4. This is the desert (but then again, it’s not!). Don’t let pleasant temperatures on the canyon rim or even a little rain or snow fool you. Conditions here are probably much drier than you’re used to. Carry water and drink it. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Carry lip balm and moisturize often. Insider tip: You’ll find that your hair dries out a lot easier than at home, and hotels typically provide shampoo, but not conditioner. Bring your own. Contact lens wearers also report that the dry climate is hard on their eyes, so bring a spare pair of glasses.
Extreme weather dangers: Prolonged dry weather and windy conditions make the area susceptible to dust storms. Use caution when driving through flat, sandy terrain or unplanted agricultural fields. If you are caught in a dust storm while driving, pull off the highway a safe distance until the disturbance passes. Flash floods can happen even when you can’t see a cloud in the sky! Check weather before venturing into slot canyons or riverbeds. NEVER try to drive across a flooded roadway. Lightning storms can also be treacherous. Avoid standing on the canyon rim or any high, exposed area during a thunderstorm. If you feel your hair stand on end, or smell sulphur, run for cover! Blizzards are particularly dangerous on the highways. Avoid driving during severe snowstorms if at all possible. Road closures may result. For more information, visit the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s website at www.azdps.gov or the Arizona Department of Transportation at www.az511.com
Watch out for wildlife and don’t feed them. Deer and elk are notoriously nocturnal and can dart out in front of you before you have time to react. Obey the speed limit and keep your eyes open for them when driving after dark. During the daytime, it’s not unusual to see deer, elk, squirrels and birds come right up to people and beg for food. These creatures may look perfectly tame, but they’re not. Squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents also have fleas, which harbor infectious diseases. Enjoy the wildlife from a distance. Also, hunting is prohibited, as is throwing objects at animals or birds.
When it gets dark, it gets really, really dark. Artificial lighting is
kept to a minimum in the National Parks, which makes the darkness more pronounced than you may be used to. Many of the hotel rooms inside the park are situated in the woods, too, so bring a flashlight or headlamp along on your sunset walk. Blindly stumbling around in unfamiliar territory is not only unnerving, but unsafe.
7. BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE! 2006 was a particularly bad season for forest fires as demonstrated by large-scale blazes in Sedona and at the North Rim. Fire danger could carry over into 2007 without adequate precipitation, which may mean foregoing campfires and abstaining from smoking. Obey any and all fire restrictions in the parks you visit! Make sure that your campfire is completely out by dousing it, stirring it and dousing it again. If you smoke, grind your cigarette out in the dirt (but never on a stump or log), and NEVER toss a lit cigarette out your car window.