Tips for hot-weather desert trips (and Paria in particular)?

RyanP

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My son and I are very excited for our Paria trip next week (Wire Pass to Lee's Ferry), except we're now worried about the forecast temperatures--it's expected to get into the mid-to-high 90s by the end of our trip. We both strongly prefer cool weather (we thought our March trip to Canyonlands was too hot!), and have very little experience backpacking in serious heat.
  1. Our plan is to hike this in 4 days, spending the last night near "Last Reliable Spring" or thereabouts. My understanding is that you stop crossing the Paria for that last day, so we'll plan on getting up super early (in the dark) and book it out to beat the heat. My bigger concern is for the other days in the Paria. For those who have done this trip, would you say there is enough consistent water to cool off in during those days? I figure if we can consistently soak our cotton shirts during those days, we'll hopefully be fine. But I'm hoping there are consistent opportunities to do so and that we won't have long dry stretches.
  2. I know some people make desert summer trips work by hiking in the morning and evening, and taking long breaks during the afternoon. We would totally do that, except that I'm also guessing the cedar gnats are at their worst in the afternoon as well? I'm assuming they are mostly out in the afternoon and go away by night time? Because of this, I was planning on hiking during the day like normal. If people have tips on how to do the afternoon break think while avoiding the little devils, please let me know.
  3. If anyone has any other tips for beating the heat, please chime in! Again, this is an area that I have almost no experience in, as I prefer the cooler temps
I would just postpone the trip, but we got the permits, and arranged to have work off, and are otherwise pumped for the trip... so any feedback is greatly appreciated!
Thanks
Ryan
 
Hi RyanP. Glad you were able to get permits, they sell out quickly!

It's pretty comfortable the first three days. The canyon offers some decent shade, and you're in and out of the water all day. After you leave Last Reliable you are much more exposed.

If you leave early in the morning you should be fine. It's 13 miles, so if you and your son can hike 2 miles per hour, it'll take you 6.5 hours of walking time - not including any breaks. I'd recommend you leave early enough so you can arrive at Lee's Ferry before the hottest part of the day (2-3 p.m.)

You will be out of the river for the middle part of the last day, but you'll be back in and out after you drop back down from the high water route.

Bring plenty of water for that last day. I brought 6 liters last time I did it in early June. Of course, the teenagers I was with ran out of water so I ended up giving about two liters away. If you aren't used to the heat, I recommend getting your clothing wet - wet cotton T-shirts act like an evaporative cooler. Before leaving the river, I take the large felt cowboy hat that I wear and fill it with chocolatey river water, dump it out, and then put it on my head. The water can be irritating to some people's skin but I've never had an issue. I'd also recommend wearing a big, shade producing hat.

After you leave the high water route, you will be back in and out and you can get your clothing wet again a couple of times.

And you probably already know this, but you will want to either eat something when you drink water or add Gatorade powder to your water. The salts will help your body absorb and store the water. Don't get behind on your hydration, especially if you're not used to the heat. Also, Gatorade at 50% strength absorbs faster than water so that's what I usually use.

Good luck!

Eric
 
I've only done one backpack in the desert when it was above 90, so I don't have a great deal of experience here, but I think a nice light-colored sun hoody is the move. this'll not only get you out of the direct sun but also cedar gnats don't seem to be able to bite through even a fairly thin layer of fabric. also, a hood that can cinch down will keep those devils out of your ears and scalp -- that's where they like to bite me, and ears and scalp are pretty annoying places to have bites. also wear a long enough shirt that you can keep it tucked in! I never want to come back from another trip with my waistline all bitten up. also maybe spray your stuff with that Sawyer permethrin fabric treatment. (I know we've discussed chemically repelling cedar gnats in other threads here and I don't remember if permethrin works for them, but even if not, it'll work for other biters out there)

I'm with you in preferring cooler temps-- was just backpacking in the waterpocket fold area last weekend with temps in the 70s and I sweated absolute buckets. and I did not follow my advice here and I did get cedar gnat bites in my scalp and ears :mad:
 
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Hi RyanP. Glad you were able to get permits, they sell out quickly!

It's pretty comfortable the first three days. The canyon offers some decent shade, and you're in and out of the water all day. After you leave Last Reliable you are much more exposed.

