Homer's Travels: Heat And A Summer Of Short Hikes

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heat And A Summer Of Short Hikes

Here in Nebraska it's already starting to feel like summer.  For the past few weeks the temps have been in the 80s (>26°C), above normal for this time of year.

The increase in temps is starting to impact my walks.  As I age I think I am becoming more sensitive to heat.  The first sign was last week when I attempted a twelve mile hike in Indian Cave State Park.  It was a warm and slightly humid day and, despite the trail being under the shade of trees, I felt like I was overheating.  Not having enough water also made the decision to cut the hike a little short easier. I ended up doing only 9.85 miles.  I like to tell myself that the real issue was the amount of elevation (2,447 ft - 745 m) but I think the issue was primarily me not handling the heat well.

The trend continued last Friday when I ended up shortening my urban walk from the twelve miles intended to 9.95 miles.  I had enough to drink this time but I still cut it short.  I just felt too hot.  I usually hike in long pants but I was stripped down to a t-shirt and shorts on this walk.  Fewer clothes and I would have been sited for indecent exposure.

For my hike this Tuesday I surrendered to the fact that it would be too hot and I went to Hitchcock Nature Center.  I knew that the longest hike I could do here was about seven or eight miles.  Combining the usual trail that I do there with a few newer trails that have been added in the last few years I managed only 6.89.  This was more a limitation of the trails than of the heat.  While it was warm I managed it well and I finished the hike before the heat of the day reached its peak.  It turned out to be a nice hike as the butterflies were out in force and escorted me along the trails.  The Mulberries were ripening (I ate a few) though it was a little early for the raspberries.

A pair of butterflies on a thistle.
I suspect the temps are going to continue to range upward.  If it's in the 80s in May then July and August could easily be in the 90°F - 100°F+ range (32°C - 38°C+) with a lot more humidity.  I have never suffered from heatstroke though I've witnessed it in the Wife three times before.  I think the closest I've come was during my Steamboat Trace hike back in 2010.  I don't intend to let it go that far.

So, based on my experience of the last couple weeks, I think I will have to temporarily change my walking goals.  Instead of working up to fifteen miles per hike I will cut back on the mileage while the temps are high.  This means a long summer of "short" hikes of no more than ten miles apiece.  Since most of the parks in the area tend to have shorter hiking trails, shortening my hikes will give me a chance to explore more parks in eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa.

Who knows, maybe I'll get used to the heat and I'll be able to work my way back up to fifteen miles before the end of the summer.  Or the weather could continue to be weird and be cooler than normal most of the summer.  I think the key word here is Flexibility ... and keep on walking.


  1. I'm hoping you'll get acclimated to the weather soon enough!! I still melt like candlewax everytime I go for a walk outside. I'm hoping just keeping at it will help, OR we'll just end up as puddles of goop that can still blog :)

    1. Miss McC: I walked yesterday and almost became a blogging puddle.