Heat Hacks

Heat Hacks

Season 1 Episode 6

Biker at Big Bend Ranch State Park

Under the Texas Sky: S1:E6: Heat Hacks for Summer

Major support for this podcast comes from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation: Conserving Our Wild Things and Wild Places for Over 25 Years.


There’s nothing like a summer day…you know: cloudless blue skies…a light breeze… sunshine. And the best part is being able to get outside to enjoy all of it… with your dog. Now, because this is Texas…and summer heat can be—let’s say—intense… it’s easy for you and Fido to overdo it. So, we’re arming you with some heat hacks in today’s podcast.


From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


Taking man’s best friend on long daily walks doesn’t have to be a chore. Especially when you live near a Texas state park. With beautiful trails and plenty to see, you and your well-behaved pooch can get all the fresh air and exercise you desire.

My colleague, Stephanie Garcia, with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Press office, takes her little dogs—Lucille and Norma Jean—on long walks in state parks, which makes her the perfect person to walk us through our first segment of the podcast about heat hacks for people and their pets…when they’re under the Texas sky…



When talking about summer in Texas…images of swimming holes…100-degree heat… and time outdoors …are usually the first things that come to mind. Every year, millions of Texans travel to one of 95 Texas State Parks during the summer months to swim, hike, fish and spend time in parks.

With the large influx of visitors at parks during the dog days of summer, comes a rise in calls…


…to hospitals and park headquarters staff about heat-related illnesses in the outdoors.

[Dr. Christopher Ziebell—14] We see it in a couple of waves. The first will be coming up here soon because people become acclimated to the winter, so when we start to see those first 80- and 90-degree days … people are not used to that.

Dr. Christopher Ziebell [zi-BELL] is the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

Last year, Texas’ temperatures soared to record highs and staff at more than 40 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sites handled 134 incidents relating to heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. These cases ranged from heat strokes to instances that are more life-threatening.


[Doug Cochran—21] A lot of the visitors, they underestimate it. It’s not really limited to the young or the old or the frail. We’ve had some pretty fit people underestimate the weather out here and get dehydrated and cause issues; and we have to go in and get ‘em and bring ‘em down.

Doug Cochran is the superintendent of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. Enchanted Rock is named after the massive pink granite dome found at the park and is one of the main draws for the more than 250,000 visitors every year.


Most park visitors who venture through the Hill Country to Enchanted Rock… set their sights on conquering the mammoth rock on the summit trail… which treats its conquerors to 360-degree views of the park… and the Texas Hill Country…from the 1,823-foot summit.

The trail is just over six-tenths of a mile but consists of a steep climb to the top of the granite dome. During the peak visitation days in the summer months, Doug says the granite heats up because of its exposure to the sun…and causes unforeseen problems for hikers.

[Doug Cochran—38] Last year it was kind of an anomaly as far as weather. We didn’t get a lot of rain in the summer, and it got very very hot right after Memorial Day. We reached over 100 degrees and it seemed like the oven didn’t ever turn off until about September, so we started taking some heat readings on the rock. In the shade and then comparing it to what the rock temperature was and even in the shade the temperature was going to be upwards over 100 degrees and in the sun, the granite was over 150 degrees...that’s hot for anybody. It was very extreme.


Park staff began using these temperature readings to get the word out through their social media channels to visitors who were heading to the area, so they are aware that the ambient temperature that day is different from the temperature of the granite underneath their feet.


[Doug Cochran—34] That temperature can rise very very rapidly and if you underestimate it you can have some issues. That granite is not very forgiving. One, it’s very hard. Two, it absorbs all of that heat and it takes a long time to dissipate. If it gets to 150 degrees in the day, it takes all night. So, it might be 85 degrees in the morning and starts heating back up. It doesn’t take very long to get hot again. So, just because the temperature might be 85 degrees, that temperature of that granite might be closer to 100.

Between September 2017 and September 2018, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area staff responded to 15 incidents involving heat related illnesses in humans and their pets. Among those, 12 of them were directly related to the weather.

Dr. Zibell advises to learn the symptoms of heat related illnesses.

[Dr. Ziebell—1:03] Minor heat illnesses result in things like nausea, vomiting, sometimes some diarrhea, sometimes muscle cramping- a lot of that kind of stuff. If people are out in the heat they start to get head-achy and body-achy and nauseous and start wanting to vomit, that’s a pretty good sign that they need to move out of the heat and into a cooler area and take steps to actively cool themselves because ultimately if that continues then it can progress to heat stroke which is a condition where the consciousness becomes altered and it can actually result in damage to your internal organs, and that’s obviously not something we want. We don’t want our liver or our kidneys failing because we let ourselves get too hot. I think the main thing is, when you start to feel that sickness from the heat—that’s a good time to stop and get out of the heat. Everybody that I see who has a heat stroke, had a period of time when they felt really bad before they had a heat stroke. And so, if they’d have taken advantage of the warning that their body was giving them at that time, there would have not been an issue.

