Yard work can teach you a great deal about what you are capable of and what your limitations are. It also serves as a reminder that when you are out in the elements, nature is the boss, not you. Yesterday, I was thinking about the reviews I need to type up and blog posts I'd love to share, but my heart wasn't into it. I had other priorities around my house that needed to be addressed first. Not wanting to feel stressed, I headed outside, sunscreen in one hand and water in the other. Temperatures were on the rise, but I felt good. There was landscaping, mowing, and digging to be done and I don't have a landscaper, plus I like maintaining my own place.
I won't go into detail about everything I did, but I was outside working for only 3.5 hours. It was very hot and I took my share of water breaks, but it was really tough to keep going. (My farming days are far behind me.) I drank a gallon of water and did not have to go to the bathroom at all in those nearly four hours. I was, in fact, dehydrated. I didn't have a headache, nor did I think I was dehydrated. Knowing that I didn't have to go to the bathroom made me aware that I was dehydrated. I drank more and more water until I finally had to go. Let's just say it wasn't pretty, but I knew I needed more water.
The point I am trying to make here is that hiking into the backcountry or high desert in SoCal is going to require some planning and plenty of water. I was not hiking with any weight on my back, but I was exerting plenty of energy and working in the direct sun. I was feeling great until I sat down and realized how drained I really was. If you get caught like this while scouting 5 miles in, you had better have a plan. You also must have plenty of water. If you can only carry enough water for a couple mile trip in the desert heat, only travel that and no further. One important bit of information I have picked up is to only hike as far as half of your water supply takes you. I would edit that slightly due to the fact that you might start hiking in the cool air before the sun comes up and then be hiking back in the direct sunlight. Plan accordingly! Now, if there is a water source on your hike, plans can be adjusted, but don't overdo it.
Also, use appropriate clothing on those hikes. I wear a long-sleeve shirt to protect my arms from the sun and it also helps keep me cool when I am sweating. I also wear a wrap around my neck that keeps me cool and protects me from the sun. It's one that you can soak with water and hold water for a long time. Truly beneficial! I also pack a SPOT locator beacon. In the event I get into serious trouble, I don't want to wait around. I also inform my wife of where we are going, when we will be home, and if I don't call by a certain time to call the significant other of whomever I am hiking with to see if there has been any communication.
Keep an eye on the fire dangers, too. They seem to be erupting all over now and you do not want to get caught behind a fire line with no escape. There is always an element of risk when scouting or hunting. I take risks, too, but plan ahead and if it's too risky with the fires or lack of water, think twice before going. I know I have packed a gallon and a half of water on a scouting hike before and it sucked for my knees, but I was glad to have the water. I also know that if there was a fire, I'd be screwed in that situation. Sure, I had my SPOT, but that won't fly me outta there.
We can all do a little more preparation and research before going out. Go with a buddy, or two or three. Enjoy yourselves and think smart. Try to stay as cool as you can and don't overdo it. I want to hear and read the stories of the animals you have taken this year. I don't want you to be a headline in a rescue mission. Now, if you think this will get me out of doing yard work in the heat, think again. Better planning my friends! Time to do the yard work in the evenings, when it's overcast, or pace myself a bit more. No matter what, I always learn from my experiences and I hope you do as well. Enjoy your summer!