I jumped on the road bike a 3 p.m. a few days ago because the temperature had just jumped over the 100-degree mark. Stupid me was curious about how well my body responded to the stupid hot temperatures of a Central Washington heat wave. So off I went to match my water-cooled jets against the nuclear-fueled sun by pedaling the paved portion of the Number 2 Canyon Road.

Things turned ugly fast. I suspected a spanking was in the making when simply pedaling along Western Avenue was raining sweat into my eyes. By the time I rode past the racquet club, I was cursing my hydration pack which would not feed me its water with the fire-hose force I demanded. A mile farther, I crawled past the Gun Club thinking that an errant bullet was a palatable way to end this pain. A mile past the Gun Club I was dousing my head with water to curb dizziness. And a mile farther still, as I topped the first of several ludicrously steep climbs this road dishes out, I was spent, trashed, utterly fagged. Heat stroke nipped at my heels as I crawled under the shade of a serviceberry bush, poured more water on my face, and waited. Ten minutes later I could summon just enough strength to mount the bike and coast downhill into Wenatchee.

An hour after my ignominious homecoming, my wife returned from a hike to Colchuck Lake. “You melt out there?” I asked, hoping I might have company to share my misery.

“Not at all…temperatures were great,” she said. “It was hot enough to swim in the lake, but we were never uncomfortable.”

All of this illustrates that if you’re smart about what you bite off, hot weather is a lame excuse for holing up indoors and estivating the summer away. Following are ideas for getting out and getting active during the remainder of our hot weather.

  1. Paddle canoes, kayaks, or even inner tubes around the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. A few weeks ago temperatures hit 105 in town but, on the water, my midday paddle through the sloughs of the confluence was surprisingly comfortable. I did jump in the water once—that’s part of what summer is about.
  2. Float the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers in an inexpensive department-store raft. Many people do these stretches of water with inner tubes and life jackets—a practice which, in this litigious world, can only be recommended if you are willing to accept all the risks of engaging in an activity. Tubes are not very manueverable (they were, after all, designed for roads, not rivers).
  3. If you are a strong swimmer, own a snorkel and mask, and are willing to assume the risks of engaging in another activity that is not antiseptically safe, try swimming with the salmon in the pools along the Wenatchee River at Waterfront Park in Leavenworth.
  4. Bicycle, rollerblade, or even run The Loop wearing quick-drying shorts and carrying a hand towel stuffed in a fanny pack. Jump in the river whenever you start overheating.
  5. Hike Twin Peaks, Mission Peak, Colchuck Lake, Minotaur Lake, Eightmile Lake, Lake Caroline, or the Old Penstock Pipeline Trail. These destinations have shade, breezes, and/or water. And the higher elevations of most of these outings make them 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the valley floor. This is all hard to believe on a scorching day down in the valley, so have faith brother. See our hiking guidebook for details about all these trips.
  6. Mountain bike Devil’s Gulch or any of the alternative rides available from the upper trailhead. Even on hot days, these high, forested trails make the temperatures tolerable.
  7. Partake in dusk patrols. Hike, bike, or trail run around sunset and carry a good headlamp. Rather than letting darkness limit your outings, use it to expand your options.
  8. Swim the width of Columbia River. Do it with a partner who is paddling a canoe alongside of you. On the far river bank, switch places: you paddle, he or she swims.
  9. Get out early in the morning. A few days after my Waterloo up Number Two, I embarked on the same ride at 8 a.m. when the temperature was 20 degrees cooler. The steep grind was grueling but far from lethal. The gap between 80 degrees F and 100 is vast…at least for this water-cooled wimp.

This post was originally published on 8/17/08. 

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