If you leave early in the morning you should be fine. It's 13 miles, so if you and your son can hike 2 miles per hour, it'll take you 6.5 hours of walking time - not including any breaks. I'd recommend you leave early enough so you can arrive at Lee's Ferry before the hottest part of the day (2-3 p.m.)

You will be out of the river for the middle part of the last day, but you'll be back in and out after you drop back down from the high water route.

Bring plenty of water for that last day. I brought 6 liters last time I did it in early June. Of course, the teenagers I was with ran out of water so I ended up giving about two liters away. If you aren't used to the heat, I recommend getting your clothing wet - wet cotton T-shirts act like an evaporative cooler. Before leaving the river, I take the large felt cowboy hat that I wear and fill it with chocolatey river water, dump it out, and then put it on my head. The water can be irritating to some people's skin but I've never had an issue. I'd also recommend wearing a big, shade producing hat.

After you leave the high water route, you will be back in and out and you can get your clothing wet again a couple of times.

And you probably already know this, but you will want to either eat something when you drink water or add Gatorade powder to your water. The salts will help your body absorb and store the water. Don't get behind on your hydration, especially if you're not used to the heat. Also, Gatorade at 50% strength absorbs faster than water so that's what I usually use.

Good luck!

Eric
Thanks for the input! It gives me a little peace of mind that maybe we'll survive the trip after all. Yeah, I was thinking we'll bring around 6 L capacity each (maybe a little more if we want the option to dry camp the last night). And I'll try bringing Gatorade powder or the like (I've never done that before, but again, I've never backpacked in such high temps before); thanks again for the tips.
 
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I've only done one backpack in the desert when it was above 90, so I don't have a great deal of experience here, but I think a nice light-colored sun hoody is the move. this'll not only get you out of the direct sun but also cedar gnats don't seem to be able to bite through even a fairly thin layer of fabric. also, a hood that can cinch down will keep those devils out of your ears and scalp -- that's where they like to bite me, and ears and scalp are pretty annoying places to have bites. also wear a long enough shirt that you can keep it tucked in! I never want to come back from another trip with my waistline all bitten up. also maybe spray your stuff with that Sawyer permethrin fabric treatment. (I know we've discussed chemically repelling cedar gnats in other threads here and I don't remember if permethrin works for them, but even if not, it'll work for other biters out there)

I'm with you in preferring cooler temps-- was just backpacking in the waterpocket fold area last weekend with temps in the 70s and I sweated absolute buckets. and I did not follow my advice here and I did get cedar gnat bites in my scalp and ears :mad:
Thanks for the tips. I don't have a hoody like that (and probably won't have time to buy one before leaving), but maybe I'll bring a long-sleeve hiking shirt after all. I basically always hike in long sleeve shirts and pants, but decided to break tradition and go with shorts and t-shirt on this trip (along with lots of icky sunscreen :( ). But you're right, it's probably worth having long sleeves along as well to help a little with the cedar gnats if needed (although that won't help protect my scalp/ears). I don't even know that the cedar gnats will be out--I've done a few other trips at this time of year in Escalante/Grand Gulch and have never yet experienced them. But I always fear them once it gets this late in the year.
 
We had a fabulous Paria trip (also Wire Pass to Lee's Ferry) in mid-June 2014. It was HOT - probably 100 at times - but we were in the water almost the whole time. Back then, I didn't use a GPS app, and if I remember correctly we didn't know much about the high route and didn't go above the river except in a few spots. The water level was low at that time of year so maybe we didn't need to bypass parts that people need to bypass at other times? Anyway, we cooled off in the water a lot - like this!
IMG_1926.jpg

I don't remember any problems with cedar gnats or other biters. Maybe mid-June is too late for them?

We hiked throughout the day without taking a long afternoon break.

For cooling off, my husband often dunks his hat and puts it back on soaking wet. I don't like that, but he finds it really helpful.

For Gatorade, we have found it helpful to just have water in our bladders and regularly take sips but have one Nalgene with Gatorade that we drink from when we stop for breaks.

One more thing - not only in the desert, but for all of our trips we bring Honey Stingers caffeinated energy chews. I eat one or two at a time a few different times during the day when I need a pick-me-up. They work great for me!

