Wild Side: Area micro-climates offer relief from the heat

    It is that time of the year again. It. Is. Hot. 

    Oh the August dilemma: Do I pull the shades and huddle in the almost-dark, semi-tolerable indoor and binge watch the latest Netflix mini-series? Or, do I go outside and risk spontaneously bursting into flames? 

    Being a hermit has never been my strong suit, but the heat is really starting to get to me. 

    July 2016 was the hottest month in the history of recording the Earth’s temperature. Let that sink in for a second ….

    On the bright side, if you live here in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, you’re in a great place for a changing climate. The reason why has to do with “gradients.” Environmental gradients are caused by factors such as altitude, weather patterns, ocean proximity and geologic complexity. 

    Here we have such a range of environmental gradients, researchers believe that the natural systems in our region are better able to adapt to climate change. They have dubbed our region a possible “climate refuge.” 

    Think about it, critters and plants won’t have to travel far to find better temperatures for survival. This is especially true because we have many microclimates in our region due to these gradients. You may have experienced an unpleasant microclimate on a hot day — a parking lot can trap heat in the asphalt and can create a very hot microclimate. 

    But there are also cool microclimates. If we go near streams it’s cooler. Same with a lake. Or head into the shade of a deep canyon. If we go under the protective canopy of the old-growth forest, you got it — cooler! This can make all the difference in the world on a day like last Saturday, where we experienced a record-breaking 105 degrees. 

    Luckily here in our region, we don’t have to go far to find relief. 

    The Pacific Ocean keeps our nearby coastal areas very mild, and daytime high temperatures in summer months are often 40 degrees cooler on the coast. 

    It’s the fact that we have all of these micro-climates in close proximity to each other that gives scientists hope that species might be able to adapt by shifting their ranges in the changing climate. 

    For us humans, these gradients will make it easier to find a reprieve from the scorching heat. We can beat the heat by shifting to the cooler microclimates. Brookings here we come! 

    If you are feeling brave enough to venture out of the comfort of home, there are a few things we can do to beat the heat and still explore the natural wonders in southern Oregon and northern California. 

    It is cooler in near water. There are several lakes to the east of Ashland near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and in nearby Wilderness Areas. Be careful of some water bodies at low elevations in late summer, like the swimming reservoir above Lithia Park. Check out KS Wild’s Rogue RiverkeEper website (rogueriverkeeper.org, click on Swim Guide) to ensure that the bacteria levels are safe. 

    It is cooler at higher elevations. The Siskiyou Crest offers hikes at higher elevations that are much cooler on a hot day. Nearest to Ashland, in the eastern Siskiyous, is our very own Mt. Ashland. I like to explore the nearby Pacific Crest Trail to the west of Mt. A. 

    It is cooler if you go west. The coast is always much more mild than the inland valleys. If you have an entire weekend, check out the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in very northern California. It is home to a phenomenal microclimate called Fern Canyon that is sure to offer a break of the heat. 

    If you would rather stay inside, come check out the KS Wild Annual Dinner for the Wild on Oct. 1. It is a party for a purpose, in the controlled microclimate of the Historic Ashland Armory. You can go to kswild.org for tickets and find out more about the event.

    Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.

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