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Local park ranger offers important safety tips for outdoor recreation this summer

The rattle of a snake’s tail, the crack of a boulder, the sounds of bikers calling out “Behind!” and “On your left!” Here’s what to look out for going into New Mexico’s best known outdoor season. 

As we dive into Las Cruces’ most extreme time of year, some outdoor enthusiasts will find themselves in tricky situations. Whether it’s a rattlesnake in the way or unstable rock conditions, even the most advanced get caught. Here are some crucial tips for staying safe in the great outdoors this year. 

Vincent Gomez hikes the Dripping Springs Natural Area trail in Las Cruces, New Mexico, March 15, 2022. (Photo by Ashleigh Black/Kokopelli)

Rico Smith, a park ranger at Dripping Springs Natural Area, gives some warnings to local adventurers, new and experienced. Smith says there are five crucial rules to follow when exploring the desert. 

The first is not only to hydrate, but to pre-hydrate. This gives your body a head start and helps ensure you don’t drink all your water at once. This can be especially important for couples who only bring one bottle for the two to share. Smith also comments that it is a good idea to bring enough bottles for each person. 

The second is to make sure you are properly prepared for the weather, especially in a state like New Mexico. It is very important to be wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. Not doing so can lead to dehydration, sunburns and exhaustion. 

This includes wearing proper shoes as well as protecting your ankles. Ankle safety is very important in New Mexico as there is often unstable rocks or sandstone, which can be very slippery. This will also help with critters who might brush past you or lash out at you if you step off-trail into their homes. 

“Just listen to what the mountain is telling you; if you’re not then you’re not really experiencing the outdoors.”

It is important to remember that new Mexico has a large variety of animals. From snakes to tarantulas, you have to look where you are stepping. Smith emphasizes that “it is not that they are just out there waiting for you, but they are out there trying to live their own lives.”

The next two rules are to always have a phone and a first-aid kit. Even a couple of Band-Aids can save the day sometimes, but if you have a good hiking backpack, there are great little first aid kits that stores such as Target, Walmart or Amazon carry that will provide lots of help in an emergency.

It also is very important for you to have a phone on you in case you get into any trouble. And remember, even the most experienced hikers run into unforeseeable circumstances. If you cannot bring your phone or know you won’t have service, tell someone where you’re going and when you are expected back. This can be a life-saving tactic. 

Smith’s last tip for outdoor lovers is the “One or None Rule.” This refers to headphones, wireless or not. The biggest and most important rule of the outdoors is to listen to what is going on around you. Being cautious keeps you and the people around you safe. Keep only one headphone in or don’t wear them at all.

For example, bike paths can be dangerous for bicyclists when people are walking with their headphones in and not listening to traffic coming from behind. It is also dangerous if you cannot hear an oncoming storm or people trying to warn you of danger ahead. 

In the case of rattlesnake bites, they usually happen when people are being reckless or not listening and looking at what is going on around them. Luckily, New Mexicans are pretty smart when it comes to snakes. Smith commented that he has hardly seen any one up in the mountains getting bit this year.

Smith offers these final words of advice: “Just listen to what the mountain is telling you; if you’re not then you’re not really experiencing the outdoors.”

One Comment

  1. This is actually really good and just a good reminder for all of us. I will be buying a small first-aid kit before my next hike. Great tips. Thank you!

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