Dehydration!

Welcome to Day 4 of the A to Z Challenge. My theme for this year is the Grand Canyon, which I will be hiking this May. As I go through the alphabet I am educating myself about the canyon, the equipment I’ll need and the specific hike I’ll be going on, the Take A Load Off: Mule-Assisted Camping 0514

One day while hiking on the Appalachian Trail I started feeling a little light headed and maybe a little less certain of my footing, on a trail that was rocky and precarious. I was able to make it down to a place where the trail crossed a maintenance road, but couldn’t go any farther. Feeling worse by the minute, I had one of my hiking buddies flag down some rangers in a truck on their way to a campground a few miles further away.

They loaded me up, took me to the campground, helped me set up my tent and gave me some electrolyte tablets to put in my drinking water. That was the end of hiking for me that day. The rest of my group reached the campground before nightfall and joined me. This was my first experience with dehydration. I don’t want to repeat it.

The Grand Canyon, in May when I am going, could have some warm weather. There will often be places without shade. We will be moving and carrying light packs for hours. Dehydration is a serious possibility under these conditions and this is most certainly a place where I don’t want to lose my footing.  Water is scarce there and although there are places on the trail where it is available, we will carry what we need plus some extra. One of my guidebooks says this about the subject:

“Dehydration accounts for more fatalities in the Grand Canyon than any other single cause. Some victims have died with water in their canteens. It’s not enough just to carry water, you must drink it.”

p. 228 of A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon, Stephen Whitney

Great advice. Drink the water. Also, in my hike guidelines, marked as an important note, is the instruction to have sufficient sodium and fluids in the 72 hours before the hike commences. So, no low sodium diet, and make sure that travel time to the canyon does not keep me from drinking plenty of water (not coffee or alcohol).

Here are the symptoms of dehydration. You don’t want to experience these so be on guard: 

  • early on you may have thirst, malaise, irritability, fatigue, flushed skin, and increased pulse
  • leading, later on, to dizziness, headache, labored breathing, tingling, dry mouth, difficulty speaking and walking.
  • It gets worse and then you die.
  • You can recover from mild cases, like the one I had, by resting and drinking as much as possible. Advanced cases take medical intervention.

I will carry three liters of water each day of hiking and drink small amounts frequently, regularly. For me, the easiest way to do this is my water pouch, which I carry in my backpack, with its tubing that comes over my shoulder with a bite valve on the end. It is within inches of my mouth and so handy that I can’t ignore it. I do not plan to miss any of the hike being dehydrated this time. And I certainly don’t want to have to be hauled out in a helicopter, a not uncommon occurrence.

Yes, they standby for emergencies like dehydration.

11 thoughts on “Dehydration!

  1. Sounds like a dangerous hike, but I can see why you want to do it. it seems like you’re making sure you’re well prepared. Good luck with the hike
    Debbie

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