Yes, the summer heat in Yuma was ferocious, and I quickly learned you trifle with it at your peril. Intrigued by the recently dedicated Yuma East Wetlands public park, adjacent to the languid Colorado River, I set out one sunny noon on its 2.5-mile loop trail, thinking the quart of water in my daypack would be sufficient. A half-mile into the trail I was puzzled by the lack of people; after all, the temperature was a mere 100. At what I presumed was the trail’s midpoint, I slumped in some scant shade beside a bone-dry concrete irrigation ditch.
And began to panic. My water was nearly gone, and I felt the desert beginning to sit on my chest. I resumed, although now somewhat wobbling upon the trail. Passing a swamp filled with a dark, stagnant, repellant broth, I noticed my thoughts beginning to slur. At one point, buried amid the park’s trees and shrubs and confused by the trail’s signage, I wondered if I was going around in circles―or going mad.
I finally made it to Gateway Park, my starting point. There, I thrust my head under a blessed outdoor shower likely installed for bathers in the nearby Colorado. I pictured clouds of steam issuing from my head. Never did water─river water, I presumed, so I avoided drinking it─feel so good. I would have stepped completely under the shower─jeans, shirt, hiking boots, daypack, wristwatch, everything─but a family with small children was picnicking nearby and I feared alarming them with such pixilation. Somewhat relieved, I dragged myself another quarter mile to the Yuma Visitor Center, where I rehydrated, gulping two quarts of water as I slumped on a vinyl sofa, grateful to be alive.