Because it is so dry in Joshua Tree, water is great for cooling off. According to my calculus-free, 200-level physics education, this works because a tiny bit of the heat energy stored in our bodies is used up every time a water molecule evaporates. It’s almost like the water molecule uses our body’s heat to achieve escape velocity, to become a gas. A lot of water evaporating creates a significant cooling. This is how sweating cools us, if we’re lucky enough to be in a dry area.
So when it is hot, which is every day in the summer, we get wet a lot. Inside, we have spray bottles handy so we can spray each other whenever someone starts complaining about the heat.
Outside, we often hose each other off. A good drenching keeps us cool even on the hottest days, until we are dry. Granted, that might only be for 15-20 minutes on a really hot day, but comfort is worth taking breaks that often.
If we’ve stored up some heat from a bike ride or forgetting to hose off, we also have a stock tank in the yard for dunking ourselves:
The water stays cool even on the hottest days, also because of evaporation, so it is always refreshing to take a dunk. I built the little platform so when we drain the tank, we can water our plants.
We also got a “swamp cooler” from our friends Mike and Sarah. It wasn’t big enough to cool their house, but it’s good for our trailer. Reanna sewed a sleeve to funnel the air into our back window, so we didn’t have to cut a big hole in the wall.
It makes a huge difference. A swamp cooler is simple and effective: A pump pulls hot, dry air from outside through wet sponges, creating cool, moist air inside. The physics involved is similar to sweat-cooling, except the heat energy used to turn the water into a gas is drawn from the air itself.
It requires simple enough plumbing that I could handle it myself:
The most fun way to use water to cool off, of course, is swimming. My mom got Reanna and me a month’s pass to the pool at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center (AKA Mentalphysics) as a wedding present, and we used that quite a bit. It was awesome. Thanks, Mom!
[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, August 22, 2012.]