It’s tough to deal with this heat in the summertime

My sister lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, having transplanted to the Sunshine State more than 40 year ago to escape our Pennsylvania winters.

One day during the last week of June, she sent me a text reporting they had experienced a record 99 degrees that day. I found it interesting that 99 degrees would be a record high for anywhere in Florida in the summer. I responded to her that after a cold, wet spring, we were enjoying a pleasant summer so far with temperatures in the 70s and low 80s most days. That rosy situation changed dramatically a week later, of course, as we’ve been enduring a sweltering heat wave of 90 degrees or more with little relief in sight.

When temperatures reach the high 80s or more here in our part of the world, we often hear: “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.” That’s because we rarely have dry air in the summertime. As air temperatures exceed 80 degrees, the relative humidity is likely to be high as well. And the higher the humidity, the more uncomfortable we tend to feel. That’s because perspiration doesn’t evaporate readily when the humidity is high, which causes a sticky, unpleasant sensation.

I’ve been subjected to actual air temperatures of more than 110 degrees at least twice I can recall. In October of 1999, I went to Mexico to fish for trophy largemouth bass in a large, mountain reservoir. During the three days I was there, the weather was incredibly hot. To combat those conditions, we hit the water each morning shortly after sunrise and fished until about noon. Then we returned to the lodge, ate lunch and rested a few hours before heading out again in late afternoon to fish until sunset.

On the last day there, we ate lunch on a large open-air patio under a roof. The ample shade and a slight breeze, combined with a spectacular view overlooking the lake, made things quite pleasant there. So pleasant, in fact, that I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked at a thermometer on the wall that read 100 degrees in the shade of the patio. After lunch, I spent an hour or so walking around the lodge taking photographs. The outside temperature was 110 degrees, but the air was so dry, I don’t recall breaking a sweat or feeling all that uncomfortable.

Around 16 or 17 years ago, I went to Las Vegas in mid-July for a fishing tackle trade show. Watching the local news in my hotel room, I learned the weather forecast was for record high temperatures, approaching a staggering 117 degrees. I decided I would find out just what 117 degrees felt like by walking the half mile or so from my hotel to the convention center that afternoon. It was a remarkable experience.

I walked at a steady, relaxed pace. The sensation of heat was intense, but just as in Mexico, I wasn’t sweating and not terribly uncomfortable. If the heat became too oppressive, I knew I could duck inside somewhere and call a taxi, but I made it to the convention center with no problem.

That experience brought the stark realization that one wouldn’t last long under those conditions without water or shelter. Believe me, a sweaty 90 degrees in central Pennsylvania feels nothing like 110 dry degrees in the desert.

Given the choice between sub-freezing winter days along with the ice and snow that usually accompanies them and the handful of the warmest days of summer we get each year, I’ll take summer every time.

A friend once disputed my choice of seasons, depending his preference for frigid winter days saying, “I can always put on more clothes when it’s cold out, but there’s no way to take more clothes off to stay cool.” I found his reasoning a bit quirky. I have a huge array of hats, coats, gloves and boots that allow me to endure the harshest winter weather we have in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, I can totally bundle up for freezing mid-winter weather, but there is little I’m interested in doing once I get out there that time of year. In the worst heat of the summer, I can usually find, or get a few hours of fishing at dawn or shortly after that.

Early summer mornings are wonderful times for landscape and wildlife photography. Even later in the day, a walk in the woods can actually be pleasant, and just relaxing in the shade of a hemlock tree beside a mountain stream is the best air conditioning I’ve ever found.

There is, of course, no use complaining about the weather because there is little we can do about it. Hopefully, the current heat wave will subside, and we can enjoy more pleasant summertime weather. In the meantime, get out early if you can for some outdoor activity and find a shady spot to keep cool in the afternoon.


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