COACHELLA (CNS) - With nearly a quarter-million people expected to attend the Coachella Music & Arts Festival over the next two weeks, a local sheriff's sergeant offered safety tips for visitors planning to take a side trip hiking through the area's blooming flower fields.
``The lure and attraction to the backcountry doesn't come without a need to ensure safety first,'' Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Chris Mattson said. ``Even short day hikes have the potential to turn into life-threatening situations.''
Every year, emergency crews rescue hikers who fall prey to dehydration or lose their way on a trail. Mattson said such problems can be solved long before hikers even hit the trails if visitors ``take the time to educate yourself on the hazards of being ill-prepared.''
He urged people to do some research before heading out on the trails and learn about the type of terrain expected, as well as the weather forecast. People should also plan out their hikes by mapping expected routes with reasonable goals for the day, Mattson said. Hikers should also share their plans and anticipated schedule with others.
``Regardless of how beautiful the hike might be and how enticing it might be to explore, stick to your plan and don't hike off designated trails,'' Mattson said.
Visitors should never hike alone and always bring plenty of water with electrolytes, as well as snacks to provide enough energy for the day, he said.
``Many hikers think a standard 16-ounce water bottle suffices for a several-hour hike,'' Mattson said. ``The problem with this is during a hike, the body sweats, which diminishes the bodily fluids and salt. Sweating out salts from your body prevents it from properly regulating liquid. You need to replace that sweat with water and plenty of electrolytes.''
Hikers should also dress appropriately for the day and bring a small pack of essential medications, a signaling mirror to reflect sunlight -- in case they need to be found by rescuers -- and take a portable GPS.
Hikers who do get lost should find a safe place to stay put, Mattson said.
``If you have cell service, call 911 and allow the dispatcher to obtain your GPS coordinates from your phone,'' according to Mattson. ``Once those coordinates are obtained by search-and-rescue resources, it is absolutely critical you don't depart that area. The coordinates is where search-and-rescue resources will start looking for you.''
More safety information is available on the U.S. Forest Service website at https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/if-you-get-lost .