I picked up some kind of virus and have been feeling cruddy with a splitting headache the past two days, but we've also had awesome weather with heavy clouds, cool winds, and temps in the 80s and 90s. After being holed up all summer, I'm not going to let some stinkin' virus keep me indoors. I went hiking both days, and remembered to wear my fitness watch, but did not remember to bring water in a fanny pack. I thought of it after I'd hiked out a ways, but then thought, "I just won't hike too far from home, so that I can get back quickly if I get thirsty."
The problem is... it doesn't work that way. It's really not a matter of getting thirsty, but of your body overheating and it almost being too late by the time you realize what is happening. You simply have to keep drinking water the whole time whether you are thirsty or not. I do a good job of drinking a lot of water before I hike, but I'm not so good about taking water with me when I'm just walking out my front door to go for a short jaunt around the desert for exercise.
I went far and did well without feeling pain, fatigue or thirst on the first day, but that was because the weather stayed consistent. I was being sprinkled on, the breeze was always present, and the sun never came out from behind the clouds. It would have been a perfect day for horseback riding, except I don't like to get my tack wet, and I was more interested in getting exercise than in training horses who haven't been ridden in four months.
The second day was different, because the remains of the hurricane that brought those clouds was moving on. At the time I left on the hike, the weather was much like the day before. However, once I had been hiking for about an hour, the sun came out and the temperature rose from what felt like about 80 degrees to 120. Of course, it wasn't 120, but it felt like it because of the direct sunlight and the humidity. I immediately turned back, but could feel my body getting more and more stressed along the way. Though I hadn't washed my hair that morning, it was dripping wet. I had sweat pouring down my forehead, burning my eyes, dripping off my nose and chin, and my clothes were sticking to me.
When I was just a few hundred feet from home, I felt like I couldn't go any further. I was dizzy and disoriented. That's what heat exhaustion does to you. I got in the front door and chugged a tumbler of ice water and immediately felt better. I wondered if it was my imagination that my body was reacting so poorly to the sudden onslaught of heat, but then I uploaded my data from my fitness watch and saw that my heart rate nearly doubled right about the time I really started feeling ill.
It's amazing how fast the effects of extreme heat can overtake you. But when the perceived temperature rises so quickly when the clouds scatter, you may as well be walking into a cremation furnace.
I'm developing such a sensitivity to heat and direct sunlight that I doubt where I live now in the desert will be my retirement home. I'll probably have to either move back to a cooler climate or become a snowbird and flit back and forth between two climates. I have this intense need to be outdoors in nature, but I can't do that if I live in a place that is too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. The heat didn't bother me so much when I first moved here, but something has since changed.
While hiking, I was hearing some construction noises coming from one side of the desert. As I approached, I saw two mobile homes that used to be ugly eyesores that were now being added onto and repaired to look pretty. They appeared to be under new ownership. That means that more people are moving here, because houses aren't just sitting on the market un-bought. It makes me wonder how long these new residents will stay before the heat starts to eat away at them too.
There were a lot of hoof prints and bicycle tire marks along the trails, yet I never see anyone else out there. They must come out either at the crack of dawn or around sunset when I'm busy feeding and cleaning up after the horses and dogs. I've thought about riding then, but the reality is that if I did, I wouldn't have enough time or energy to feed and clean up.
I purposefully wake up before sunrise, but when there is enough natural light for me to see, so that I can do barn chores without stepping on a rattlesnake, and without the direct sunlight and heat. I only get about half an hour before the sun crests over the mountains, and then I get caught up in this whirlwind taking dogs outside, feeding them, taking them outside again, feeding myself, taking a shower, taking the dogs outside again... and before I know it, it's lunch time and we have to start the process all over. The golden hours are precious and very short-lived, so I'm always making choices on how I'm going to spend that time. I'm looking forward to the few months we have when every hour of the day is available for outdoor activities, not just before sunrise, after sunset, and when the clouds come out to play -- and to let us play.