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Easily Survive the Hot Na Na!

The year was 1997, it was the first day of a Grand Canyon 3 Day trip, we floated through the calm waters that met with a gleaming white and perfectly untouched beach somewhere just above the lower granite gorge. We knew it was exceptionally hot that day. I felt like the juices inside my skull were on a low boil… (Of course I was stupidly wearing a black ball cap at the time). We took a pit stop at that beach and enjoyed a chance to jump in the cold river to cool off. It was that easy. Two days later, when we reached civilization we went straight to the USA-Today Weather page in the nearest gas station (remember when the internet was not the first place you looked stuff up?) to verify our suspicions about high temperatures in Grand Canyon.

Sure enough, there it was in deep magenta; a blob shape hovering over the corner of Arizona and Nevada where the high sonoran desert meets the Mojave: 123° Fahrenheit at Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon! (Now THAT is a Hot Na Na). We bought the newspaper just to prove to others back home that we (easily) survived some of the hottest temperatures we’d ever experienced. The thing is, we really did survive it easily. Here’s how:

1. Full Body Immersion – Sometimes we forget that, on the river, the very solution is right there, just waiting for us to stop being “hot, dry and stupid”. The cold Colorado River water is an instant attitude adjuster. The river is always refreshing, and especially in Grand Canyon – thanks to the upstream dam that releases cold water from the bottom of Lake Powell. Don’t just get a splash from the river which will dry up in two minutes of hot-dry desert! NO! Go F.B.I. – full body immersion!

Beating the heat in Grand Canyon

If things are especially hot, you might even try staying in the river up to your neck as long as you can stand it to bring your entire body-core temperature down. It stays with you! For example, one time we had endured a hot afternoon, and had prospects of a late sunset at that particular camp, and it was my turn to cook the BBQ Chicken over the hot coals. My trip leader force-marched me neck deep in the river and set his watch for two full minutes. It was torture to stay in that long! But the reward was awesome: my core temperature was down enough that I barely noticed any discomfort from the heat of the late sunset or the grill. I served folks their dinner off the grill with a genuine smile that night! 

2. Cool and Cotton Breezy – Cotton is the worst fabric for staying WARM, but the BEST for staying COOL! Cotton retains water, keeping you wet and cool – it turns a hot breeze into a cool breeze in an instant of air-conditioned magic. Cotton is perfect for these hot days. Even with cotton, you’ll need to keep practicing the Full Body Immersion technique mentioned in tip #1. You’ll be fine in the quick-dry fabrics, but on the hot days you’ll be more comfortable in wet breezy cotton.
 Don’t forget this same idea works with bandanas, buffs, sarongs, bed-sheets at night on your cot, etc.

3. The Importance of Drinking Water – The Full Body Immersion technique feels great, but it does not replace the need to keep water flowing (and absorbing) through your system. You’ll know you’re properly hydrated when your urine is clear, not yellow. If your urine is a dark pungent yellow, then you are dangerously close to dehydration. As a general rule, if you’re thirsty, you’re already starting into dehydration. Some mistakenly think that if they drink “fluids” that they are staying hydrated – but not so! Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics and cause the body to lose more water from urinating than is gained by consuming them. Follow up every ounce of alcohol or caffeine with two ounces of water.

4. The Importance of Electrolytes – You can drink all the water you want, but if you are not coupling it with electrolytes, you still run a risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Ever hear the phrase “packed with essential vitamins and minerals”? It’s pretty easy to get the essential vitamins and minerals as long as you are getting any kind of food along with your water intake. This means you can treat yourself to the salty potato chips and sugary cookies we serve at lunch! Of course if you are on a diet regimen there are alternatives such as electrolyte powders or gels.

Perhaps I’ve made it sound too easy, but it’s a river trip. How hard can it be?

Chilling at camp

Kam Wixom

Kam began guiding in the Grand Canyon in 1991, met & guided with his wife in 2000, and is the proud daddy of 5 kids. He now works as the Marketing Director for Western River Expeditions.

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