“What wonders lie in every mountain day! ...Crystals of snow, plash of small raindrops, hum of small insects, booming beetles, the jolly rattle of grasshoppers, chirping crickets, the screaming of hawks, jays, and Clark crows, the ‘coo-r-r-r’ of cranes, the honking of geese, partridges drumming, trumpeting swans, frogs croaking, the whirring rattle of snakes, the awful enthusiasm of booming falls, the roar of cataracts, the crash and roll of thunder, earthquake shocks, the whisper of rills soothing to slumber, the piping of marmots, the bark of squirrels, the laugh of a wolf, the snorting of deer, the explosive roaring of bears, the squeak of mice, the cry of the loon – loneliest, wildest of sounds.
Nothing is more wonderful than to find smooth harmony in this lofty cragged region where at first sight all seems so rough. From any of the high standpoints a thousand peaks, pinnacles, spires are seen thrust into the sky and so sheer and bare as to be inaccessible to wild sheep, accessible only to the eagle. Any one by itself harsh, rugged, crumbling, yet in connection with others seems like a line of writing along the sky; it melts into melody one leading into another, keeping rhythm in time.”
The cleanness of the ground suggests Nature taking pains like a housewife, the rock pavements seem as if carefully swept and dusted and polished every day. No wonder one feels a magic exhilaration when these pavements are touched, when the manifold currents of life that flow through the pores of the rock are considered, that keep every crystal particle in rhythmic motion dancing.”
-- John Muir, 1870s writings, from Mountaineering Essays, (Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1984)
* * * * *
Summer is obviously a season when heat waves are likely. While there are years when it rarely gets hot, other summers we get hit with higher temps pretty often.
So it’s understandable that some people have questions about hiking in the heat. Does it even make sense? Aren’t there days when it’s simply too hot for hiking?
Yes, it can get quite hot on city and suburban streets. And a big bout of heat and humidity can make urban walking and other exercise pretty uncomfortable.
That’s one of the reasons, as many of you know, why the majority of our summer hikes take place in higher mountain ranges like the Catskills and Shawangunks.
In the Shawangunks we’re at elevations of 1,500 to 2,000 feet, and in the Catskills from 2,000 to 4,000 feet, where temps can be 15-20 degrees cooler than at home.
Which means that during a major heat wave, when temps get up into mid-90s (F) at home, it’s often in the mid-70s where we’re hiking -- in other words, delightful.
Likewise for the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, which we’ll be traveling to for our July 4th weekend wilderness camping trip (7/1-4) and other overnight trips. There we’re typically camping at elevations of 2,000-2,500 feet.
And then there’s the natural air conditioning of mountain forests, where we’re often hiking in deep shade, and strong breezes or winds are sometimes blowing.
Plus all of our summer hikes involve visits to lakes or waterways, which we sometimes follow for a distance. These are cooler places by definition.
As I mentioned last week, on a warm day there’s always an option to cool off by wading in or swimming. Or splashing water on our faces. Or wetting our clothing.
So… as long as you avoid potentially hot, low-elevation areas -- which is exactly what we do this season -- summer hiking can be an ultra-refreshing activity.
-- Charlie Cook