Summer hiking in the Heat

Dominic Carone
July 22, 2023

Heat Related Issues

With the winter rains finally gone and summer is finally upon us, it’s the perfect time to get outside to soak up the sun and get some fresh air. However, the heat brings dangers that will sneak up on us if you don’t prepare properly.  Most of our trails in the Angeles Forest are exposed to the sun with little shade. Heat exhaustion poses a serious threat as summer temperatures continue to rise. Without proper hydration and cooling, heat exhaustion and other heat related illnesses can befall even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts. 

Let’s imagine you decide to plan a hike up Trail Canyon.  It’s summer, mid-July, with the temperatures predicted to reach the mid 90’s. Currently you notice the mornings are still cool and you want to hike to a waterfall. You are trying to lose weight and you’ve read that wearing a sweatshirt or heavy non-wicking clothes will help you to “sweat” out water weight.  You don’t want to carry a lot of extra weight so you take only 3-4 water bottles for your 3-mile hike.

The first mile is pleasant with some shade from the trees along the trail. There are even some water crossings from the streambed.  As you climb, the route becomes rockier, and the shade dissipates. You are drinking water much more quickly than you anticipated but trying to preserve some to last to your destination. You have reached the waterfall. You’ve now stopped and are enjoying the sights but are feeling extremely hot and are now completely out of water. You notice your legs are starting to cramp and you’re feeling pretty tired. You’re feeling the effects of heat related illness and dehydration.

The temperature has now gotten into the high 80’s, creeping into the 90’s and there is little to no shade. You are sweating heavily and start to feel faint and dizzy. You are feeling “off” and you know something is not right. You think you are hot, so you start to shed some layers.  You notice your skin becomes cool and moist and you’re starting to get goose bumps (which is odd because its 90 degrees).  You’re tired and every step feels like you are climbing a mountain, and notice you are you are out of water. You also feel your heart beating rapidly in your chest and you feel faint.  You are feeling the signs of heat exhaustion and the onset of heat stroke. Its time for you to cool down, but there is no shade, and you are out of wate

Mans Best Friend

Don’t forget about man’s best friend… our dogs. They too can experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke, in fact often easier and quicker than humans experience it.

It’s your duty as a pet owner to consider your pets health. Make sure to bring plenty of water and possible small snacks for your dog. Also take into consideration the trail conditions, is there shade, are you in full sun, is there water along the trail?

Heat Related Issues:

Heat Cramps

  • Heavy sweating during intense exercise
  • Muscle pain or spasms

Now is when you want to pay attention to your body, hydrate and monitor your temperature.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy Sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Fast or weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)

If you are feeling these symptoms, you NEED to stop moving, seek shade and cool down.

Some ways to cool down would be to loosen your clothes, put a cool wet cloth on your body or neck and sip water.

This is the time to ask other hikers if you can have some of their water and ask for help.

If you are throwing up, symptoms are getting worse, or your symptoms last more than one hour, you need to call 911 immediately and seek help.

If you continue to push yourself and do not adequately cool down, your symptoms will get worse, and you will begin to experience Heat Stroke.  This is now considered a medical emergency and can be life threatening.

Heat Stroke:

  • High body temperature (103F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

If you are experiencing any of the heat stroke symptoms Call 911 right away, move to a cooler place, help lower temperature with wet/cold cloth or clothing, and do not drink any fluids.

If you are hiking the trails and experience any of these symptoms follow the steps to cool down and hopefully self-correct before you have a heat stroke. If at any time you feel uncomfortable or feel it is serious, DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL 911.

Every year we receive multiple human as well k9 heat related calls, please don’t be one of them.

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Dominic Carone
July 22, 2023

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