- High temperatures in the mid-90s in the forecast Saturday-Sunday
- Solano County first-responders stationed themselves in the parking lot last weekend, supporting dozens of hikers
- But help like that will not always be so close by, so you must “know your own limitations”
High temperatures in the mid-90s are forecast this weekend at UC Davis’ Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, down from last weekend’s 105 degrees, but still extreme and still warranting caution by would-be hikers.
Unlike last weekend, the National Weather Service has not issued a heat advisory. UC Davis officials, however, in a statement on the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve website, advise: “Hot summer conditions may be dangerous for hiking in wildlands. High risk of fire and heat illness.” Signs at the reserve include drawings of gallon-size plastic jugs, indicating that’s the recommended minimum amount of water you should take with you.
The website for the popular hiking destination at the south end of Lake Berryessa also states: “UC Davis strongly discourages hiking in very hot weather and in periods of high risk of fire or flood.”
Authorities in Solano County agree. Their agencies are among the first to be called to emergencies at Stebbins Cold Canyon, much of which — including the parking lot and trailhead — lies within Solano County.
Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve managers advise hikers: Check the weather, carry lots of water (at least 1 gallon per hiker) and turn around if you think the heat is getting to you. But how do you decide when to turn around on a loop trail? If you think you’ve gone halfway or more, you might decide to press on. Many times, though, people have not gone as far as they think they have, and turning around would have been a better decision.
So, how do you know how far you’ve gone? With GPS tracking on your smartphone, on a new app developed by UC Davis computer engineering students. GPS, of course, works off satellites — so there’s no need for internet service, which is unavailable at Stebbins. But you will need the internet to get the app — so be sure to download it before you go. It’s available at this time for iOS only (search for “Stebbins Cold Canyon” in the Apple App Store, and you’ll need iOS version 11.3 or later).
Last weekend, as they have done in the past, Solano first-responders stationed themselves in the Stebbins parking lot to warn would-be hikers of the heat danger.
Members of the county search and rescue team and the Vacaville Fire Protection District took on the volunteer duty, said Kevin Ives, assistant coordinator of search and rescue, who was among the weekend crew. “We conducted a very successful preventive mission,” he said. No major heat-related incidents, no calls to the California Highway Patrol for rescue by helicopter.
Still, there was plenty for the first-responders to do, not the least of which was handing out more than a case of iced water bottles to hikers coming down the mountain.
“Over two days we met and supported dozens of hikers,” Ives said. “Those most in need from exposure to the extreme heat were provided with fluids and cooling.
“The risk of unprepared hikers developing life-threatening dehydration and heat exhaustion was significant.”
UC Davis is being proactive, too, rolling out a new tracking app (see box) and installing new signs, including more distance markers, and will soon erect three new information kiosks. In addition, UC Davis is posting stories to its home page and using social media to spread the word.
Ice water, cold towels and AC
Despite all the warnings last weekend, some people went hiking anyway — and the first-responders stood by to help.
“On Sunday, using the OES air-conditioned trailer, five hikers were provided with ice water and cold paper towels to recover from the heat,” Ives said, referring to a trailer from the county Office of Emergency Services.
Ives said two pairs of hikers appeared to start their climb with adequate water supplies, but who returned about 30 minutes later saying the canyon was much hotter than they had anticipated.
Indeed, Ives said, the hiking trails are beautiful but challenging. “Please plan accordingly,” he said. “Bring enough water, dress appropriately for the terrain and do not hike during extreme temperatures.”
Ives also cautioned that everyone needs to maintain responsibility for themselves. “Our volunteers are committed to helping,” he said. Still, he emphasized: Don’t count on public safety personnel to be there every weekend to check on you before or after a hike.
“We look at the weather to determine if we are going to be out there,” he said. “While it is forecast to be warm this weekend, it is not to the level that we would be there.”
The bottom line: “Rely on yourself to know your own limitations and heat-related conditions,” Ives said. “If you rely on emergency services only and not yourself, it may be too late by the time we find you.”