Friday, September 20, 2013

197. Soaking Your Bandana

It is hot.

Not just kinda hot, like the hot that people experience when they have a 5 minutes walk between their air conditioned house to their air conditioned car. You wonder how you could have ever complained about the heat before in your whole life. Sure, you've experienced sweltering days before, where a 10 minute walk leaves you soaked in your own sweat and you arrive at work looking like you were just run through a boiling dishwasher.

You remember being 10 years old, your slick and clammy adolescent hands gripping the handlebars of your bicycle, as you peddle madly to catch up with your friends. You felt like your eyes were going to pop out of your head, you were peddling so fast and hard. You remember the air conditioning breaking when you lived in the South, and being completely incapable of sleep, your sheets sticking to your body like saran wrap.

This heat? Right now? The one you're experiencing in the middle of the humid, dank summer of the mid-Atlantics? It's approximately 3 - 10,000 times worse than any other heat you've experienced before. It might not even be the hottest you've ever been, but here's the difference: there is no escape. You are outside, all the time. There are no fans. There are no air conditioners. The water you drink is luke-warm, having baked in the sun all day as it ran gurgling down muddy, quickly drying creeks. The humidity makes it feel like you are trying to hike through a square mile of cookie dough.

You find yourself day dreaming about saunas, the inside of an oven and being a log inside of a fire. You try to fantasize about things that are cold, but though you have a robustly strong imagination, your physical symptoms are currently too strong. The dancing penguins, ice luges and Shaun White are just no match for the heat death of the universe. As you hike, your mind is consumed with an image of the sun expanding, expanding and expanding until it swallows the whole planet like a blue jellybean.

You keep hiking though, trying to make sure you drink enough water to keep yourself from shriveling up into a giant, tan, human-sized raisin. You look down and notice that your water bottle is empty, but luckily you have just stumbled upon a shaded creek, burbling up from the inside of some rocks just off the trail. Your heart begins to beat in happy anticipation, but you check yourself, trying very hard not to get too excited. Sometimes these rock-springs are chilly, because the water comes from deep underground.

You make your way down the side trail to the spring, and kneel down next to it. It glitters amongst the moss, looking delicious and amazing. You tentatively dip a finger into the water, and you shiver in delight. It's cold. This is an incredible treat. You resist the powerful urge to just drink straight from the stream, and instead fill up your water bottle to be treated. But you have one thing you can do while you wait for your water to be drinkable.

You take your sweaty bandana off of your head, and push the entire stinky square of cotton into the water. It absorbs the sweet liquid, becoming a thin sponge of wonderfulness. You do not wring out the bandana, but instead, drape it over your head.

It feels like someone has just dumped a bucket of ice water over you. Rivulets stream down off of your bandana, soaking your hair, running down your face, finding its way down your shirt and to your bellybutton. You stand motionless next to the stream, looking like a Grade A Crazy Person, your bandana covering your whole face like a funeral shroud. The wet stain spreads out over your shoulders and shirt, making it look like you sweat more than a Sasquatch in miami, but you don't care. A chill creeps down your body from the bandana, bringing you a sweet moment of relief.

You do this several more times before you hike on. As a last act, you soak the bandana, then wrap it around your forehead like Rambo, hoping it will retain some of the water in this rolled-up state to slowly leak out over the next hour. It is terrific.

Clever Girl

Remember to wash anything at least 10 feet downstream from the spot where people collect drinking water!

Whistle with not one, but two soaked bandanas, and her blissful, eyes-closed revelry. Side note for the skittish: She's not shirtless under the blue shirt, she's wearing a very light-colored sports bra.


  1. Smartphone not cooperating. SO many kudos I wish I could articulate right now. I met you guys briefly between Molly's Ridge and Gatlinsburg. Hypothermia anyone? I could tell u guys were talented but a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist?!?! Who knew! I had to pull up short at Mt Rogers at mile 500 or so, but I am stoked about the fact that I get to try again one day. Thanks for sharing your scribbles.

    1. Thank you so much for following! I'm stoked for you that you made it 500 miles, that is no small feat! Any amount of hiking makes you a hiker, and I am so happy for you that you plan on doing more of the trail one day.

  2. I say you put that bandana up for auction.

  3. nice to cool off that way, but submerging your sweat soaked bandanna in a spring where the next person may cherish a nice cool drink of water is rude. Next time why not dip a bottle of water from the spring and soak your bandanna away from the spring? I know that if I were the next one looking for a nice drink of water it would be nice to think it was "pristine."

    1. Thank you for your concern! You are absolutely right, anything that is washed should always be taken care of at least 10 feet downstream from a drinking water source. I've just been hiking for so long, and that sort of thing (like walking downstream) is such second nature that I forgot to mention that detail in writing my post. All hikers should definitely be conscientious of how they interact with water sources!

  4. Well done! It is so joyous to have that feeling of ice cold water from a bandanna on a hot sweaty day !!

    1. Thank you! And yes, it is lovely for sure

  5. I would take that offer, but I like you too much to subject you to that!