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Birding and Hiking In Summer In Florida

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info

ROUGH DRAFT

Apr 2018
We are enthusiasts, not experts - read disclaimer.

Ok you want to hike when it's cool out - check! Will you work a bit to hike when it is not?

You have to start reading this with that fundamental question. There are surprising tricks that take hiking in summer from miserable to not bad - but your enjoyment is going to come from the hiking... not from the weather. Hot and humid is always a little unpleasant. If you only want cool crisp weather there is no point reading further.

Being in heat when you aren't used to it is very different from being used to it

If you don't walk farther than to and from your car all summer, then you go for a 30 minute walk - it will be MISERABLE. And most people do not hike in summer for this reason. I'd correct that and say that's why most people don't do anything outside period all summer. That was me for a long time until one year I did the 10,000 steps per day walking thing. Starting in winter I'd take short walks all day. When we hit mid summer I realized - wow - why am I not passing out from the heat? It wasn't the exercise but my body getting slowly used to the heat and humidity. I did some reading about how marathon runners do training in hot climates so their body handles heat better and sweat less. I presume that's what happens with walking all year. So that is the first fundamental trick to hiking in a southern humid summers. I've been de-acclimated and then chose to re-acclimate *in* summer and all you do is go for short walks in your neighborhood mid day and short hikes morning and late afternoon until you stop noticing. So ease into it.

Do you have to be soaked in sweat (clothing and attitude)?

Another fundamental thing is an attitude shift that doesn't apply to everyone. I always hated having sweat on my clothes. It felt ugly. If you realize it's a choice between getting out & living vs looking pretty... and you want to get out & live - you start forgetting how you look and realizing nobody cares.

Besides attitude I've discovered that what you wear makes an enormous difference. Most people who do any hiking in cold weather know cotton holds water and dries very slowly. Other fabrics, especially polyester and nylon, do not hold water and they dry very quickly. If you're wearing a cotton t-shirt, underwear or pants once you get wet you're unlikely to dry off in a day of multiple hikes. Quick dry fabrics you never really even get very wet much less have to sit with it. There are many fabrics with many pros and cons but if you stick with mostly polyester or nylon that's the fastest drying option. For pants, like I've said other places, nylon hiking pants keep you covered, cool, and they dry so fast they just don't get wet. Socks seem to matter less - anything billed as hiking socks work well though heavier can be hotter.

If you are traveling - an additional benefit of this type of quick drying clothing is you can wash it in the sink and it's guaranteed to be dry in the morning. I've worn that same outfit in cold European weather and been great with the addition of a jacket. If you're going where it might be cold the usual choice is to start moving into merino wool. It's not hot unless you get heavier weights, it dries faster than cotton but while it is wet it retains some warmth.  They call cotton a killer fabric for that reason - it stays wet and cold. Other factors are smell - if you're on a multi-day hike and not washing your clothes natural fabrics - generally wool - are anti-bacterial. Polyester and nylon can smell. But if you wash your clothes daily I've never noticed anything.

August/September can be a special case

So all the above said - I think late summer gets hot enough that mid-day becomes a strain. You can do it but it starts to get exhausting on exposed trails. You need to replenish salts etc and may be exhausted for days after a long hike.  Our approach that time of year is either take a break between noon and 5, keep hikes short, or stick to very dense shaded forests.

Where it's too hot

Some trails are very exposed - no shade. Scrub trails are just a very bad idea in summer mid-day. That's why we have the grade "exposed" on our field note pages. We sometimes do them but we often feel heat exhaustion for days as I mentioned above. You can do them for short 30 minute walks and you can do them in the morning or just save them for winter.

Bugs reign in summer

I find mosquitoes almost pleasant and nostalgic when I'm away from rural Florida for more than a year. But even I find it just impossible to deal with them after a certain point. That point happens in certain environments in summer. Some wet forests if you keep a certain pace you're okay but if you stop there's a short delay and then the cloud descends on you. If you're with someone else you can see the human shaped cloud following like a 3rd hiker. In addition to mosquitoes there are deer flies/horse flies and ticks once you get into a certain size of forested region. Ticks can be around year long but summer you're more likely to see them. Deer fly HURT and I just flat out find them offensive - also they can but usually do not carry diseases. Also for me they caused odd immune system reactions that made me miserable for most of a year. Ticks definitely can carry diseases but you're in much much less danger than in the NE US. Every tick that bites people can carry some kind of disease and they all seem to sound like variations of Lyme disease that you take Doxycylcine to kill. Tick bites do not hurt at all - it's really impressive how un-harmful they are other than the diseases. There are easy ways to be mostly not bitten, slightly more in depth ways to be pretty safe from ticks and biting flies, or you could go all out and wear a net on your head and be bulletproof (I've never gone that far). I get into those details in another article: Winning Against Bloodsucking Insects.

Weirdly cool places

Deeply forested areas can be better but there are some weirdly cool places to cool off in summer.

  • Springs - they're always about 72 degrees and often we stop and just stand in them. It is INCREDIBLE.
  • Caves - there aren't many in Florida but Dames cave for example is 10 degrees cooler that that hole in the ceiling just 10 feet up.
  • Lake Wales Ridge - it's much hotter there during the day but Lake June In Winter for example cools off very fast because that deep sand does not hold in heat the way the normal soil does at dusk. Something like a desert I assume.

 

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