Embrace August’s Dog Days

I have so looked forward to the Dog Days of August*, that period of summer when the heat, exacerbated by the humidity, is at its worst. 

If you’re thinking, “How could August be any hotter than it’s already been?” you’d be justified. Meteorologists say this has been the hottest summer on record. I’d venture that it’s also been the muggiest. Of course, I’ll take 90-degree/80-percent humidity days over the 31 days of temperatures 110 or greater that Phoenix endured. 

So why would I look forward to an even hotter August? Because the arrival of the Dog Days means that while it may get even hotter, the end of summer is nigh. You know how March is, “in like a lion, out like a lamb? It’s similar with August: After the Dog Days of summer comes the reward of September and the promise of fall. September may enter with the final wag of the Dog Days, but it exits with daytime temperatures in the 70s and overnight lows dipping into the 40s. It is the gateway to the clear skies and cool temperatures of October. It also ushers in the peak of fall and the best hiking of the year. And it all begins with the end of the Dog Days of August. 

Even better, you don’t need to wait until the Dog Days are over for that first hint of encouragement. Shortly into the Dog Days you’ll stop following the weather forecast because it calls for relentless heat. (Also because it can never get the chances of rain right.) So one morning as you step out the door and prepare to step into a wall of muggy heat, you’ll be struck by a most unexpected thought:

Long sleeves?

For snuck into that string of 75-degree mornings will be one in the upper 50s. Why? There’s probably a meteorological explanation, but frankly I’ve long suspected that along about this time the universe knows we need a break, a sign of encouragement. A reason other than the calendar to push us through the Dog Days and into fall. 

Take heart. The end is near. A 50-something morning awaits, and before long the start of fall. Until then, embrace the Dog Days. Maybe even with a hike!

* Technically, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, the Dog Days of August, are mostly in July, from July 3 to Aug. 11. So why aren’t they the Dog Days of July? Let us not quibble nor get caught up in mythological and astronomical fact. The Dog Days of August have, in modern times, been associated with August. Let’s run with that.

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Three of our favorite Dog Days hikes

Why? For different reasons. All are guaranteed to work up a sweat, all offer a different type of reward. You can find more information in our “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina.”

  • Summer evening along the Eno.

    Moore’s Wall (4.2 miles) and Hanging Rock (1.6 miles) trails, Hanging Rock State Park (Hikes No. 38 and 39, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). Whether you take the short, 1.6-mile hike up to Hanging Rock or the more challenging 4.2-mile Moore’s Wall Loop Trail, your reward is the same: a most refreshing dip in the park’s 12-acre lake, which has a nice beach to boot. 

  • White Pines Nature Preserve, 3.5 miles, Chatham County south of Pittsboro (Hike No. 44, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). One reason the Triangle Land Conservancy was attracted to this property was its unique white pine stand, a stand made possible by the cool, north-facing slopes where temperatures are often 10 degrees cooler than they are nearby. A cool hike in a montane landscape — in the Piedmont. 
  • Buckquarter Creek/Holden Mill trails, 4.1 miles, Eno River State Park (Hike No. 14, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina”). This figure-8 loop spends half its time along the rocky Eno, half atop a ridgeline — the best of the summertime hiking world. Back at the trailhead, you can cool your feet in the river at Fews Ford.

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