Today is the second in our series for Wilderness Survival Week. We at Hike Like A Woman want you guys to have a fun and safe time in the wilderness. Each post this week is centered around safety in the woods. Welcome Ambassador Sarah as she discusses the importance in preparing for the what-if’s.
I pride myself on being a planner. I make lists. I book the travel arrangements for friends and family and research all the places to eat and things to do. I love researching different places to hike or trips to take and have always loved maps.
But for some reason, when it comes to preparedness for emergencies or disasters, I am desperately lacking.
Here have been some of my excuses: why buy stuff for the what-ifs that probably won’t happen; the weight in my pack isn’t worth the extra items on a short hike; other people on the trip are trained in wilderness first aid, so I don’t need to be.
But in the last few years of some experiencing near misses in the outdoors, and reading about a potentially catastrophic earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve started to think more about how I can be prepared, what I can buy, and what I need to learn. And the answers are, a lot.
My first experience of feeling a bit panicked and under-prepared in the woods was when I was camping at Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky with friends. A friend and I decided to leave the rest of the group at our campsite and head out on a short hike with our dogs. I only had a half charged phone, no snacks or emergency supplies, and one bottle of water. I assumed we would only do a few miles and return.
We ended up chatting and hiking longer than we thought we would and then, we made another assumption that the trail was a loop that would head back to camp. We probably hiked 7 or 8 miles, passing a scary cabin in the woods twice, and ending up on a forest service road. I sat down with flies circling while my friend jogged ahead down the road to see where we were.
I was hot, tired, out of water, and my dog was exhausted and ready to be done.
It was getting late in the afternoon and I started to wonder if this is what it’s like to be lost and desperate in the woods. Luckily, my friend found a horse camp trail, and within a half hour, we arrived tired but relieved back to our campsite. At that time, I didn’t even understand what the ten essentials were. There are still times I head out on a short hike without all the essentials when on a short local hike in town, but now when I am out on longer hikes or out of town, I am sure to pack the items I would need if I had to spend an overnight as well as some first aid supplies.
A lightweight water filter weighs almost nothing, and could be a lifesaver.
I’ve also had two experiences in the last few years with some near medical emergencies in the outdoors that really made me realize I need to take Wilderness First Aid to know what to do in those situations instead of feeling frozen and uncertain.
One instance was when I was climbing a crumbly volcano in Oregon with a group of 6 other people. One of the young girls in our group twisted her back taking off her pack while on a break about a mile from the summit. She started having muscle spasms and had to lay down. Luckily, a member of our group was trained in search and rescue and assessed the situation and after some pain meds and stretching, the girl was able to walk out on her own. But…it easily could have been worse, and I’m not sure how we could have carried her out the 4 miles back down the rocky terrain.
L A N D S C A P E S — One of my favourite parts of the Chilkoot Trail was the diversity of scenery. The trail moves from coastal rainforest, up and over the rocky pass, along rivers and alpine lakes, and through tundra. Every day was different and special in it’s own way. I can’t say I have a favorite terrain, but moss-covered forests always make me feel like I’m in a fairytale. What about you? Do you have a favorite landscape to hike in?
The other experience was this summer when my climbing partner shattered her ankle while rock climbing. Other climbers nearby were trained in Wilderness First Aid and took charge of the situation, but if we had been alone, with just my basic first aid supplies, I wouldn’t have only been able to go and find help.
We have a responsibility when we go outdoors to be prepared and not rely on luck or others to save us.
I know I plan to take a Wilderness First Aid class this spring and add some more items to my First Aid kit. I also want to make a disaster kit to have at home. It’s so important to learn what the ten essentials are, be knowledgeable about the terrain, trail, and weather, and take classes to know what to do in emergencies. You can never be prepared for any scenario but you can be ready for the things you know could happen.