Ah! Arizona’s wonderfully cooler hiking weather has arrived. And with it cursedly shorter days. As the daylight hours wane, it’s important to be aware of how much hiking time is left ’til sunset. It’s no fun fumbling back to the trailhead in the dark – as the result of squeezing in “Just one more mile!” Yes. If the coyotes are joining you on the trail, you’ve probably stayed out too long. Here’s an easy trick to measure daylight left while hiking (in case you forgot to check sunset time before hitting the trail).
Finger Rule for Sundown:
1. Find a spot where you can see both the sun and the horizon.
2. Without looking directly at the sun, extend your arm and hold your hand horizontally in front of you, perpendicular to the ground, with your fingers extended.
3. Adjust the position of your hand so that your top finger aligns with the base of the sun.
4. Count how many fingers fit between the sun and horizon (adding your other hand if needed).
5. Multiply the number of fingers by 15 minutes (for example: one finger equals 15 minutes of light remaining, while six fingers equals 90 minutes remaining).
6. Easy peasy, and surprisingly reliable.
Other things to consider are how much time it took you to get to your current position, and how much time it will take you to get back to the trailhead:
1. Hiking downhill typically takes 2/3 as long as hiking up.
2. Conversely, hiking uphill takes 1.5 times longer than hiking down.
3. Lastly, it never hurts to tuck a headlamp into your backpack (lightweight, high lumen options are great). Then you can squeeze extra miles in “no worries.”