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Free class on desert hiking scheduled for Saturday

As temperatures begin to cool in late October, Death Valley Field Institute Director Renee Rusler said now is a very good time to consider heading outdoors to explore the region.

Rusler, along with Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge’s Teresa Skye, an experienced hike leader and instructor, is hosting an Introduction to Desert Hiking class on Saturday at the Pahrump Valley Museum from 10 a.m. to noon.

Rusler said the class will cover topics such as hiking with essential equipment, safety, and useful information about the desert.

Other topics of discussion include “leave-no-trace” hiking, weather and desirable places to hike locally, with an emphasis on resources.

Afterward, both will provide attendees with opportunities to practice some of the techniques on the museum grounds.

The class and admission to the museum are free.

“The class will focus on desert awareness, including not fearing the desert and also how to appreciate and interact with the desert,” Rusler said. “Sometimes people are scared of the desert and sometimes people aren’t scared enough, which can present problems at times when hiking in the desert.”

Rusler said there is no shortage of locales in the area for hikers of all levels of experience.

“Death Valley has some wonderful places, like Mosaic Canyon which is lovely,” she said. “We will be taking some people to Desolation Canyon as part of our week-long hiking program that we do. Both of those places are really nice. There are books and the park service has a website where they list some easy, moderate and advanced hikes.”

Rusler also spoke about the most important aspect of desert hiking, throughout the year – safety and essential provisions.

“We will also cover what kind of equipment is essential when hiking in the desert,” she said. “Preparation is key. You want to let someone know exactly where you are going hiking and when you expect to be back. If you know how to use a map, you should bring one with you. The most important aspect is having enough water.”

Additionally, protection from the elements is extremely important when setting out for a hike.

She noted windy conditions can dehydrate people just as hot, sunny days can.

“When we enter the nice hiking season, our nights get very cold,” she said. “In fact, it is colder than most people would expect. You always want to think ahead, because if you happen to twist your ankle and don’t get out right away, what’s going to happen? You might be out after dark and you want to make sure you have proper clothing.”

Rusler’s interest in the outdoors and hiking began at an early age during family vacations.

“I’ve been hiking as long as I can remember,” she recalled. “I was the kid that ran after the park ranger when we went to national parks as a family.”

Though her experience goes back decades, Rusler said she considers herself as a conservative hiker.

“Though I’ve been hiking for many years, I’ve never really found myself in a precarious situation because I always take precautions and plan my hikes. I tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to hiking.”

As a first-of-its-kind class, Rusler said she and Skye are looking forward to similar classes in the future.

“My goal as the director of the field institute is to find ways for people to connect with these resources,” she said. “We are going to have a lot of programs where some of them will have fees attached. We are doing this particular program as a service to the community. We just want people to go out and experience it safely. I want people to come out and experience the desert and do it safely. We live in a wonderful area.”

The Death Valley Field Institute is a division of the Death Valley Natural History Association, the official nonprofit partner of both Death Valley National Park and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

The Pahrump Valley Museum is located at 401 E. Basin Ave. For additional information call Marilyn Davis at (775) 751-1970.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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