2017-07-23

Hiking in the Summer: How to Beat the Heat

With the recent heat wave and record breaking temperatures in the Okanagan and abroad, I've been thinking about how I've learned to enjoy hiking in the outdoors, even in the middle of summer.  Below are some factors to consider and tips that I hope help you get out and beat the heat!



Weather


Check the weather forecast, it's not always blisteringly hot in the summer, there are cool days and breezy days. Hiking in the summer rain can be quite refreshing! Plan your trips for days that are going to be more enjoyable. The weatherman doesn't always get it right, but having an idea of trending weather patterns is very helpful in avoiding the heat.


Time of Day


The time of day makes a huge difference as to how warm it gets.  Early morning hikes are certainly cooler, but head out in the heat of the afternoon and you'll be exerting yourself in the hottest part of the day.  Of course, it usually tends to cool down towards evening most days. Consider late afternoon departures and returns after dark.  Some of my best hiking experiences have been enjoyed via headlamp in the cool night air.


Elevation


As experienced hikers know, it's always cooler in the mountains.  The higher the elevation, the less dense the air is, and the less heat capacity it has.  That is, it's cooler the higher up you go.  The caveat here is that sometimes the sun's rays can be stronger as the atmosphere thins.  So keep up with the sunscreen and keep covered.


Plan Your Destination


If you know it's going to be warm, choose a trail that is densely covered with shade.  Hiking along a cool shady path in the middle of a hot day is the epitome of beating the heat!  Foliage can have a big impact on the ambient temperature as well.  Hiking along a stream or near a lake can also help keep you cool as the presence of water has a moderating effect on temps. Another favorite trick is to head out where the shadows are long from a local mountain and avoid the sun for hours at a time.


Base Layer


A base layer is the clothing that you put directly against your skin, either as the only layer or as an underpinning for you outer clothes. It's critical that this layer is a wicking material, that is, it pulls moisture away from your skin.  Choose materials that are designed to keep you cool and dry, like Merino wool or a good synthetic.  Whatever you choose, you want the moisture from your body's exertion to be pulled away from your skin to evaporate so that you are cooled as you sweat.  Don't wear cotton next to your skin because it gets wet and stays wet, making you feel hot and sweaty. You are also much more likely to chaff and blister wearing wet cotton.


Outer Clothing


The lighter the color of your clothing, the cooler you'll stay.  Lighter colors reflect the sun's rays, darker colors absorb them.  Also, keeping covered can help keep you cool!  This seems counter intuitive, but if you look at the clothes people wear in extremely hot areas of the world, it's all about coverage and a loose fit.  You're much less likely to burn as well, if you are more covered. You want your outer layers to be of a lightweight, breathable fabric that has a good SPF (sun protection factor). Wear a hat, and keep the sun off your head, wide brims are better protection than a ball-cap.


Listen to Your Body


Studies have proven that your body is very self regulating, to the point that it will slow you down, and even stop you from exerting yourself if it gets too hot.  Have you ever noticed how you feel slow and lethargic on the hottest of days?  That's your body telling you it's probably too warm to start getting physical. Even starting out a hike in warmer weather, your will likely feel more sluggish as your body anticipates getting warmer due to muscle exertion.  Take more frequent breaks and listen to your body telling you it's starting to get too warm.


Heat Adaptation


Scientific evidence shows that if you exercise in the heat, your body will begin to adapt and you'll become more efficient within about 5 days.  It actually takes about 2 week to fully adapt, but the rate of heat adaption is significantly more rapid in the first 5 days of exposure to warmer temperatures.  Give yourself a chance to adapt to the heat before really pushing yourself.


