July 21, 2020

Are you sure this is the right way?


Summer has set in with its usual severity.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge


The Sun, Sol (Latin), Helios (Greek), Ra (Egyptian), Khorsheed (Farsi), Shams (Arabic), Taiyang (Chinese), Taiyo (Japanese), Tsehaiyi (Amheric), whatever you want to call it, can be hot.  A huge ball of ionized hydrogen, squeezed by gravity to create temperatures at its center on the order of twenty-seven million degrees Fahrenheit, is hot enough for the core to become a huge thermonuclear bomb.  All the energy this continuous explosion creates is shot into the surrounding space as electromagnetic radiation and high-energy particles.  The Earth’s magnetic field protects Terran life from most of the high energy particles, but the electromagnetic energy shines through. The atmosphere is transparent to much of this radiation and the air is not directly heated by it.  It warms the ground, though, and the ground warms the air.  This means the coolest time of day is just before dawn and the hottest around 4 PM.

The forecast for the next leg of our journey, the Southeast side of Belchertown, 6.6 miles away from our last stop on the northwestern side of Belchertown, is for a high of 89 degrees (at 4 PM) and a low of 64 degrees at 6 AM (dawn is at 5:15 AM).  No doubt about it, we gotta leave early.  We agree on starting our sweaty slog at 7 AM.  The temperature is forecast to be 68 degrees, not bad at all, but by the time we finish, at around 10 AM, it’s gonna be 77 degrees.  Burn!  Our meeting place is about an hour and ten minutes away from where I live, so this means Waldo and I have to leave before 5:50 AM.  I have to get up, dress, walk Waldo for his morning poop and pee, and feed us before we go, so I’m waking up at about 4 AM.

Waldo, heck, he don’t care about getting up early.  We’ve been getting up at 4 AM for the past few days to avoid the worst of the heat and he’s ready and eager to go, even though it’s still dark out.  I have to admit, the predawn effort is worth it, once I’ve actually gotten my butt outta bed.  It’s a great time to be out and about in nature — animal life of all kinds is stirring, birds are singing, the shadows are long, cool breezes blow, and there is an inherent pastel beauty shown off by the nascent day.

We use Google to find our route to P’town and the stopping point for the day.   Highways and major streets are avoided, rail-trails are used when possible and minor streets and roads are otherwise preferred.  We look for a stopping place, along the route we choose, that is somewhere around 7 miles from the starting point and looks like it should have a place to park a car.  Google is not perfect.  Today, when we get to our chosen end point, there is no place to park.  We find an alternate that does, but it’s 9.9 miles away from the start.  Ah well.  This last-minute change in plan means we start late, about 7:20.  It’s 63 degrees out.  Not too bad.

We start out and about 2 miles down the road, Google sends us onto a two-rutted track that runs south alongside the Quabbin Reservoir.  It’s well-shaded and quite pleasant.  A couple more miles and this turns into a grassy path, still delightful and relatively cool.  Then we return to suburban streets and eventually a highway (Route 9).  By this time, it’s 10:10 and the temperature is 82 degrees – and we are still quite far from our stopping point.  It was forecast to be 77 at 10 AM.  Damn.  We started late, we chose a longer path to take, made even longer when Google sent us off into the woods, and the weather is a good 5 degrees hotter than forecast.  We humans can take it – we sweat profusely.   Waldo could be in trouble, though.  The only way he can cool off is to pant and rest in the shade.

As the day wears on, I can tell Waldo’s getting well heated.  He’ll find some shade, plop down and pant like a racing steam locomotive.  I give him as much water as he wants and I let him tell me when he’s ready to continue.  Needless to say, we stop frequently and it takes us even longer to complete our hike.  Finally, at 11:35, we reach the waiting oven that’s our car.  The outside temperature is 87 degrees.  The sun is the source of energy that sustains almost all life, but there are times when it is just too much.  Waldo is a real trooper and, although ready to collapse from the heat and exhaustion, he’s fine.  I don’t want to do that to him again, though.  We’re going to have to leave even earlier, before dawn if necessary.  Sigh.

Our next end-point is still to be Googled — that ain’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got.  It will be someplace south of Ware, I think.

For now, once again in the AC at home, it’s chill, rehydrate and rest.


Oh man, bright lights! Bright lights!

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