Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are the hottest days of the year. Named during Roman times, this spanned from July 24 to August 24. In summer the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, rises and sets with the sun. Sirius translates directly as burning or scorching and is known as the dog star as it is the binary star of the Constellation Canis Major. 

The Romans thought that the heat from the closest star to earth added to the heat of the sun to create the hot summer days. These hot days became associated with the dog star and became known as the dog days of summer. We were once in Rome during this and it was hot, hitting 45°C during the day while we were walking on cobble streets surrounded by stone buildings radiating heat. We escaped to our apartment to hide from the heat between 12 and 5pm. We ate cold lunches, laid around trying to stay cool and took siestas like the locals because that is all you can do in that heat. 

As a kid, I remember the scorching days of summer when it was too hot to play regular outdoor games. When the pavement was so hot, you could not walk on it with bare feet. It was when people stayed up later as it was too hot to sleep. At our house, it was when our people gathered and the air was filled with the music of fiddles and guitars.

We were also once in California during the dog days. I remember being in Sacramento with the temperature hitting 112°F (45°C). Sitting at the bottom of our hotel pool was no relief. The water temperature was too warm to cool off. It was too hot to sleep without air conditioning and we could hear people at the river all night long. The same was true in Bakersville. Driving around at 2am because it was too hot to sleep and almost every driveway had people working on their trucks or just sitting drinking beer and listening to country music. 

For thousands of years, people have been heading to the mountains during these hot days to escape the heat of the valley bottoms. The temperature of the air drops about 10°C per 1000 metres. The dog days are good days to hike up to the cooler temperatures during the day.

We have great hiking trails throughout the Elk Valley, Flathead, and Columbia Valley. They are ranked easy, moderate and hard and are accessible with well-marked locations on a variety of trail apps and maps. 

One hike that intrigues me is the Great Divide Trail that begins an hour from here in Waterton National Park and follows the Great Divide north through the Canadian Rockies for 1123 km. On this wilderness trail hikers experience one of the most magnificent settings on the planet with panoramic vistas at every turn, diverse vegetation, abundant wildlife, snow-capped peaks, glacial streams along with biting insects, grizzly bears, hazardous water crossings, mountain navigation and remote trail exit points for supplies and emergencies. 

The Great Divide Trail joins with the Continental Divide Trail in Waterton and goes south for 5000 km passing through five states before ending at the border to Mexico. The trail takes over six months if walking 25 km per day.

We don’t have to travel far or spend much money hiking these phenomenal local experiences, and these hot days are a great time to plan for this kind of ultimate budget slow travel.