What to Do Outdoors When It's Too Hot to Go Outdoors
Nearly 100 million Americans are currently living under a heat advisory. It’s 105 degrees in Denver, and 97 in New York City. And while temperatures in the 90s aren’t unheard of on the east coast, forecasters currently project that a stretch from Tampa to Boston could remain over 90 for over a week as part of this excruciating heat wave.
So much for your plans to spend the summer reconnecting with nature.
Outdoor lovers can, with a little creativity, enjoy the hottest days of summer in their boots.
With a little flexibility, you can avoid spending your entire summer indoors huddled next to the A/C vent watching reruns. Here are four outdoor activities for these dog days of summer.
Go on A Night Hike
Those 90-degree days come with 70-degree nights.
Have you ever seen your favorite trail in the dark? It’s extraordinary. A different set of creatures scurry by your feet or fly through the tree canopy above you. Some flowers close, while others open. Some of the worst of the insects disappear.
And then there is the night sky. On a bright, moonlit night, rock faces and streams take on an otherworldly glow. On a moonless night, the stars above can be spectacular outside the city.
If your favorite trails are in state or national parks, check the relevant website or the signs at the entrance to ensure you’re not breaking any laws by accessing them at night. Then, download a star map app like Star Chart or StarMap (we’re fans of the way it flags the night’s best features in your area, so you know what to look for), and lace up your boots when the temperature is lowest.
Camp in Deep Shade
Better yet, go into the woods and stay there for a night. The further you get out of the city, the cooler the temperature will be.
It’s called the Heat Island Effect, and it has a powerful influence on how awful you feel in summer if you live in an urban area.
The EPA estimates that cities can average 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, during the day than the countryside that surrounds them, thanks to the heat-absorbing effect of asphalt, concrete, and other building materials. At night, the effect is even more pronounced. Some of those materials remain warm from the effects of the sun all night, raising the air temperature around them by double digits.
So, if it’s miserable downtown, it will be cooler out under the trees.
Multi-day camping trips can be miserable in the dog days, but there’s no reason a quick getaway for the night needs to last into the heat of the afternoon.
Set out in the late afternoon, taking advantage of the lasting summer light to make camp well after dinnertime. Sleep out under the stars and pack up in the morning. You’ll get the recharging effect of nature without the exhausting effect of carrying your gear in the pounding summer sun.
Take just one example:
In the height of summer, when the outside air temperature is in the 90’s, Mammoth Cave averages a comfortable 54 degrees.
In the depths of winter, when the outside air temperature is below freezing for weeks at a time, Mammoth Cave averages a comfortable 54 degrees.
See the pattern?
Not all of America’s caves are as consistent, but all of them are out of the sunlight, and it’s rare to find one that doesn’t feel like a mid-fall day even in August.
Serious caving expeditions require lots of preparation, proper gear, and experienced guides. But many cave systems offer much less intense exploration options.
On the worst of summer days, a hike underground in cool, moist air, exploring cave history and the flora and fauna of the deep is a wondrous break from the heat. Check park service websites for options around you.
Take to The Water (With Lots of Sunscreen)
Lastly, we’ll point to the obvious path. When it’s miserably hot out, take to the water.
You don’t have to own a sailboat or a shed full of expensive kayak gear (though, if you do, why wouldn’t you be using it now?). You can rent canoes or kayaks at outfitters all over the U.S. if that’s your style.
And you might well find a simple inner tube is more pleasant in this heat wave, anyway. Tubing down a local river gets your body in the water and lets you splash your friends for laughs.
Just one note of caution – sunburns are always easy to get, but particularly so when you’re dealing with the heat from above and the glare from the water.
Bring lots of sunscreen, and re-apply it regularly.