Heed the warnings your body provides, and listen to the good doctor regarding the best way to shield yourself from the intensity of a Texas summer…

[Dr. Ziebell—10] Prepare for it … have access to lots of liquids. Recognize that what you sweat out is not pure water, so what you take in should not be pure water.


Water may seem like an obvious choice…but Dr. Ziebell says it is not the best choice long-term when exerting oneself in the Texas heat.

[Dr. Ziebell—36] To some extent, water is fine, but after a certain amount you need some sort of electrolyte solution. So, either replacement electrolyte solutions or the commercial things like Gatorade, Powerade, that sort of thing. I know some diabetic folks who will use Pedialyte because that’s got the balanced electrolytes without the sugar…. If you’re sweating out a lot of sodium, potassium and chloride and you’re taking in nothing but water, eventually you are going to wash away all of those and you’ll develop hypokalemia, hyponatremia and those are conditions that can result in a lot of those muscle cramps and spasming, abdominal cramping and some of that kind of stuff.

The park staff at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area have begun taking some preventive steps to ensure that visitors are staying hydrated while out on the trail. Doug Cochran.

[Doug Cochran—18] We routinely have water stations around the park on our loop trail because there’s nothing out there. We put five-gallon buckets out there in five different locations and those are usually empty by the end of the day. So that’s 20 gallons of water that our visitors are using.

Keeping yourself hydrated is not the only thing visitors need to keep in mind.


Dressing smart for a day in nature is also extremely important. It’s recommended that anyone spending time outdoors wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, a hat, correct shoes, sunscreen and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun.

[Dr. Ziebell—14] You want clothes that are going to both breathe and wick your sweat away. It’s that evaporation of sweat that’s going to help you cool so if the sweat is puddling and pooling in the type of clothing you’re wearing, then it’s not allowing it to be effective for what nature designed it for.

Enchanted Rock Superintendent, Doug Cochran, says sometimes people who head to parks aren’t wearing clothing that was made for the outdoors.

[Doug Cochran—22] We’ve seen some really strange things out here- high heels, cowboy boots, shower shoes- but for the most part people are wearing either tennis shoes or hiking boots. You don’t have to wear hiking boots, it’s good, but just a good pair of tennis shoes or closed-toe shoes that can grip would be sufficient.

Another member of the family impacted by the heat are the dogs that accompany their two-legged owners on their visit the park.


[Doug Cochran—27] Dogs don’t perspire like we do. They pant and they perspire from their paws; you know, you are wearing shoes. So you are a little bit insulated from the heat of the decomposed granite or the granite of the rock. Pets aren’t. Probably one of the best things you can do is put your hands on that granite or put your hands on that decomposed granite. If that’s too hot for your hand, it’s going to be too hot for the dog.

Last year, in the span of a week, three dogs passed away because of heat-related illnesses.

[Doug Cochran—23] We are all pet lovers here and we take it very hard that some pets died... Two dogs were with the same owner…They were indoor pets. They were on the loop trail. Even though it’s crushed granite there, it’s still very, very hot. That same week another pet passed away because of the heat and the owners were devastated.


If you’re planning to take your pooch to the park, there are steps to take to make sure your dog’s prepared for the outdoors. Dr. Bob Dittmar is the Veterinarian for the Wildlife Division of at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

[Bob Dittmar—21] First off, dogs much like people need to acclimate some what to do the they need to be acclimated to do the activity. Particularly in the summer time, May, June, maybe even back into April, we tend to have a lot more humidity then later in the summer even though the temperature might be higher, we have more humidity and it’s more difficult for those pets, particularly dogs, to cool themselves in humid weather.

If you plan to hit the trail with Fido, and he’s mostly an inside pet, take heed.

[Bob Dittmar—26] If that pet is used to being indoors, don’t take him out for a 20-mile run or hike. Work up to that. Plan rest stops while you’re out hiking to provide water and make sure those are in the shade so they have an opportunity to cool off. Make your pet rest. Don’t allow them to continually be active. With heat stroke you sort of get a cascade of events that happens and once they start, it’s hard to stop them. You want to prevent those from overheating before they start.

Some pet owners believe that shearing a dogs’ thick fur coat during the summer months will keep it cooler…

[Bob Dittmar—34] And that’s true, but there’s an acclimation phase. The hair on a dog is much like wearing a hat outside. It protects you from the sun and if you shear a dog and immediately expose them to sunshine, they’re not going to tolerate it as well. They can actually become sunburned if it’s a lighter-skinned dog and it takes them a little while to adapt to that lack of protection that the hair provides from the sun even though it does provide for some cooling. You need to be alert for the signs of heat stroke happening, like we said, watch out for those things and try to stop it before it becomes severe.

