Somebody posted this article on the BMP Facebook page. It focuses on the misconceptions people have about hydration. This is particularly useful before people head out to Black Rock City. I touched briefly on problems with over-hydration and dehydration in another post, but this article gives more information.
I have never, in my entire life, been able to drink 8 glasses of water a day (except that time the ER made me drink a gallon of water before an ultrasound). I just can’t. Maybe if I didn’t drink beer or coffee, I could drink that much, but I would seriously have to work at it. Yes, I’m small, which is part of it. And my genetic code is mostly northern latitude (yes, your genetics do play a role in sweating and thirst). So I don’t need as much water as somebody larger than me who sweats a lot, and I don’t tend to crave it. I tend to drink coconut water every day to counteract my no-water genes.
The key points of the article are to listen to your body and use common sense. It seems to me that aside from some people with health issues, the only population that is really at risk from dehydration in BRC is the heavy partying crazy crowd. The people who get so carried away that they never sober up enough to notice that they are thirsty. Sure, Burning Man is a hell of a party, but from what I’ve seen, most Burners getting ready for a day and night of craziness pack some common sense and moderation with their water bottles. Yes, a lot of them have to hydrate away the next-day headache, but that can happen after a Saturday night in your home town.
The article mentions that water can help reduce the chance of heat stroke, but that water is not the only factor. Heat stroke is about the body being too hot. Dehydration makes that worse, but dehydration and heat stroke are not the same thing. If you are heading toward heat stroke, drinking more water while pedaling around in the sun is not really going to stop it. You need SHADE. Your body desperately needs to COOL DOWN. Plop yourself down in some shade NOW, mist yourself with your spray bottle, start sipping your water or electrolyte drink, and stay put. Have a light snack after you have brought your body temperature down.
I was once on a field trip to the Grand Canyon, in August (eyeroll, don’t ask). The group had planned to spend the day at the river after hiking down the Lava Falls trail near Vulcan’s Throne. That trail is brutal. Straight up and down on black lava rock. The ranger made a point of telling our group NOT to be on that hill in the middle of the day. But we had an idiot in the group who was also a control freak. And I was new to the group and new to Arizona, so I was trying to get along. This idiot decided, after we were all happily ensconced along the river, that we all needed to hike back up right then (why everybody went along with this I don’t know). I was well hydrated and in good physical shape, but I had just moved there from the coast and was not used to the heat. I started developing heat exhaustion/heat stroke symptoms within a half hour of starting the return climb. I was shivering and having tunnel vision. It didn’t take me long to realize what was happening, and I STOPPED. I found a patch of shade and spent the next 4 hours sitting in that shade waiting for the sun to get off the slope. I drank every bit of water I had, drank a whole gallon of the emergency water the ranger had on the trail (oops, there’s another time in my life when I had more than 8 glasses of water), and was bored stiff with the view when I finally headed up the hill. But I was alive, and no helicopters had to be called. And I never spoke to that idiot again. AND I stopped assuming that other people had common sense. Never go against your gut.
Anyway, here is the link to the hydration article. Use it to examine your own water-drinking habits and misconceptions, and let’s get together on the playa, in the shade, for a cold beer.
Information about Lava Falls Trail:
Toroweap Grand Canyon National Park April 21/22, 2001
Lava Falls Route
This trip began with a trip down the Lava Falls Route at the terminus of the Toroweap Valley. The Lava Falls Route is oftentimes referred to as a “trail” but it is not. Although it is only 1.5 miles from the trailhead to the Colorado River, the descent is an amazing 2,500’. Legend says that the NPS ranger at Toroweap from 1942-1980, John Riffey, built the trail down the crumbly ancient lava flow, but it is probably an ancient Anasazi route.
I drove my little Neon to just past the Toroweap Lake before I was forced to park and walk the rest of the way. I signed the register and started down about 7:30 am. There is not much of a view unless you stop to rest and look around. I spent most of my time looking just ahead of my feet! The cinders are slippery, and the rocks all loose. Although really well marked, the route required rough scrambling.
Just before the final descent down the chute with extremely loose scree and cinders I saw my first Rattlesnake of the year, a Great Basin Rattler. A real beauty, light brown with dark well defined splotches, about 18 inches long! She never even rattled, just calmly moved away out of the path of my big Solomon hiking boot. I saw my only Pink on this route in the eighties. The meanest snake I have ever seen, it was at eye level and hissing and rattling to beat the band!
It was impossible to move down the scree with out sending rocks and cinders sliding down below. Be very careful with other hikers below on this section.
I arrived above Lava Falls in at 9:00 am. John Riffey said an average hiker should take 2 hours down to the river. Harvey says it took him 67 minutes on a “warm day in August”, so I guess my 1.5 hours means I’m a bit above average. In 2000 they had to rescue 12 hikers off the Lava Falls Route with the helicopter! I suspect most people should spend the entire day making the round trip! Don’t be deceived by the short length of the route.
Many plants were in still in bloom. Hedgehog Cactus, Indian Paintbrush, and creosote to name just a few. It was fun to see many big Barrel Cactus standing guard over the great Chasm!
The return is slow and steep. Please fill up with water at the river and rest in the shade. It will take at least twice as long to return to the rim.