document Your Experience
Bring a notepad and a camera to document your hike. Trails look a lot different on maps then they do in real life. If you’re planning to tackle a trail again, make your own memories, take your own snapshots and take notes on what you encounter and experienced out on the trail.
Wear Proper Footwear
I made a big mistake and wore a pair of old running shoes. The soles were worn out and I had no traction. These were not the best shoes to wear on such a technical hike. I was slipping and I couldn’t grip onto anything. I couldn’t trust my shoes. You should always be a able to trust your feet. Trail shoes and hiking boots are a must for long, technical hikes and be sure to get a pair that has ankle support.
Every inch of this trail was covered in cactus or spiky plants, so I had a lot of tiny needles penetrate my shoes and socks and work their way into my feet, making for an uncomfortable hike and slowing us down.
(Still pulling cactus needles from my shoes)
All of the pictures included in this post were taken from our GoPro Hero 3 that was mounted to Kyle’s pack. We captured over 1,060 images during our hike. The battery died and we didn’t get any photos from the nighttime hours.
Ready to set out on your own adventure? Check out America’s Top Hiking Spots.