Playing it safe in the outdoors this summer

Column by John Akal
Posted 7/21/21

Well, it’s about the middle of the summer season and already we have experienced a few days of extremely hot weather. August is coming so it’s likely that we haven’t seen the last scorcher week …

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Playing it safe in the outdoors this summer


Well, it’s about the middle of the summer season and already we have experienced a few days of extremely hot weather. August is coming so it’s likely that we haven’t seen the last scorcher week of the summer.

With the warm weather a lot of folks are heading outdoors and looking for ways to beat the heat, maybe get a little bit of a tan and experience some of the great natural things that the Golden area has to offer. That’s great, but as I drive down Washington Avenue or head up into the mountains a bit, I see a lot of things that make me cringe a little. Although we think of the great outdoors as our playground around here, there are a few things people need to know or remember when getting out there to enjoy it.

Now, I grew up in Golden. This is my home base and I have gained a lot of outdoor experience over the years and have a few scars here and there to prove it. I have also witnessed plenty of tragedies, to the point where often times just the thought of summer conjures up memories of ambulances showing up on the scene. So, this week I’m going to throw a few things out there to help you enjoy the environment without some kind of mishap happening that you regret.

Let’s start out with Clear Creek.

Yeah, they call it a creek, but for all practical purposes, it’s really a river. And it can get to be a pretty powerful one at that. We’ve passed the high water spring run-off season, but that doesn’t mean that it’s down to a trickle. Always remember that thunderstorms that hit the mountains in the afternoons may pass by Golden but can dump plenty of water into the rivers that ends up down here eventually. The conditions can change fast, so pay attention to that if you are planning to go in the water for anything. The current may be a lot different at 3 p.m. than it was in the morning.

Also remember that it’s a real, natural river, not a water park. It’s full of sharp rocks, debris can wash down it and there’s no lifeguard or clean-up crew. Keep that in mind when your butt is hanging down through the hole while you are tubing. Another thing to keep in mind while tubing is that those things are not as easily maneuverable as a kayak or river raft. The can tip over pretty easily and dump you out of them. There’s a reason why experienced kayakers wear helmets and life jackets and their boats are a lot more stable than an inner tube. Do yourself a favor and take your cues from them. Most have a lot of training in how to safely navigate a river. Wear a life jacket, a helmet and some kind of water shoes with a good solid sole that stay on your feet in the rapids. I have lived long enough to have seen the news stories about at least 50 people who have drowned in Clear Creek. Don’t be the next one.

Also, there is something else in that river that you can’t see, but will totally ruin your week. It’s called Giardia and it’s a parasite that can have you spending a lot of time on the toilet. It’s in every river and stream around here and comes from the contaminated feces of animals that have no aversion to using them as their personal bathrooms. So, try not to swallow any water from the river. Also, your dogs can get just as sick from it as you can. In fact, if not treated, it can kill them. Don’t let them drink the water either.

Sandals, shorts and hiking

Yes, you can wear those when you hit the trails. I know they sell a lot of them at the outdoors stores. They also sell band aids and disinfectant to put in your fanny pack. You might want to check out the hiking boots on the next shelf and the lightweight long pants. Slips, falls, mangled toes and twisted ankles can really ruin your day if you are wearing the wrong thing. Something else you might want to remember is that, uh, rattlesnakes are really hard to see in the brush and tend to strike about ankle high. Yeah, we’ve got those around here. Oh, look…there’s one right behind you.

So, now you have a few things to keep in mind when you are out there. Let’s not have to call 911, OK?

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at


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