So I’ve been listening to podcasts on the National Parks and wilderness type adventures lately, my favorite is Dear Bob and Sue: A National Parks Podcast, and it has made me realize that over the years I’ve taken several unnecessary risks while enjoying the great outdoors. Surprisingly, none of them involve rock climbing, surfing, or even spelunking:
- Not carrying bear spray in bear country. This is probably the biggest risk on my list. I’ve hiked in places like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and others known to have not just bears but Grizzly Bears in them. Though I think I make enough noise to alert any animals that I’m around the reality is that there are some places you just want to be prepared for the absolute worst. If there are bear warnings in the parking lot (Sequoia National Park) it’s probably worth having some bear spray very handy. Especially on a back country trail!
- Going into the woods alone without telling anyone where I am headed. Traveling alone gives you an amazing amount of freedom. You go where you want, when you want, and don’t have to negotiate anything with other people. However, it also means that if something happens – sprain, fall, bear attack, etc. – you are completely on your own as well remember you can’t rely on cell coverage in the deep woods or mountain tops. Especially if you are on a back country trail and no one knows you are there. In general I’m pretty good about giving people an idea of the area I’ll be in but rarely specifics. A quick text to a loved one at least before hitting the trailhead is always a good idea. If you don’t have cell service there may be a sign in or Ranger’s Station you can check with before venturing out. Don’t forget to let someone know that you’re back, too.
- Not taking a back pack with some essentials. If something does happen in the woods it’s likely that you may have to hunker down for longer than expected before help arrives. Even if only a few hours having some food, water, rain gear, warm clothes (especially in the mountains) and a first aid kit could all be life savers.
And here’s a bonus risk I’ve taken that maybe should be number one: not knowing my exact route before hiking or, in the case that I’m thinking of, while cross country skiing. Let’s just say that my brother and I spent what felt like a couple hours after dark skiing around a state recreation area because we took a wrong turn and couldn’t find where we thought we parked our car!
That’s it – the three things I know that I’ve been guilty of and the top three things that I’ll try never to do again. The great outdoors is a wonderful place to go and explore, but let’s all be safe out there.
What are the biggest risks that you have taken while hiking?
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted in which case the original artist retains all rights. Otherwise photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr