"Bring Plenty of Water"

By: Merritt McKinney + Save to a List

"With only three 17 oz. water bottles apiece...we roasted in the triple-digit heat as we climbed up the 1,300 vertical feet."


Last summer, my girlfriend’s family let me tag along on their trip to Arizona. We were out there for a wedding in the middle of May. While we were in the “Grand Canyon State,” we decided to visit exactly where the state’s nickname originated as well as some other outdoorsy destinations. The wedding was in Scottsdale and immediately we (well more so I) became restless to go hiking. I drug my girlfriend’s father and brother-in-law with me to the nearest mountain: Camelback Mountain.

Online, we read that Camelback Mountain was not a necessarily long hike, but incredibly steep and deceivingly difficult. Being the stereotypical ignorant strong men we usually are, we accepted the challenge without a second thought. We talked with a few locals before we set off who confirmed that we were in for one hell of a hike and to “bring plenty of water,” but that didn’t change our plans. We set off with three 17 oz. water bottles apiece thinking we were packing too much…


We were stopped by a park ranger at the trailhead who immediately inspected our water situation. He informed us of the risks of hiking Camelback during the dead heat of the summer and that we were carrying the bare minimum amount of water that we would need. By that time, we were beginning to worry. He told us stories of helicopter rescues and hikers dying of dehydration. Now remember, this mountain isn’t in the middle of South America. We’re in the middle of the capital city of Phoenix. How can this be a dangerous hike? We weren’t just going to get back in the car and drive to the nearest filling station just to buy one more water bottle. We thanked the nice ranger and continued onwards and upwards.

This was not my smartest decision.

We roasted in the triple-digit heat as we climbed the 1,300 vertical feet. We were being passed left and right as we depleted most of our water supply not even halfway to the peak. Now I’m not going to make it sound like we needed to drink our own urine to keep our hearts beating, but making it to the top with as little liquid as we brought along wasn’t pleasant nor smart. Because we are from East Tennessee and just do not comprehend the magnitude of the sun in Arizona, we thought we knew better - we were arrogant.


We ended up summiting, enjoying the incredible view, and having an overall good time, but that hike taught me a valuable lesson. Especially when you’re visiting a foreign location and climate, take the advice and trail notes of those who have gone before you seriously. Don’t think you’re in better condition and know more about what is required than the locals. They know what they are talking about just like you know the ins and outs of your hometown spots. If it’s your first time, listen and be overprepared.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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