Hydration, Hydration, Hydration


When you exercise in the heat, you sweat, a lot! Water is the lubrication that keeps your human machine running efficiently. You need to keep your body hydrated, that is, you need to drink water to replace the water that is evaporating off of you as your body attempts to cool itself.  It's recommended to drink at least a litre (16oz) over the couple hours before you hit the trail, and then a cup (250ml) of water, at least, for every 15 minutes of exertion during your hike. If you're sweating, you're not just using up your body's water reserves, you are also consuming the salts that help balance your body's internal blood pressure and nervous system.  These salts are called electrolytes and you need to replenish them as you hydrate too. Have a good snack on the trail or even add a small amount of Gatorade powder to your water bottle to keep your body happy.


Tip: Dip Your Feet!


There is almost nothing better in this world than, after, a long hot hike, finding a stream or lake, taking off your boots and socks and dipping your feet and ankles in the cold refreshing water.  You have to try it if you haven't ever. There is nothing like it, and it is my absolute favorite way to beat the heat while hiking in the summer.

2016-09-16

We're Back!

After a summer sabbatical, Walks 'n Trees is back!

We've even got a new logo! 




Please stay tuned!!

There'll be gear reviews for...

WoolX
Teton Sports
Ultimate Survival Technologies
Light My Fire
Mountain Equipment Coop
and more


There'll be articles about my favorite hikes both local and remote.

I'll even be doing a feature on my new Electric Fatbike from Surface 604 and Kelowna E Ride.




It's going to be awesome!
Check back in a week for some great new content!

2016-06-12

Quick Hike: Magic Estates to Knox Mountain Pagoda

 
 

Length: 2.5km (round trip)
Time: 30 minutes (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
 
 
One of my favourite short hikes is along the ridge above Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, BC from Magic Estates to the Pagoda at the top of Knox Mountain.
 

 
 

 
 
 
There are spectacular long range views of the lake, almost reaching north to Vernon and facing south you can see Mount Boucherie.
 
 
 
As there are many trails in this area, and you never have to pick the exact same route twice.
 
 
 
The main trail is quite wide, with some rolling hill climbs, and it can make you feel a bit uncomfortable if you have issues with heights.
 
 
 
Like most of the hiking trails within the city limits, dogs on leash are permitted.
 
 
 
If you have limited time and would like to see some spectacular scenery, this trail is for you!
 
 
 

2016-05-27

Outdoor Memories




I remember when I was young, and my parents would entertain. Company would come over for dinner, and after supper the slide show would begin.  Everyone would head to the front room, Dad would turn out the lights, the projector would whir into action and he'd enthrall the audience with the captured images of places he'd been and things he'd done.



Recently, I've been going through those old slides.  Dad was a prolific photographer! I had no idea he had taken so many great pictures in his many years with his 35mm SLR Pentax. I still have years of scanning ahead of me, but it's going to be a labour of love, and I task I am really looking forward to completing.





As I began to scan the first few slides, I started to see pictures of myself in his collection.  Memories started to flood back, I found myself thinking, "Oh, I remember that hiking trip", and "that's when we went winter camping at Sunset Lake" and so on.



I guess I'd been there for a lot of his life too, I'd been adventuring in the wilderness since I was just a little guy. Dad used to joke, that I was an outdoorsman even before I was born, as he would go off with my Mom (who was pregnant with me) to explore the hills, right up until a few weeks before I was born. I'd always just taken it for granted, I grew up in the woods, it is part of me, but seeing these pictures, really put it into perspective.




I've always been so comfortable in the outdoors, even more comfortable than in my own home town, and so much more comfortable than in the city.  It's not surprising now, looking back, I've been experiencing nature for so long, it's part of who I am.  Living in the Okanagan Valley, in BC, so close to the wilderness, every spare evening, every weekend, my father would take me out and show me the things he loved about the mountains and the lakes, the backroads and the bush.  I have the greatest appreciation, now, for all that he did for me then.





2016-05-18

Video: Mule Deer Bucks Sparring

A few years ago now, just after Christmas, the kids were feeling like they needed a good hike. We headed over to Knox Mountain in Kelowna, to do some Geocaching and stretch our legs.  It hadn't snowed that year, so there was easy access to the more remote sections of the park. We were fortunate and spotted some deer and then these two young bucks started having a sparring match.

