How to beat the heat

Fear of hiking in the desert? Heat is part of the game. Embrace it and you’ll be fine. Yes, desert hiking can be dangerous, but if you plan ahead, then a travel in the desert can be an adventure. I’ve done a lot of summer hiking in the American Southwest, and I’m fully aware of all the hazards. I had to learn from scratch as I’m from a country where the weather is totally harmless, and the landscape is nothing special either. My first steps in a desert came as a shock, and then it turned into fascination. I always have a fun time in the desert. Obviously, a multi-day hike requires more planning than a day hike, but some tips goes for both.

Tips for Day Hiking in the Desert

1. Water. The hiking rule of thumb is to carry plenty of water, 1 gallon per day, per person. I personally often carry more than a gallon. When it gets really hot, the need for water intake increases dramatically. Signs of dehydration include headaches, fatigue and nausea. Drink before you are thirsty. I keep myself hydrated by drinking small sips of water throughout the day. Never ration water, that’s what I’ve learned. Water will only do you good if you drink it. It’s better to turn back if water is half gone. Final tip: Keep some cool water in your car for your return.

2. Snacks. No food, no fun. Snack is fuel and makes a difference. I bring salty snacks, power bars, sandwiches, jerky and trail mix. Besides water, I also bring some few sodas just for the moment of pleasure at the summit or at the main viewpoint. After all, why not make yourself comfortable and have a good time.

3. Clothing. Proper clothing for fun in the sun includes broken-in boots or hiking shoes, light colored cotton shirts, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Sunscreen is a must too. I sometimes forget some of it, so I’ve had my sun burns. Even in a desert it can get cold, so if you hike late in the afternoon, be prepared for a significant temperature dip when the sun goes down. Sometimes extra warm clothing is necessary as desert temperatures in winter can drop below freezing.

4. Weather. On sizzling hot days you’ll want to hike early and late in the afternoon. If that’s not an option, hike at a higher elevation. When I want to hike during the day I try to choose a trail that provides some sort of shade. A sudden change in weather can turn into a disaster for the unprepared. It doesn’t rain often in desert areas, but when it does, trails can be slippery and sometimes dangerous. Most dangerous are the flash floods as a result of thunderstorms many miles away. The desert soil does not absorb much of the water, so the runoff cascades into canyons and washes, picking up mud, boulders, trees and other debris. Flash floods can occur in the southwestern states at any time of the year, but summer is high season, so keep an eye on the weather forecast.

5. Trails. Know where you are going. I love maps and like to do my research and study the trail before heading out. All right, I’ve had a few times where I got lost, although just for a short period of time. I often see trail brochures and signs warning people about hiking alone. I think it’s a matter of comfort. Most people can handle a solo hike. If possible, tell someone where you’re going. Why? Watch the movie 127 Hours and you’ll know why. Do your research, be cautious, be smart, and enjoy.

Coping with the Heat

5 must-see bridges

Going on a road trip? Check out these 5 bridges.

  • Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos (New Mexico). At 650 ft above the Rio Grande, it’s the fifth highest bridge in the USA. Rio Grande Gorge is a rift valley and a stunning landscape. There’s a nice hiking trail along the rim. The bridge has appeared in several films like Natural Born Killers, Twins, Wild Hogs, and Terminator Salvation. The sad story about this bridge is the number of suicides committed here, more than 115 in the past 20 years.
  • Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (California). As one of the recognized symbols of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see attraction in Northern California. It’s already the most photographed bridge in the world, so go ahead and shoot some photos too. Walk across or ride a bike if you really want to feel the majesty of this bridge.
  • Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon (Arizona). Navajo Bridge is actually two bridges similar in appearance spanning the Colorado River. These two bridges, one historic and one new, crosses the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon, which marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon. The bridge is also where I did my first bungee jump. My initials BGJ are to be found somewhere midways on the bridge railing.
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha (Nebraska). This is by far the coolest pedestrian bridge I’ve ever seen. The footbridge across the mighty Missouri River is a new landmark of Omaha. The bridge is 3,000 ft long, including the landings, and it’s the longest pedestrian bridge to link two states.
  • Bridge to Nowhere, San Gabriel Mountains (California). You can’t reach it by car, you have to hike. The Bridge to Nowhere was constructed in 1936. It has never been in use as there’s no road leading to the bridge. You have to do a 10 mile round trip hike to reach the site. If you want to feel a rush like you’ve never experienced before, jump off the bridge with Bungee America.

My 5 Must-See Bridges