If you take your dogs on the trail this summer, look out for signs of dehydration.

[Bob Dittmar—27] A lot of those will go along with the same signs we saw in people. If we’re going to talk strictly about dehydration it would be dry, tacky membranes in their mouths, maybe their skin when they start to become very dehydrated will tent. Just like it does with people when you pull up loose skin, it would not immediately go back to its flat shape. It would stand up and stay there. Once you’re seeing signs of tenting in its skin, that animal is pretty dehydrated and that’s a serious event at that time.


Keeping pets hydrated is only one part of looking after your dogs while they are in parks. Another common heat-related injury for pets in parks are blistered paws.

[Bob Dittmar—26] Well, the blistered paws is probably going to require some kind of treatment. It may not be something that you need to address immediately but it’s going to be painful and you’re probably going to need to seek veterinary care for that pet quickly, but it may not be an emergency at that particular time depending on the severity. That would probably require some antibiotics, some ointment and maybe even bandaging those feet until they heal. Probably should be done with the help of a veterinarian.

In parks such as Enchanted Rock, pet owners are being proactive to try and protect from blistered paws.

[Doug Cochran—11] I’ve seen some people that planned ahead, and they actually brought booties for their dog. That provides them some protection against the hotness of the decomposed granite or the granite.


So, if you do hit the trails this summer, here are some important tips to keep in mind before you lace up your hiking shoes for a day in a park.

[Bob Dittmar—43] Go prepared. Think about what you’re going to do. Allow your pet to acclimate and be in shape, make sure you have water, and a way to cool that pet…Never leave it unattended in a car…You might want to consider limiting activity especially in the really hot weather to early morning and late evening when the weather cools down. Make sure you have rest stops and that you watch that pet and make sure it does rest… follow the park rules. Keep your pet on a leash. Do all those things and that will also protect your pet not only from heat related injuries but from other problems they might get into.

Good advice for pets from Dr. Bob Dittmar…and now advice for people from Dr. Zibell.

[Dr. Ziebell—44] Salty snacks contain the sodium chloride salt, so that does help replete … the sodium and chloride you sweat out…So you want to be thinking about also supplementing that with some potassium rich fruits to have with you. So if you are going to be spending a day out on the lake, for example, salty chips are fine, having some beverages there, then also some kind of fresh fruits to replete that potassium that you sweat out. Doing all three of those together. Sunscreen would be great to keep…Wear headgear. Some kind of a hat, to provide shade. If you find yourself getting overheated, quickly cooling yourself is the best thing to do, so jump in the lake, take a cold shower, pour some water on your head, and then rehydrate, rehydrate, rehydrate.

[Doug Cochran—25] Bring lots of water. 32 ounces of water for every person in your group for every hour you are going to be walking out there. So, if you are going to do our loop trail, the trail is four and a half miles long. It takes about two hours, so you are going to need half a gallon of water per person. You may think that that’s a lot of water, but wouldn’t you rather have too much water than not enough?


Find links to more heat hacks and outdoor safety tips on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Have fun in the sun this summer with your four-legged friends... I’m Stephanie Garcia.



This is Under the Texas Sky from Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m …Cecilia Nasti.

Coming up…I catch up with the Neve siblings who are still trying to get outside together in 2019. And we have a Shout out to the Wild…from a podcast listener who had a revelation about the stars at night. But first…

Support from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation allows us to bring you stories from Under the Texas Sky. In fact, since 1991, the Foundation has raised more than $190 million to conserve the lands, waters and wildlife of our state. You can help by becoming a member. Find out how at WeWillNotBeTamed.org


If you’ve listened to the podcast, you’ve probably come across Cassandra and Christopher Neve—the 20-something siblings who are estranged from the outdoors. For 2019 they pledged to spend more time in nature and share their adventures with us through audio diaries. Things haven’t worked out so well.

[Cass & Chris—15]

[Cassandra] Now that Christopher has a full-time job, and I have a full-time job and a part time job—our schedules are completely opposite. So, finding time for us to go out has been…

[Christopher] It’s been difficult.

I invited the Neves to my home on a Sunday afternoon (the only day both had free together). I wanted to talk with them about some of the challenges they’ve had coordinating their schedules for outdoor adventures…adventures that have been—in a word—fails.

[Cass & Chris—2:32]

[Cassandra] I think every time we’ve gone out something has gone wrong. We went fishing—and we had an awesome time fishing, and the wind was so bad none of the audio was good. We planned this whole day hike and were going to go hiking up in McKinney Falls—and the rain did not stop at all to the point where all the trails were closed, so we couldn’t do that. Then this last time, Christopher and I remembered that we used to love to go Geocaching with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and our family. And so, we got excited. We found all these really awesome cashes to go find; and that was in Pedernales [State Park] and…we had no cell service and couldn’t use our APP that we downloaded to help us find our geocaches. I mean, we enjoyed our day that day, but…man…nothing went right.