They start out a little slow, then they really get into it, and finally one of the bucks takes off.  It's a little unusual, as typically, bucks fight during the rut in the fall, not the winter.

It was great for the kids to see, and a neat treat for a walk in the park.

Enjoy!

2016-05-15

The Joy of the Micro-Adventure

I grew up in the outdoors.  My Dad used to say that I was an outdoor adventurer before I was born, as he and my Mom were out enjoying the woods, hiking, camping and fishing while she was pregnant with me.  They didn't waste much time after I was born either, they would take me with them every time they would head out into the wilderness.

My Dad's style of getting out was pretty fanatical.  He'd pack up the night before, hit the road before the sun was up, and then spend all day doing what he loved in the woods.  I grew up thinking that to enjoy the outdoors, it had to be an "all-in" experience.  The whole day or "no way".

As I matured, and started having kids of my own, I tried to emulate those days with my Dad and Mom, full day outings, all the time.  It became challenging.  The kids weren't always up for spending a whole day in the woods, sometimes they'd get tired, or cranky.  Sometimes, they would have homework to do, or other plans.  My wife, Gen, wasn't always thrilled about being away from home either, when there were important things needing doing at home.

I began to wonder, is there a better way? Am I doing it wrong? Why are these full day excursions becoming a problem? I started to get out less and less.  My wife took me aside one day while I was lamenting my fate, while I was feeling grumpy that I couldn't be out enjoying nature as I wished to do.  She said something to me that I didn't quite understand at the time, but I have learned to comprehend and even embrace.

She said "you don't always have to go our for the whole day, you know, you could go out for the morning, or the afternoon, or even just a couple of hours."  This was crazy talk!  I was incredulous, she was mad, out of her mind!  Who did she think she was!? If I couldn't be out for the whole day, I just wasn't going to do it! 

Months passed, years passed, my struggle to get out for the whole day, resulting in less and less contact with the mountains and the lakes that I love.  Contact I needed to recharge my batteries and clear my mind.  One Sunday afternoon in August, I was again feeling upset that I was sitting at home when there were beautiful lakes and stunning vistas to explore.  Gen came to me and said those words again "you don't always have to go our for the whole day, you know, you could go out for the morning, or the afternoon, or even just a couple of hours.  In fact, why don't we just throw a picnic lunch together, grab the fishing rods, and see what we can find out there."

I gave in, "Sure, fine, whatever, you'll see, we'll get out there and everyone will be on the lakes, forest roads will be crowded, we won't have any fun, because we won't be out there long enough."  Gen just smiled and said "let's try it, this once, maybe it'll work out OK."  I gave in, we packed up quickly, I was sure we were missing all the things we needed, but we went anyways.

Because our time was limited, I picked a quick route up into the mountains, via the highway, and an easy access point to the forest.  Because we were so close to town, I was sure the woods would be littered with people, and we weren't going to be able to have any space to ourselves.  We took an off shoot road, and another turn, pretty well driving at random, but I was starting to relax.  I'd been here briefly before, I was sure there was a lake around here somewhere. In a few more minutes, we'd found a clear stretch of shore, where we could cast out into a pretty little lake, and have a campfire for some hotdogs.

"Well, I'll be..." I though to myself, Is it true, was Gen right? Is it possible, that we could just go out for the afternoon and still have fun?  I made a little fire for roasting the hotdogs, and while Gen and my little guy, Kyle, started to make supper, I tied on a fly and made a quick cast.  Kaboom! I was so surprised by the big fish that hit my fly so quickly, in the still water, I missed setting the hook, and he got away. Kyle say something surface 8' to the right "Daddy, there he is, get him!", and sure enough, with a quick 2nd cast, I had a beautiful 1 1/2 pound rainbow trout!  Gen grabbed the camera and took a picture, we put the fish in the cooler, and ate our hotdogs as the stars began to poke out of the clear sky and the sun set over the lake.

