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Published July 06. 2010 05:00PM

With the Northeast in the grips of the first lengthy heat wave of the season, many are naturally drawn to places like pools and air conditioned facilities to find relief.

It seems especially brutal in the inner cities where the only outside help for residents could be a garden hose, sprinkler or, if a city provides for it, a fire hydrant. Officials in some bigger cities such as Philadelphia, however, warn that only a limited number of their hydrants are equipped with recreational sprinkler caps and that it's illegal for anyone to crack open a hydrant.

Although this region boasts some of the best-managed outdoor activities anywhere, there are hidden dangers for those who embark on their own along the popular hiking and boating areas. There will always be some who, in attempting to seek relief from the heat on their own, venture into uncharted waters along our lakes and rivers.

The sight of a pool of water or cascading falls may appear refreshing, but when unsupervised by trained personnel, these can quickly turn into danger zones. Although they appear as jewels in our scenic wonderland, areas along the Lehigh Gorge and the Nay Aug Gorge and Falls, near Scranton have often been as dangerous as they are breathtaking to experience.

Some Internet sites have also been criticized for promoting illegal activities in these areas. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1989, the Nay Aug Gorge and Falls has gained an Internet reputation as a swimming hole, although the activity is illegal and the area has been the site of a number of drownings in its history. One online site even made it an honorable mention in the 'Coal Region Top 10' for swimming holes and pools.

Videos showing people jumping off cliffs into a gorge or swinging off ropes and splashing into the water might make for dramatic Internet viewing, but this activity is extremely dangerous, and it can cost you. Trespassing at the Nay Aug Gorge can lead to a $300 fine.

As this week continues, people seeking relief from the scorching temperatures are advised to stay hydrated and not do something as dangerous as the heat itself - like taking an illegal plunge into some remote and unguarded area in our great outdoors.

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