Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ragged Top, and sunburned ankles

I read in the paper about a scenic drive just west of Tucson. It was too hot for a hike. Normally I don't go to places described in the paper on the same day they're in the paper because that's when everybody else goes. I braced myself for crowds and went anyway. It was a very humid day. The truck's air conditioner iced up after about an hour on the road. I ran it on recirculate the rest of the trip, once I got the ice cleared out. It didn't take long to clear it out with an outside temperature of 104.

This is Ragged Top, the main thing I wanted to see on this drive.

It was 109 by the time I got to the dirt road that goes around Ragged Top. I climbed to the top of a very small hill to get the picture above and was glad I wasn't going to be out there for very long.

Yes, it's hot, but there's dark clouds over the Catalina Mountains (which can't be seen here).

By the time I started going around Ragged Top, there were dark clouds approaching from the southeast. Tuscon always seems to get more rain that Phoenix during the monsoon rainy season. Phoenix often gets the dust blown out by Tucson's storms. I started to think I might get stranded by flooded washes. The rain is never as heavy as it looks from a distance, though.

My last picture of Ragged Top with sun shining on it.

It never rained while I was on dirt roads. I drove through some sprinkles on the highway on the way home. It was far from being the downpour I was hoping to see. Also, I only saw 2 other vehicles the whole time I was out there.

Now, about the sunburn. No, I didn't get sunburned again. Google searches for sunburned ankles seem to be one of the most common ways that people get to my blog this time of year. I thought I would provide some more details about my experience for those searchers. I don't think I was ever able to find any description or account that matched what I had experienced and I bet a lot of other people are finding the same nothing.

A few years ago, I had gone tubing on the Salt River and had smeared a highly touted sunscreen thickly on my legs, and they were still greasy at the end of the day. Maybe the chemical that blocks UV had washed out of the greasy stuff, though. My ankles were badly burned. Sunburn is painful, of course. It hurts if you bump it, it hurts to put clothes over it, it hurts if the sun shines on it, it hurts to take a shower, etc. But all those hurts are minor, trivial, inconsequential. Sunburned ankles are another whole level of hurt. I was fine until I stood up in the morning. I guess what happens then is that gravity pulls blood down to your ankles and they swell a little. Normally, that isn't noticeable. You certainly can't see it happening and you sure don't feel it. With burned ankles, though, it's excruciatingly painful. If a sprained ankle is a 10, standing up in the morning with sunburned ankles is an 8.5 or 9. Walking keeps the ankles from swelling as quickly. So I would get up and walk in circles in the bedroom. I would make 1 or 2 circles (less than 10 seconds on my feet) before I had to sit down and lift my legs up to get relief from the intense pain. Then I would do it again and again and slowly increase the time I could stay on my feet. After about 10 minutes of this I was able to stay on my feet long enough to go to the kitchen and eat breakfast. I think that the repeated standing allows the skin to slowly stretch as much as it's going to. Several times while standing at the counter fixing coffee or a bowl of cereal, the pain suddenly became so bad I couldn't even get to a chair, and just fell on the floor so I could lift my legs. I had to eat breakfast with my legs propped up on a chair. It was at least 45 minutes after first standing up before I could sit up long enough for the 20 minute drive to work. All day at work, I had to be sure to walk around at least every hour so it wouldn't become too painful to stand up during the day. All this went on for more than a week.

So how do you relieve the pain? I don't think there's anything you can put on your legs that will help significantly. I used some kind of moisturizing lotion with aloe. Maybe it helped, but going from 9.0 to 8.9 on the pain scale isn't a big deal. I thought about trying support hose, but I also thought about scraping my burned skin off trying to get the hose on and off, and I bet that would hurt. I started taking acetaminophen towards the end of the week and that seemed to help, but maybe I was getting better by then, anyway. I didn't take it sooner because I thought I might be allergic to it. Turns out I'm not.

I hope this lets some sunburned people know that their experience is not unique. Sorry I don't have a quick solution. Click below for all of the pictures.


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