As Summer in Idaho slowly begins to wind down I look back over a great season on the trail! The Owyhee wilderness can be a rugged and unforgiving place; with wandering there as frequently as I do there are always some valuable lessons to learn from the wilderness. This particular Summer proved to be especially challenging with the all too familiar wildfire smoke in the air as well as triple digit temperatures regularly for most of the season. It is my hope that some of the knowledge I gained can be passed along to others so that they can increase their enjoyment of their time outdoors, and so I’ve put together these few tips to help you deal with hiking in the desert during the Summer.
The sun is not your friend here. As soon as that ball of fire gets above the horizon the temperatures will do nothing but climb, so if you intend to do any climbing of your own be sure to get going as early as possible. Depending on the distance you have in mind you may even want to consider starting out before sunrise with a headlamp just to get the jump on things.
In the desert heat even your normal pack weight will take an extra toll on your body. If you are hiking in wildfire season with the smoke this is doubly true. Your breathing and heart rate can easily become labored and you might find yourself in a bad situation, so take your time – this isn’t a race.
This can’t be understated. In Summer, in the desert, you will require much more water than you would in any other season. This is especially true if it’s early in the year or you’ve not had adequate time to acclimatize to the environment. Make sure you bring plenty of water, and check ahead for possible additional sources for purification if you plan to be in the area for an extended time.
Especially in the Owyhee, shade is practically a saleable commodity! A hat or hood is a must. You can walk miles before you find a rocky outcropping with cover as trees are few and very sparse here. Consider bringing along a solar umbrella that reflects the suns heat. It is such a simple thing, but a little portable shade can reduce the heat from the sun pounding down on you by over 5 degrees.
Listen to Your Body
It can be tricky but know when to stop. Know the signs of heatstroke/heat exhaustion and respect them like your life depends on it – because it does! If you experience a lack of sweating, chills, headache, or disorientation these are good signs that you need to get into the shade and cool off immediately.
Hopefully with these tips and a little planning you will be able to venture out into the desert, even in the hotter months, and enjoy your time in nature! If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more please join the conversation on the Ersity of Was Facebook page so you won’t miss any new tips.