Soon we were on our way home again, having been out for only a few hours, but having had a wonderful time, enjoying some nature and each other's company.  Feeling content and satisfied, and a little surprised that such a thing as a quick adventure, was actually possible we were carrying along the dirt road heading back to the hightway.  There was still a surprise in store for us. All of a sudden, a cow moose lept out of the bushes ont he side of the road and started running directly ahead of the truck.  She was beautiful, but completely oblivious to the 2 tonnes of metal bearing down on her.  I slammed on the brakes, we skidded for 60 or 70 feet as she carried on loping ahead.  We grabbed the camera, but it was so dark the flash only highlighted our windshield, and we never did get a picture of that wondrous creature.  It was the first time Gen and Kyle had even seen a moose, and they couldn't stop talking about it the whole way home.

I look back now, and realize, that was a changing point in our lives.  I fully acknowledge and accept now, what I could not before.  Any adventure, whether it is grand excursion of multiple days hiking in the mountains, or a micro adventure, a quick afternoon jaunt in the woods, is a good adventure.


Please comment and share, what was your greatest micro-adventure?
 

2016-05-10

Emergency Preparedness: The Grab 'n Go Kit


Having lived through the 2003 Kelowna Firestorm, and now, with the recent forest fire devastating the Alberta community of Fort McMurray, I thought it might be prudent to remind myself and others about an important emergency preparedness item, the Grab 'n Go kit.

In emergency situations, you will more than likely need some basic supplies. You may have to get by without electricity, running water or the things you need on a daily basis. You should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours if an emergency occurs.

You probably already have some of these items on hand, such as food, water and a flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. For instance, would you be able to find your flashlight if the lights went out?

Your kit should be portable and easy to carry. Everyone in your household should know where it is kept, and this spot would ideally be near the main entrance of your home, perhaps in a closet by the door. Use a duffle bag, wheeled suitcase, a backpack or even a strong plastic tote.  Depending on the number of people in your home, your emergency kit might become unwieldy. Ideally, each person would have their own personalized emergency kit in their own separate backpack, with a shared kit for those resources that everyone uses.

The following list of items is based on recommendation from the Red Cross, with some additional suggestions from my experience, but the contents may vary with your particular needs and comfort level.

Basic emergency kit

  • Water – at least 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  • Water filtering system and/or purification technology
  • Food that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods
  • A means to heat food, boil water, ie. fire starter, alcohol stove, white gas stove etc.
  • A utility knife / multi-tool w. knife, screw driver bits, can opener, scissors etc.
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries) or Weatheradio
  • First aid kit (your requirements will vary with your skillset/experience)
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Important papers and ID, birth certificates, passports etc.
  • If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

Recommended additional items

  • Smartphone chargers, 120V (wall plug) and 12V (cigarette lighter)
  • 2 additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in deep, sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • Toiletries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Utensils
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask)
  • A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
  • Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc.)
  • Wire and electrical tape for repairs
You should review your kit every year, replacing all food, water and batteries, and checking on the working condition of all items.  Replace/repair as necessary.

In a disaster or regional emergency, always check with your municipal authorities before drinking tap water. If there is any doubt, do not drink it, without filtration or purification.  (This can be a complex topic and I will go into further detail in another blog post later.)

Do not rely on debit or credit cards.  Keep some cash on hand in small bills, as bank machines may not work during an emergency.
 

Pre-packaged kits

Pre-packaged kits are available from the Red Cross in Canada and the US.  I have not seen these kits in person, but they do appear to be of decent quality and reasonably priced.  All proceeds go to help those in need at the times when they need help the most.

Other kits are available online or in store, but many of the reviews speak of poor quality contents and the contents not necessarily matching the product marketing material. I have purchased a few kits in the past and echo these concerns.  I know this is not true of all vendors.  I will be researching this topic more thoroughly in the near future.  Stay tuned!

I have heard good things about the quality of products in UST survival gear. I hope to be able to review some of their products soon.