Flies, Dust and Extreme Heat Summer Is Here. The Desert Is Hot, Planning a Heat Hike?

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I lived in the Coachilla valley for three years, my wife and I moved from Fresno California to La quinta California, south of Palm Springs and west of Indio. The temperature in Fresno is hot, the desert (residents call the entire valley the desert), is typically 20 degrees hotter. I worked outside in the heat, it was beautiful during the winter, however in summer I was often working in temperatures exceeding 110 degrees F. It is a rugged deserted place, get out of town and you are in the middle of no where, and in a life challenging situation if you are not prepared.

It was and most likely is common seen walking across the desert in the afternoon heat people with discolored plastic gallon jugs filled with water. It didn't matter if it was 70 degrees or 130 degrees, people were walking down the road or across the vast space between the Salton Sea and Mexico. This is the type of environment flies die in, when it exceeds 120 degrees they die, in mid flight. 110 everything is dandy, 120 dead. It's remarkable when a water hose is turned on and a puddle is formed, flies instantly cover the water completely. Water is the heart beat of the desert, life and death are very closely related in the summer sun. Desert hazards: flies, heat and blow dust. (The dirt flung about during wind storms).

I worked outside at a small electric generating plant, we burned urban wood waste from Los Angeles and it's suburbs. We worked in shifts, 1/2 hour in the heat and 3/4 hour in the air conditioned shop. The opposite crew would take over, the job would continue and most of the time everyone was doing alright. We would work in the summer shifts for sometimes weeks on end, normally October would bring relief and nice weather. We had safety meetings once a week, once a month a doctor would have a presentation pertaining to the heat and dehydration. The battle cry "stay hydrated" could be heard all day long as jokes as well a prudent advice. Typically we would each drink a gallon or more of water a day, room temperature was the most common choice. Our clothes would be drenched in very short order, it helped to keep us cool, after the sweat dried it would leave white mineral streaks on our clothes. Those streaks are an indication your body is losing minerals, they must be replenished. A very good way is to drink an energy drink such as "Gator Aide", they do have concerns of their own. The drinks come in liquid or powdered form, I have used both, there seems to be no difference to me. However I did make a mistake with an energy drink that I will never do again. I was working in a remote site on the West Side of the San Joaquin valley, again in the extreme heat. In the "control room" was a water cooler with a five gallon jug of water in it, we've all seen them. I filled the five gallon jug with a packet of powered drink, just like cool aide, or so I thought. All that day we all drank from it, the next morning however introduced a new situation. The first worker that drank from it, took a drink and instantly vomited, the drink had turned into some sort of chemical stew overnight. We did not take the time to figure out what had happened to it, we put a new bottle in and went about our business.

Our work mate fully recovered. In the hydration drinks there are a lot of electrolytes, the company doctor suggested we mix the drinks with water at a maximum of 50/50, 25/75 is preferred by some. The same amount of electrolytes is ingested during the course of the day, it is just more controlled. A pint can be added to a gallon of water in the jug we all carried with us, in that way minerals will be added slowly all day long. If a person gets ill and is suffering heat symptoms, salt tablets are a quick way to get minerals into the body. I worked with a man originally from West Texas, he would travel for work throughout the Southwest, he was accustomed to the heat. While working, we just started a 1/2 work shift, it was around 2 in the afternoon, the peak of heat being an hour away, it was 120 degrees. James collapsed on the wood pile, 10 minutes after starting, he had heat stroke. We were all at that time trained in first response for emergency's like this as well as first responders for confined space rescue, we were the guy's praying for the fire department rescue squad to hurry and arrive. We carried James to safety, set up a cot and took all the precautions, we took the remainder of the day off. It reached 122 degrees that day, extreme heat. 126 degrees is the hottest I have been in, that's the day my wife and I decided to leave, it's no place for a guy from Minnesota and a girl from New York to be.

When in or expecting extreme heat take some precautions, lot's of water is the first order of business. Drink water before you get thirsty do not wait, dehydration occurs rapidly, you can not control it, it controls you. Cover all your skin, this is not sun tanning weather, the swimming pools in the area are the ambient three days ago, yes 110 degrees, swimming was not a summer sport a person could work up a sweat while swimming. We would go to San Diego to surf and hang out on the beach, the saying "be cool" took on an entirely new meaning. It was good, sometimes we have to be forced to take some time away, our entire crew went to the beach twice a month. Southern California beaches are something else when escaping the desert. Pay attention to your body, if you feel weak, sick, disoriented or any other abnormality stay in. It seem's we know when we can freeze to death but many of us don't equate the heat with being dangerous. Never go on an "extreme heat hike", you are taking your life into your own hands, which may be your weak point. Before leaving the house in the morning, drink a full pint of water on your way out. It will get your body going as well as giving it a "jump start" in staying Hydrated. Regulate your hydration drinks, you can drink too much of them.