The secret to a successful summer hike in the Highland Lakes is to plan ahead for what will be a hot, humid walk on the wild side.
Temperatures can often soar into the triple digits on the trails, warns the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 2020, state parks handled 132 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. To keep that number down, TPWD offers these six heat hacks:
Drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to hydrate pets as well.
Use sunscreen or sunblock generously before heading out and reapply every few hours, especially after swimming.
Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, including a hat, correct shoes, and a bandana that you can wet and use to cool your face and neck. For pets, protect paws from blistering by hiking during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t so hot. You can also put booties on pets for protection. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on a hot walking surface for five seconds without discomfort, it’s too hot for paws.
Eat snacks that replenish the salt your body loses through sweating and that boost your energy such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit.
Hike with a buddy so you can look out for each other. Heat-related illnesses are common in the Texas summer heat.
Study your map and be sure to take it with you. Average hikers move at 2 mph, so allow yourself plenty of time to avoiding hiking during the heat of the day. Rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. Be sure someone not going on the hike knows which trails you are taking and when to expect you back.
LOOK FOR THE SIGNS
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion have different symptoms. Know what to look for in each.
Signs of heat stroke include a throbbing headache; lack of sweat; red, hot, dry skin; nausea or vomiting; rapid, strong pulse; a change in mental state.
Signs of heat exhaustion include feeling faint or dizzy; excessive sweating; cool, pale, clammy skin; nausea or vomiting; rapid, weak pulse; muscle cramps.
If someone shows signs of heat illness take these three steps:
- Move the person to a half-sitting position in the shade.
- Call 911.
- Treat based on humidity:
- Below 75 percent, spray the victim with water and vigorously fan them.
- Above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits, or groin.
If you want to visit a state park this summer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suggests buying tickets ahead of time online or by calling 512-389-8900. Park capacities are limited and permits sell out quickly.