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Who Cares If It’s Hot? (Or: How I Keep Running During Summer)

August 11, 2018

barefoot summer running.JPG

It’s been a warm coupla months . . . but if you followed the advice of a recent article published in my local newspaper, the Orange County Register, you might never even venture out your door: “Stay in air-conditioned buildings” is one of the writer’s genius bits of wisdom. But what if you don’t have an air-conditioned building (my house) or an air-conditioned running route (my local trails)?

(In defense of the writer, he does offer some helpful tips, but it was hard for me to pay attention after his “stay inside” quote.)

As eight years of  posts on this “Barefoot Wandering and Writing” blog make obsessively clear, I LOVE to run and/or hike barefoot, so I make time-of-day adaptations throughout the year, waiting till the ground warms up on winter afternoons, heading out early in the day in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I wasn’t able to hit the trails until 6:30 pm, at which time it was still a smokin’ 95 degrees (F) at the trailhead . . . but don’t worry, it cooled off to a lovely 90 (F) by the time I was done at 7:30. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

So that was one adaptation to the heat: running 60 instead of my usual 90 minutes. And keeping the pace mostly un-sprinty.  Another amazingly effective way I was able to feel fahrenheit-fabulous while running? My awkward grandma version of a wet T-shirt (non)contest: see advice #2 & 3, below.

(Also note: to keep my shirt thoroughly sopping, I took advantage of one of the horse watering troughs maintained by OC Parks along the trails of Santiago Oaks Regional Park; it only looked 8 *a little* green, so I stripped off my shirt and hat, dipped both in the slimy water, slid them over/on my head, and galloped on. With nary a selfie to show for it.)

Here’s the origin story of the “safe hiking in the heat” list below: Earlier this summer, I concocted it as a FaceBook post for the wonderful Grand Canyon Hikers FB group, a group that DOESN’T STAY INDOORS JUST BECAUSE IT’S SUMMER. (But also a group that needs to be careful, since folks die every summer at Grand Canyon due to heat-related issues.)

So: here it is, below, still timely, since summer 2018 doesn’t seem to want to end any time soon. (And So Cal’s warmest weather often arrives in September, just in time for back-to-school.) (Did I mention my car registered the outside air at 117 (F) earlier this summer as I was driving around my non-desert town?! That’s a yikes, for sure . . . )

Anyway, adapt the info below to your own situation, using a big dose of advice #5 — but please don’t be scared away from enjoying your local trails by well-meaning (but maybe non-running/non-hiking?) reporters.


How can you hike safely in Grand Canyon during the summer? Here’s my contribution to this “hot” topic (pun intended–sorry!), based on ranger talks I’ve attended as well as my own experience with summer hiking at the Canyon–which includes a rim-to-rim during a heat alert two years ago. (Spoiler alert: I began in late afternoon and hiked through the night:…/grand-canyon-rim-to-rim-…/)

1) “If you’re hot, you’re stupid.” Strong words meant to save your life–and you can easily follow this ranger advice by NOT hiking in the heat of the day. (For my annual June backpack from the North Rim to Cottonwood Camp, I leave the North Rim about 3:30 pm, which puts me in shade by the time I get to the notorious switchbacks below the Supai Tunnel . . . and gets me into Cottonwood with just enough light to take a refreshing dip in Bright Angel Creek and then set up my minimalist, tent-less camp.)

2) “Water to drink; water to wear.” Plan ahead; you’ve read the weather reports, you know it’s gonna be so hot the condors will be laying hard-boiled eggs, so bring enough water to keep your shirt/head wet. I bring an extra shirt (see #3 for a vital fabric pointer) in a plastic zipper bag, add water, and trade shirts when the one I’m wearing dries . . . which can happen in a matter of minutes. Rinse and repeat.

3) “Cotton COOLS” (rather than “cotton kills”). In desert heat I wear flimsy-thin, flowery, 100% cotton, long-sleeve blouses–cheap treasures from local thrift stores. These breath better than any synthetic, and feel AMAZING when I pull them out of the plastic bag and stick my arms in the wet sleeves. Plus did I mention they are flowery?

