Editor column: Don’t forget the sunscreen
This is not intended to be a boastful message, but I may have reached the pinnacle of stupidity this past weekend.
I have the photos and peeling skin to prove it, but let me explain.
What was planned as a relaxing couple hours at Rifle Gap Reservoir Sunday turned out to be a gamble with, in hindsight, extremely poor odds. After throwing the car in park at the swim beach, I asked Sam if she grabbed the sunscreen from my hiking backpack. Fully expecting he to say “yes,” we found ourselves facing a crucial decision when she answered “no.”
Do we risk a couple hours in the sun without any protection or do we drive the 20 minutes back home to fetch the sunblock and cut our visit in half?
I was covering some work duties for the Glenwood Post Independent this past weekend, which seemed like a good enough excuse to push writing my Monday page 1 story on Louisiana relief efforts into Sunday evening.
We set out to the gap with the understanding that we’d need to be back on the road by 3 p.m. in order for me to have enough time to write the story without irritating the Sunday designer who puts the paper together.
It was around noon when we arrived, and rather than trek back home I convinced Sam, and myself, that we would be OK without the sunscreen.
“We’ll only be here for a couple hours. It’s not even that sunny. I’ll just wear my shirt.”
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
For those who have not met me in person, I’m what you might call “a fair-skinned guy,” which is a polite way of saying “a person who turns into a human-sized lobster after a couple minutes in the sun.”
Both Sam and I are fairly mindful when it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun. Most hiking adventures include several applications of sunblock, just to be safe.
(It might be worth noting that two of three bottles of sunscreen we had disappeared at some point during the past four weeks.)
While she has a complexion much more suited for extended sun exposure — the type of skin that turns brown, not red, and draws envy from pasty folks like myself — her concerns stem from health detriments, mainly skin cancer.
She, being the more rational of the two of us, is right to be concerned.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. In 2013, the most recent year for such data, 71,943 people were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin — 42,430 men and 29,513 women. Those numbers do not include non-epithelial skin cancers, which represent 7 percent of skin cancers tracked by central cancer registries, and they do not include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are not tracked by registries, according to the CDC.
Did I mention she is right to be concerned?
Unlike Sam, I take a more narrowed approach. I’m just a fan of being able to move around free of excruciating pain, and although being purple would be very festive say around Mardi Gras, it’s a color I don’t pull off particularly well.
After 2 ½ hours parked on the beach, the result was both excruciating pain and a nice deep red color on my back and legs.
The question that played over and over as I grimaced in bed Sunday night — sleeping was too painful — was: How could I have made such a decision after a lifetime of lessons indicating that the sun and I are not friends?
It took less than five days in Colorado for me to learn that I burn even on a rare overcast day. A two-hour hike to the top of Tenderfoot Mountain in Salida on such a day left me bright red just in time for my first week at work (much to the delight of my new coworkers, who seemed to find joy in informing me of my ignorance).
I’ve largely avoided bad burns since then, which may have fed my amplified whining Sunday night and Monday.
Sometimes we just need a painful, remedial lesson on some of life’s facts, including never forgetting the sunscreen.
Ryan Hoffman is still complaining about how it hurts to walk. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at email@example.com.