Hiking & Extreme Heat
Lessons Learned at Cache River State Natural Area
Tupelo Swamp (Cache River State Natural Area). Photo taken in 2018 by Shawn J. Gossman.
A few weekends ago, I did my annual bike to the Heron Pond Trail-Head and hike to Wildcat Bluff and back trip. I do this trip each year around my birthday which is on August 16. This year, I did it earlier for the simple fact of the seasonal heat we were getting. I always choose the hottest day I can do it on because I want it to be a very intense hike and a workout at that. But do to the meteorological elements involved, the heat got to me. Since I seem to be a role model of sorts to younger viewers of Hiking with Shawn and the fact that I preach safety – I felt this article was needed so that I can show you the lessons that I learned while hiking in extreme heat.
Beginning the Adventure
As usual, I set out to start my bike/hike adventure at Cache River at an early start to the morning. I went to bed at a decent time the night before and made sure I had plenty of time to sleep before I got up and headed towards the Cache. I suppose I arrived there at about 8:30 in the morning – to Vienna City Park that is. I rode my mountain bike from Vienna to Heron Pond Lane via-the Tunnel Hill State Trail. Then off the the trail-head I went. As I do each year, I wear my biking apparel as my hiking apparel as well which was a no-sleeve compression shirt and a pair of tri-shorts which are compression-based bicycle shorts with a much thinner chamois (or pad). This apparel gave me a nice cooler option and it wickers sweat very well. When I started hiking, it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t that hot and the bugs weren’t really getting to me.
When it started hurting…
It was the walk up to Wildcat Bluff where I really started suffering from the heat. To get to the top of the bluffage, you have to go up some hills. It was already hot at that point of the day with a heat index warning of 105-degrees (F). I was drenched in sweet and the bugs were really starting to gnaw on me. Shorts and a sleeveless shirt is awesome for hot weather hiking but it exposes so much skin to all the bugs than want nothing more but to suck your blood. Bug spray was used a lot but because of that, it got on my hiking towel and because of that, I got a lot of it in my eyes so my eyes were not only burning from the sweat but the DEET played a part as well.
The hike back was really where it started being miserable. I had enough food and water on me for several days but the heat was so high in humidity and the bugs were so bad that it made a lot of the walk back and miserable walk back. When I finally came back to the fork to take you to Heron Pond or the Champion Cherrybark Oak Tree, I had to sit down on the bench and rest. I was really hot and dizzy and I felt sick at that point.
So basically, I allowed myself to get overheated and pushed myself a little to hard. I feel like I need to admit that in this article and explain to you all that even when you’re as used to hiking as I am, you can still get a little too carried away with it and that is what I did. I enjoy my annual hot hikes but I should had planned this one a little bit better. For starters, I should haven’t of went during heat index warnings because that really was the significant negative factor during the entire trip – it was too hot! I write this article not to shame myself but in hopes to teach folks to avoid these issues that I had to experience. A hike should be a fun adventure and not a miserable one. People who watched the video had even contacted me privately because they were concerned and knew that I was in bad shape during the last of the filming stages. I’m sorry that I worried some of you. I’m still very young, at this fine age of 33 going on 34 but I’m no spring chicken anymore and as I get older, I need to remind myself to slow down and take it easy when the temperatures are really high during a hike day and I think my experience is something you all can take away with you as well.
I’d love to know your experiences with this if any. Feel free to comment down below with your own stories and experiences. If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with others, especially on social media.
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.