I hike for fitness, both mental and physical, and as a result have hiked thousands of miles, in all manner of conditions and terrain. I use first quality kit: shoes, backpack, carbon fiber trekking poles, etc. I stay well hydrated on the trail and am well aware of my limits, given the conditions. So clearly, it should be obvious to all that I am a “seasoned hiker.”
Sometime ago, it was hotter than normal, in fact a record setting day. Now, I have hiked in the heat often and adjust accordingly, because I am a “seasoned hiker.” I had planned to do a short hike, 6 miles or so, that day and was determined to follow through. As I set out from my home the thermometer read 95. Hot, but I had hiked in hotter and being a “seasoned hiker” I knew what to do. When I arrived at the trailhead the thermometer read 109. Hmm, the little voice in the back of my mind chimed in with “this isn’t a good idea.” I considered this for a moment but quickly dismissed it, since being a “seasoned hiker” I looked at as a good training exercise in adverse conditions and I could always cut it short if needed.
So, off I went. It was hot, really hot, but I pressed on. I walked for a bit and then started up a short incline leading to the ridge line. Cresting the ridge, it was clear that 6 miles was out, so I opted to half it. That voice kicked in again and said, “turn around now.” I thought about it and instead decided to drop down another trail to the forest below for some shade to walk back to my vehicle. Same distance and being a “seasoned hiker” I knew I could handle it.
20 minutes later I was in real trouble. See, the trail I went down was a narrow V and I had forgotten how heat builds up on trails like this and I found myself walking through sections where it was 130+. I quickly become nauseous and lightheaded, and if I hadn’t had my trekking poles to stabilize me, I would have fallen. For the first time since I started hiking, I considered calling for help. I found some shade and rested for 30 minutes. I drank a quart of electrolyte infused water and recovered enough strength to reach the trees and get back to my vehicle. I was wiped, and it took a full day to recover from my little 3-mile hike.
We all have that small voice and the times in my life when it got “interesting”, and not in a good way, were the times I thought I knew better and didn’t listen. So, if the voice says head back to the car, turn left instead of right, stay away from someone or something, etc. listen. For when we do, frequently nothing happens, and that is often the point and a good thing, whether we are “seasoned” or not.
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