One of the best things about living in Park City is that the great outdoors is right outside your own door. Walk, hike, run or just gambol with your pooch—it’s all readily available and close to home. Whether you want to trek through a forest or field, it’s either right within walking distance or only a short drive away.
But many folks make mistakes when they go into the wild. Though they applied sunscreen, they ended up sunburned. They drank tap or bottled water, but got sick from dehydration anyhow. They burned their eyeballs. Their dog needed an expensive and time consuming vet visit.
How does a nice day in the wilderness turn out so wrong? Well, a little knowledge is far from dangerous. Here are some things you should know, especially if you’ve been spending most of your time inside during summer’s sunny days, or are new to Park City.
Let’s start with the most important thing: altitude. Even if you’re not standing on top of a mountain, Park City is way up in the atmosphere. The base of Park City Mountain Resort, which is lower than both Main Street and Deer Valley, is 6,900 feet—more than a mile high.
The atmosphere is thinner at altitude, so the sun’s power is more intense. Clouds don’t block the UV rays of the sun, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re protected on a cloudy day. Whether you feel the heat or not, slather sunblock on every inch of exposed skin. Don’t forget the tops of your ears, your neck and shoulders. If you’re a guy with a bald spot, wear a hat. If your hair is thin, rub sunblock all over your scalp.
Here’s something most people don’t know: sunscreen takes about 15 minutes to begin working, and it only lasts for about 90 minutes—less than two hours. It’s not a mistake to be out in the sun before your lotion has time to start protecting your skin; sunlight is the major source of the essential nutrient, Vitamin D. This vitamin not only aids teeth and bones, it also helps prevent depression; so a short period of sun on the skin isn’t a bad thing.
But it is a bad thing to believe you’re protected against sunburn because you applied some sunblock “this morning.” Always remember, the stuff stops working in less than two hours, so reapply it frequently, especially if you’re sweating.
Lip protection should be applied much more often, because it quickly gets licked off. Getting one of those holders that allow it to be worn on a string around your neck is a good idea, because that makes it easy to apply every 15 minutes or so.
Even if you’re wearing a hat with a large brim, never go outside without sunglasses. They should be worn for function, not just looks. Eyes should be protected against sunlight, because they will always be exposed to it, even if it’s just by reflection from the ground.
If you’re being a bit more active than usual outside, you’ll require more water than usual. Extra activity makes you sweat more at altitude, but that’s not the only reason for needing more hydration. You probably know that atmospheric pressure is much less at altitude. However, altitude is a relative thing. A gain of even a few hundred feet makes a difference.
Suppose you’re climbing up one of the resort trails, climbing 400 feet higher than where you started from. That means there is less pressure from the atmosphere, and less pressure on your blood vessels. The result is, your blood vessels expand. It may not be enough for you to feel, but the expansion makes the vessels more permeable. That means they let fluid escape more easily, so you get dehydrated more easily. If you’ve ever become unexpectedly fatigued during an uphill hike, it might have been because you were dehydrated and didn’t realize it.
Bring not one, but several bottles of water along if you plan to wander in the wilderness. If you’re bringing your pup along, don’t forget doggy hydration. Recently, police had to rescue two dogs who became dehydrated on a hike; one of them died. Remember, dogs are encased in fur. If they get overheated, even while walking slowly, it can be fatal. Carry one of those foldable fabric dog dishes with you, along with enough water to fill it several times.
Another pooch problem: a trail can be too hot for a dog’s paws. If your pooch hasn’t been outside on a regular basis, paw pads may need to be ‘broken in’ to hot surfaces before they go outside for a walk, hike or run. This is true whether the surface is dirt, concrete or asphalt.
The trails of Park City are a wonderful place to spend time. But protect yourself and those with you so that they’re always happy trails.