4) Swallow your pride and open your umbrella: I have a lightweight, silver-reflective umbrella that provides constant shade while hiking. Nerdy-looking? Sure. Effective at keeping me cool? You betcha! (Caution: umbrellas doesn’t work too well if it’s windy or if the trail is narrow and/or next to a cliff wall.)

umbrella hiking at Grand Canyon.jpg

5) Gertrude Stein gets the last words: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Use your common sense, and enjoy your time in Grand Canyon!

bare toes and grand canyon.JPG

Sunset/North Rim/June 2018

Happy (HOT) Summer Trails . . . “thinking outside the shoe!”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Gina permalink
    August 13, 2018 8:37 am

    Sending much love, Thea! Thanks for the ongoing freedom posts! Question: Do you use sunscreen under the flimsy cotton? I walked a pilgrimmage in N.M. this summer with an umbrella and I know it saved me a lot of grief and skin fry. Blessings!

    • Gina permalink
      August 13, 2018 9:30 am

      Also, where do you find your fancy flowered flimsy cotton fashions? 🙂

      • August 14, 2018 6:19 am

        That would be a great name for a clothing line: “Fancy flowered flimsy fashions” 🙂 Pretty much all my clothing comes from thrift stores . . . it’s become a fun part of my travels: visiting local thrift shops and hunting for treasures. Two recent favorites: The Salvation Army in Bozeman, MT, (last summer) and the Deseret Industries thrift store in St. George, UT (two visits so far this summer!).

    • August 14, 2018 6:16 am

      Hi Gina! Glad you’re liking the posts, and that you’re also part of the “umbrella club” 🙂 Where in NM (such an amazing state!) did you hike? In answer to your sunscreen question: YES . . . when I’m out for a day of adventuring, I always start with plenty of sunscreen, even if I’m going to have long sleeves on.

  2. Scott permalink
    August 12, 2018 10:36 pm

    Thank you Thea for this very helpful post! I don’t do heat well, being born and raised in the rainy and shady Northwest. Fall tends to be my favorite running season, when it starts to rain and the trails get muddy again. I’d rather run barefoot in 30 degrees on snow than over 80 degrees! I get especially uncomfortable in treeless areas as I don’t know where to hide from the sun. Last year I cut short a row/sailboat cruise in 80 plus degree weather because it was so difficult to get out of the sun. So I resolved to figure this heat/sun thing out. I especially like the wet cotton shirt and hat idea with the plastic bag. I recently carved the handle of a big silver golf umbrella to fit in the extra thole pin holes on my boat for extra shade but hope to get around to making an awning, maybe with Mylar coated bubble wrap to really block the sun and a dark fabric on the under side to cut the reflected light. Figuring out a water efficient way to clean off salt water if I find a decent place to go for a swim would be helpful too. Running low on fresh drinking water on a multi-day sailing trip is so frustrating!
    A friend recommended using a squirt bottle for cooling down in a car without air conditioning and that has saved us multiple times.
    Do you eat or drink different things that help for hot weather?

    Thank you again! This post is really helpful!

    All the best, Scott

    • August 14, 2018 6:48 am

      Hi Scott! Loved your comment “I’d rather run barefoot in 30 degrees on snow etc” . . . ’cause I sure can’t handle cold very well! But relentless sun is not my friend, either, so it was fun to imagine (via your vivid words) you on the ocean under a big silver golf umbrella 🙂 Speaking of the silver bubble wrap . . . my husband cuts pieces of that to pressure-fit inside our RV and car windows for trailhead parking and/or car sleeping privacy. That stuff is awesome!
      (And . . . as far as desalinators go . . . have you looked into the Katadyn Survivor 35 Desalinator? Hugely expensive, but an interesting concept 🙂 )
      As far as food/drink for hot weather . . . a good question that made me think (and I always love that!) . . . hmmm . . . I’m a 24/7 water only person (which makes it difficult to “go out for a cup of coffee” with anyone 🙂 ), and I have a NASCAR metabolism that has me chomping food (organic as much as possible) all the time, no matter the weather . . . the only electrolyte supplement I use are occasional ProBar Bolt Organic Energy Chews . . . I LOVE these and try to always have some in my running/hiking pack (and they were on sale for 50 cents each recently at my wonderful local Grocery Outlet, but they’re worth the normal $2.50 retail (online or REI) in terms of how many friends/family/strangers I’ve seen perk right up on the trail after chewing a couple).
      Other trail/hiking/running snack favorites: dried mango and figs, macadamia nuts, almonds, little squeeze packets of nut butters (that I slather on rice cakes or fruit/nut “bars”), and always beginning the hike/run with a “tankful” of water in me. Happy Trails (and Waves!), Thea

  3. August 12, 2018 9:23 pm

    Heat readily produces maniacal laughter … stay cool my friends.

    • August 14, 2018 6:28 am

      “I don’t always reply promptly to blog post replies, but when I do, the most interesting man in the world nods approvingly.”

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