Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NEVER SAY "I AM JUST....................."
I spent this past weekend roaming around Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the glorious fall colors and the antics of the elk in the early stages of the rut.  I also spent time observing the thousands of people from all over the country there to participate in what has become an annual ritual.  With regard to the people I came home with two impressions.  Firstly it amazed me how few people of those in the park over the weekend actually set foot on the ground and walked anywhere other than the few manicured walkways around two lakes. The mentality seemed to be "If I can't drive there I ain't going there!"  Secondly, of those that did get out of there car how few had given any thought to the possibility of how quickly the weather can change in the Rockies.  Other than those that were obviously headed out to climb the tall peaks the rest of the weekend warriors were under dressed, under equipped and under skilled to cope with a weather change - or any other emergency situation that might have occurred.  Slip-on shoes, shorts and a tank tops were the name of the game.

I have long maintained that the most dangerous trip that you can go on is the spontaneous "Let's take the kids for a walk this afternoon" type of trip.  Little thought goes into the possibility of something bad happening and even less goes into the preparations needed to cope with an accident or incident that place people in danger.  They fall into the "I am just............."  trap! We're just going to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park this afternoon and walk the loop around Bear Lake.  What could possible go wrong?  The sun's out.  We won't be very far from the car and if we get in trouble we'll just call the ranger for help!  A lot can happen and sometimes people die before help can arrive!  Never say "I am just" going to do anything!  Again, you are setting a trap for yourself.  Instead, in anticipation of a trip stop for a moment and consider all of the "what ifs."  Think about the things that might go wrong and ask yourself if you're ready to cope with the consequences of a walk-in-the-park.  And if not then don't put yourself or the lives of your family or friends at risk. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Survival Myths and Misconceptions

Much of the information available to people who want to learn more about survival and surviving is based on material that is outdated and in some cases totally incorrect. Unfortunately the early outdoor writers created a problem for those of us interested in learning how to survive a wilderness emergency today.  Techniques and procedures that were once state-of-the-art are no longer practical.  What was once thought of as an effective procedure is now not only inappropriate but in some cases dangerous.

The times have changed.  The needs of a hunter who gets lost today are different from the needs of the mountain-men who trapped beaver in the American west and lived off the land while doing so.  The individual who gets in trouble today is unlikely to be able to spend a night out in the open without great discomfort.  They will not have devoted sufficient time to practicing survival skills - skills that were once second nature that could be counted on when difficulties arose.  Even a once commonplace skill such as striking a match to light a fire is no longer commonplace.    

If you were to read some of the currently available “how-to-survive” books you would find techniques and procedures that date back to those who survived by manufacturing what they needed from the natural resources on hand.  The question is “How appropriate are these techniques and procedures today?”  In many cases they are not!   However, despite the passing of time, the fact that the material is still in print implies that the information must still be valid. In many cases it is not.  New and better procedures have developed.  New equipment is available.

The result of all of this misinformation is that inexperienced people finding themselves in trouble  still believe that they can rub sticks together and start a fire.  They believe that a waterproof, wind proof shelter can be built from natural materials.  They believe that they can live off the land until they are rescued.  It must be so – it’s in the book!

Many current, popular outdoor writers perpetuate the problem.  Much of the rubbish that is published today would never be published if the writer (or the editor) first went out and tested the procedures they write about.  Instead they “Google” the topic or go to their bookshelf, remove a survival or woods lore book written fifty years ago, extract from these questionable sources some procedure used by Jim Bridger to build a fire and present it once again as if the procedure is still valid today.  Sometimes it is but most often it isn’t

More confusion results from the contemporary experiences of those who survived traumatic incidents.  They quickly become the newest “survival expert!”  They survived therefore what they did to survive must be valid!  Again - sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes people survive in spite of what they did.  They got lucky!  Choose your role models carefully! Read more

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New class graduates

Another class graduated yesterday from the US Forest Service/OutdoorSafe Inc. Survival and Navigation training program.  Seventy-two hours of intense training in the methods of surviving an unexpected night out followed by seventy-two hours learning how to use a map, compass and the Global Positioning System to navigate around the back country effectively.   After five days the students walked away from the US Forest Service Heritage Center, Huson, Montana much better equipped to enjoy the outdoors and to survive in it should the need arise.

Here's what they said about the training:

"Very good course.  Teaches real world, practical skills."
"Very good training.  Used simple techniques that anyone can learn and use."
"Fantastic.  A very practical program which will save your life.!"
"Great.  A lot of practical application."

Contact Linda Carlson for information on next years class to be held 31 August - 4 September  2012

Ninemile Ranger District
20325 Remount Rd.
Huson, MT  59846
(406)626-5410  Fax: (406)626-5403
Email: lrcarlson@fs.fed.us

Blue crinkly tarp emergency shelter

Which way's home?

Instructor and student in plastic bag shelter

Platform and brace Fire

Learning the shortcomings of a space blanket!