I assume you know that there's no water on Day 1 until you get to the confluence, so bring a lot. You'll often be walking in deep sand, so that heavy pack will weigh you down.

But it's all worth it - Buckskin is FANTASTIC and the rest of it is FANTASTIC, too. Really!

And just for fun, I have to share one of my many favorite pics from that trip. You can see 3 of the teenagers up ahead looking tiny against the enormous canyon. It's really spectacular!

IMG_8244.jpg

Have a great trip, and please let us know how things turn out!
 
We had a fabulous Paria trip (also Wire Pass to Lee's Ferry) in mid-June 2014. It was HOT - probably 100 at times - but we were in the water almost the whole time. Back then, I didn't use a GPS app, and if I remember correctly we didn't know much about the high route and didn't go above the river except in a few spots. The water level was low at that time of year so maybe we didn't need to bypass parts that people need to bypass at other times? Anyway, we cooled off in the water a lot - like this!
View attachment 131404

I don't remember any problems with cedar gnats or other biters. Maybe mid-June is too late for them?

We hiked throughout the day without taking a long afternoon break.

For cooling off, my husband often dunks his hat and puts it back on soaking wet. I don't like that, but he finds it really helpful.

For Gatorade, we have found it helpful to just have water in our bladders and regularly take sips but have one Nalgene with Gatorade that we drink from when we stop for breaks.

One more thing - not only in the desert, but for all of our trips we bring Honey Stingers caffeinated energy chews. I eat one or two at a time a few different times during the day when I need a pick-me-up. They work great for me!

I assume you know that there's no water on Day 1 until you get to the confluence, so bring a lot. You'll often be walking in deep sand, so that heavy pack will weigh you down.

But it's all worth it - Buckskin is FANTASTIC and the rest of it is FANTASTIC, too. Really!

And just for fun, I have to share one of my many favorite pics from that trip. You can see 3 of the teenagers up ahead looking tiny against the enormous canyon. It's really spectacular!

View attachment 131405

Have a great trip, and please let us know how things turn out!
Thanks Janice! Between your and Quixoticante's posts, and the forecast now being about 5 degrees cooler, I'm feeling less anxious about the high temps. Your photos make me even more excited for the trip!
 
So glad the forecast is cooler now! One thing I forgot before that's similar to my husband dunking his hat - wetting your shirt is great, but there's a limit to how many times you'll want to take off your pack to do that. I use a bandana and wet that as often as I want and drape it around my neck. That cools me off and is super easy.
 
So glad the forecast is cooler now! One thing I forgot before that's similar to my husband dunking his hat - wetting your shirt is great, but there's a limit to how many times you'll want to take off your pack to do that. I use a bandana and wet that as often as I want and drape it around my neck. That cools me off and is super easy.
Yeah, I do the "wet bandana under my hat" trick on most trips (when the temps are in the 60s or 70s lol); I'll definitely rely on that until I need to go to more extreme measures (the shirt)
 
FWIW, the cedar gnats in SW UT aren't so bad below 5K'. 6K' and up are a different story. The electrolyte pills you can get at running shops (e.g. Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes) are a lighter alternative to Gatorade. They're popular with the ultrarunning crowd.
 
FWIW, the cedar gnats in SW UT aren't so bad below 5K'. 6K' and up are a different story. The electrolyte pills you can get at running shops (e.g. Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes) are a lighter alternative to Gatorade. They're popular with the ultrarunning crowd.
Thanks, I'll try to make time to pick some of those up today. And good to know about the elevations where cedar gnats are most problematic.
 
This will not help you much, but I constantly hike and backpack in a desert environment here in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes NP.
There is no water, no tree, just wide open spaces with black lava and sand.
Temperatures are constantly in the 90s in these areas.

When I plan a long and strenuous trip in these areas, I prehydrate the night before and on the morning of the hike. I use liquid iv hydration multiplier powder, which helps not to get dehydrated. I bring a lot of electrolyte tablets, pickles, and pickle juice.
I start early at sunrise, hike until it gets too hot, and then hang out in one of the few shady spots I can find.

I also started to like my sun shirts; they come with a hood and long sleeves.
 
So glad you had a great trip. Would love to hear more about your adventure!
 
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