Hiking in the Heat

Well, we pushed our limits yesterday and did the hardest hike I’ve ever done. We’re anchored at Isla Coronados, just north of Loreto. Our first day here we spent the day in the water snorkeling some fabulous spots around various points on the island. So, yesterday we decided to do something different and go for a hike. Isla Coronados was formed by a volcano, now extinct, and the cone still sits visible on the island. Our cruising guide showed that there was a trail that went up to the volcano, about 1000 ft up, but it didn’t say how long the trek was up to the top.

After the fact, I’m going to estimate that the hike was about 10 miles round trip. That is a decent hike, but should have been easily doable for Mike & I. What we didn’t anticipate was the difficult terrain and unflinching heat! We took our time in the morning relaxing and having breakfast, and so it was about 12:30 by the time we started out on the hike. That was probably our first mistake. The temperature was in the high 90’s and may have reached 100. There were no clouds in the sky, and given that we are still in a desert climate, the sparse brush and cactus did not provide any shade on the hike.

We took the dinghy to the beach to find the start of the hiking trail. There were about 10 pangas on the beach, as this is a popular spot for locals and tourists to come for the day out of Loreto. There is a clearly defined sand trail right off the beach, with signs urging you to stay on the trail to conserve the vegetation. The nice sand trail is probably a mile or so long, and then you reach the fields of lava rocks. Big boulders, small jagged rocks, red pumice lava rock and black obsidian glass littered the next few miles climbing up the hills. There are rock cairns that hikers before us had laid out marking the way forward. Each step was a challenge as not only were we climbing uphill, but the individual rocks were often unstable and difficult to walk on.

Me, before I melted in the heat:

At this point in the hike, I was noticing the heat starting to get to me. We were in t-shirts and shorts with hats and sunglasses and had loaded up on sunscreen before we left. However, not knowing how long the hike was, we each only had one sport bottle full of water. By the time we were half way up, my water was gone. Mike had barely touched his and gave me his water as well. We had not brought nearly enough water. Our second mistake.

We slowly made our way though the fields of lava rocks, stopping to get some fabulous pictures of the island and beach now quite a distance below us. We also got to watch some giant turkey vultures perched up on top of the giant cordon cactus that is present in Baja. These cactus are the largest cactus and can grow up to 70 feet tall. Pretty cool.

When we finally got through the lava rocks, there was a very steep path in front of us toward the top of the volcano. The challenge with this path, besides the steep incline, was that it was all loose dirt/sand and rocks. It was so loose that with every step your foot sank into the dirt and slid halfway back down. We were both wearing our Keens, which we normally like to hike in. But, in this case, it was another mistake. All of the dirt and rocks poured in our shoes with every step. The dirt and rocks were so hot that it seriously felt like hot coals in my shoes at one point.

I was about half way through Mike’s water at this point and getting dizzy every time I stopped moving. My legs still felt fine, but I was completely overcome with the heat and starting to get nauseous. We were probably 75 yards from the top when I had to sit down in the dirt to keep from passing out. Mike wanted to reach the top, so I told him to keep going while I tried to cool down – not an easy task with no shade. At one point waiting for Mike, I told him later, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to get down the mountain and thought I was going to end up as part of the scenery!

View from the top of the volcano:

But, of course, I did make it back down. Thank goodness Mike helped me get down the loose dirt and the lava rocks, as by this time there was no water left and my whole body was shaking. I think this is the first time I’ve ever really felt heat exhaustion!

We finally got to the last mile or so on the sand path and got back to the beach. It was nearly 6:00 and only one panga was left. The guy with the panga must have seen the look on our faces and started asking us about the hike and how long we had been out there. My Spanish isn’t great on a good day, and was probably even worse considering how I felt. We told him how hot it was and that we ran out of water. He quickly grabbed a bottle of Coke out of his cooler and insisted we take it. If you know me, you know I don’t drink soda at all, but I drank that bottle of Coke pretty quickly! I tried to get Mike to drink some, since I had taken all of his water. He took one sip and said it was too sweet. The panga guy then tried to give us some beer, but we declined. We were politely trying to move toward our dinghy so that we could dump our shoes, hats and sunglasses and jump in the water to cool off.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to dive under the cool water. I think we were both immediately refreshed, although we did need to get back to the boat and get some water. I still don’t know how Mike made that entire hike without more than a few sips of water. I joke with him sometimes that he must be Superman, but the heat was serious kryptonite for me yesterday.

So, if you want a beautiful and challenging hike on Isla Coronados, I highly recommend it. However…(1) don’t go in the heat of the afternoon, (2) bring LOTS of water, and (3) wear closed shoes.

~katie

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