Things to be aware of when traveling to the Enchanted Circle this summer:
These occur so predominately for two main reasons: while you may be in shape in your hometown, northern New Mexico’s high altitude and low humidity contribute to dehydration and extreme exhaustion; and you're on vacation--it's easy to push your comfort/wise-use limit into the bounds of injury without really being aware of it until it is too late.
Sunburn can be a primary "injury"--and one that can ruin several days of your vacation in the Enchanted Circle. The sun feels more intense at high elevations; there is less atmosphere to protect your skin from exposure. Even at the valley floor, if your home is at sea-level, you are approximately 6300 feet closer to the sun--a difference that can make a radical change in the amount of sun-time your skin can handle before burning.
Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS is a reaction to high elevation levels that can result in headaches, nausea, disorientation, and in extreme cases, needs immediate hospitalization. Generally you are only at risk if you are sleeping at elevations over 8000 feet (which could be multiple places in the Enchanted Circle), but some people have a greater sensitivity.
All of these injuries/illness can put a damper on your vacation--and almost all are easily preventable with a little common sense and keeping the following in mind:
• Drink lots of water--LOTS. The general rule of thumb is drink enough to cause urination at least every three hours. You are easily susceptible to dehydration in northern New Mexico’s low humidity, high altitude environment. You will exasperate AMS symptoms if you are not sufficiently hydrated. If you are out hiking, either carry water with you that you know is safe, use a water-filtration device that removes bacteria, sediment and at least the most common viruses or use iodine tablets to purify stream or lake water. No matter how clean that stream looks, unless you want to spend the next 10 days to two weeks sicker than a dog, don't drink it.
• Don't over do it. Take your time easing into the Enchanted Circle’s outstanding outdoor opportunities. The high altitude makes high-level activities such as hiking and biking much more demanding on your body. You are far more likely to injure yourself when you are over-tired. Pleasantly tired from a day's hike feels good--exhaustion, dehydration and too much sun can ruin your evening.
• Wear protective clothing, hats and sunscreen as necessary for your skin type. Painful sunburn at these altitudes can happen within an hour for people with fair skin.
• Wear the appropriate protective gear. If you are biking or kayaking, wear a protective helmet. Always have an emergency medical kit with you.
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