[Christopher] Well, it’s annoying, but you got to kind of just push through it. I remember back in the day we used to print out the geocaching locations; we had a GPS so it would still work. You didn’t need cell phone service. And lately, whenever we tried to look some up, it was all just APP based on your phone. It was kind of like—that was weird. Because, I’m pretty sure when we were younger, Mom would just Google, or was it like Ask Jeeves—or whatever it was—and be like: Geocaching near me or near Austin. And then it would come up with like a printable page of: Start here. Go that way. Go that way. And you found it. And that’s not how it is anymore.

[Cassandra] And this last time we went out to Pedernales was beautiful; we didn’t get to go geocaching, and then we almost got…what? Smothered to death from the smell of these flowers that we were walking through?

[Christopher] We’re just kind of checking them out, you know: Yellow. White. Some blue. Some red. But the majority of it was…that we remember… is the smell. Because it was like, oh look at all of these pretty flowers, and it was like—nose twitching. Cassandra’s nose twitching. And I’m like, what is that smell. And the deeper we got into this field of flowers, the worse it got. Where we almost couldn’t even breath anymore. It just got super intense.

[Cassandra] It really reminded us of the scene in the Wizard of Oz, where they’re walking through the poppies and fall asleep….


[Cassandra] It was like walking through a field of Grandmother’s potpourri. To the point where you just wanted to curl up a little bit and fall asleep in the middle of these flowers. And we didn’t know if it was just us, or if they had just bloomed…or what. But the smell was intense, and we actually had to leave.

Despite their less than successful forays into the outdoors, siblings Cassandra and Christopher Neve are not giving up.

[Cassandra—14] I just feel like we’re pretty open, and we’ll try whatever we need to try. And, if it’s absolutely terrible and everything goes wrong, you know, we still are glad that we tried it. And we’ll just move on to the next one.

Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed that this delightfully dysfunctional duo can coordinate time together outdoors. If you have suggestions for what you think they ought to experience in the great outdoors—and keep it friendly, people—then send us a message. Find contact information at our website: UndertheTexasSky.org.


Roanna Flowers of Austin went to UndertheTexasSky.org recently and shared her Shout Out to the Wild for the night sky over Texas.

[Roanna Flowers—1:50] Hi. I’m Roanna Flowers. I’m a writer in Austin, Texas, and this is my Shout Out to the Wild…Look. Everyone in Dallas thinks they’ve seen it all. At 20, I certainly wasn’t immune to this line of thinking. Before YOLO and FOMO were things people dared to type, let alone say out loud, I decided I was going to go to the desert to see Texas’ so-called mountains—quote unquote. By that time, I had already been to the Rockies and the Smokies. I’d even seen the mountains of Northern Wales. I wasn’t expecting much. See, I thought I had seen West Texas—you know, flat; so flat it seems like you can see the curvature of the earth—on my way to better locales elsewhere. I had a tent. I had a bikini. I had a sports car. I was prepared to be overprepared and underwhelmed. They were nice. You know, nice in a way I would have appreciated better before driving up Pike’s Peak. But still nice—for Texas. And then the sun went down. You know how the song goes, right? The stars at night, are big and bright… I looked up at the sky right outside the McDonald Observatory’s visitor’s center and then I got dizzy. Dizzy and ditzy with so many stars—stars I didn’t realize existed in the wild, so to speak. Or at least outside the confines of an episode of Cosmos. I realized I had never actually seen the night sky. I hadn’t seen it at all. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t even seen a quarter…not even an eighth or fifty-sixth of it. And then gravity said, “Sit down child.” And I sat down right on the desert floor and cried. Now, I’ve seen a lot of things since. But I haven’t seen anything as beautiful, dizzy, stupefying, amazing, awesome as that. I go to Big Bend now every year. Alright, let’s all sing it together, right: The Stars at Night are Big and Bright…

Oh, c’mon. You know you want to. Let’s try it again: the stars at night are big and bright….


That’s better. Let us know what you love about the Texas outdoors in our Shout out to the Wild segment. Just visit underthetexassky.org for contact information—like Roanna Flowers of Austin did—and then tell us your story. We’ll be in touch.


And so, we come to the end of another podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife and is available for streaming or download at UndertheTexasSky.org and other places where you get your podcasts.

Thanks again go to Stephanie Garcia for her timely and useful heat hacks for you and your outdoor-loving doggies.

We record the podcast in Austin, Texas at The Block House…and Joel Block does our sound design.

I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti—reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.

Major support for this podcast comes from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation: Conserving Our Wild Things and Wild Places for Over 25 Years.

Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.