Thursday, August 14, 2008

Adventures in Stupid

I went on my first 'organized' hike via an online group here in Seattle yesterday. While the leader was friendly and extremely enthusiastic, I thought she was well ... stupid.

Don't be a Laura Palmer

I had to bus out to an East Side Park & Ride to meet up with her so we all could carpool out to North Bend and Mount Si (former home of the TV show, Twin Peaks). The weirdness started at the P&R. I showed up, called her and then spent about 20 minutes on my cell phone trying to figure out where in the P&R she was. Sadly, the woman didn't know east from west or north from south. She kept saying "I'm on the other side of the parking garage". Which other side?

After I met her, she talked a lot about bagging peaks, summiting as quickly as possibly, etc. I calmly said I'd be going at my own pace, as in the advanced-arthritis-in-both-knees-deformed-feet-sane pace. Also, I'd never done the trail and had zero familiarity with it.

Eventually eight other people showed up, most wearing cross-training tennis shoes and carrying, what I thought, were pathetically small water bottles.

After an 85-MPH drive east on I-90 to North Bend, we reached the trail head and our leader (and the other uber fit) bounded off up the trail.

Within 30 minutes I was Ms. Dead Last, which is fine, but the PNW trees are so dense I couldn't see the group and that unsettled me. There were a lot of other people on the trail, herds of roaming Labradors, etc. but still ...

I got about 3 1/5 miles up the trail and was soaked with sweat, my feet were already killing me. I had just bought new/used hiking boots the day before and it was now a brutal contest between my smashed, bruised feet and the inside of the boots which had gone from soft and comfy to hard and unforgiving.

By 7:45 it was shifting from twilight to very dark and I decided to head back down and wait for everybody at the trail head. I had brought a flashlight but I didn't want to be crawling back down the trail in the dark, flashlight in my teeth with my feet throbbing with every step.

At the trail head, I ripped my damn boots off, put my trusty Keen sandals on, watered up, slathered mosquito repellent on and flopped down on a picnic bench to wait. I watched the sun disappear and waited for over two hours.

The main group didn't come down until after 10pm.

Personally, I think this is NOT the way to organize and run an evening hike. I don't care if you're an Olympic tri-athlete and you think the trail is basically an extension of your backyard. Hiking sans organization is a recipe for disaster. The only reason nobody got hurt on this woman's death march? Dumb luck.

I'm still reeling from the fact that she regularly goes out on all-day hikes with her 3-yr-old child sans map and a compass! She told me she was planning on putting her child in some sort of Beginning Rock Climbing Summer Camp ... when he turned four. Yikes!

I'm gonna put on my former Forest Service employee apron here and try and explain a few things. People die in the wilderness all the damn time.

The No. 1 way people get hurt or killed in the wild is THEY SLIP AND FALL. Half the time this can be prevented by not being an idiot: wearing supportive (and yes, comfortable) shoes, going at a moderate pace, watching where you put your feet and not sprinting up the trail like a deer on crystal meth.

Packing enough water so you don't get dehydrated and understanding basic orienteering (like the sun sets in the WEST, so if it's on your left shoulder, you are hiking roughly north, okay?) always helps.

So I wrote a little review of our hiking trip on the website, I was nicer than on here but I'm sure bounding trail runners on too much caffeine now hate me. So what. They're headed for a fall, I'm trying not to.

Hiking was the most common preinjury activity (55%)

Most Popular Ways to Die in the Wilderness

The 10 Essentials for Wilderness Hiking

And looking at the 10 Essentials now I can't help but want to edit a little.

Here's my 10 essentials in order of importance:

1. Water (and/or the means to purify water) (2 liters per adult MINIMUM)
2. Matches (and a lighter or any other fire starter)
3. Extra clothing (a hoodie, fleece, windbreaker, dry socks - SOMETHING!)
4. Knife (or Leatherman Tool or similar)
5. Food (trail mix or something high calorie with carbs and protein)
6. Flashlight or headlamp (more necessary in low-altitude, dense forests vs. high deserts)
7. A compass (and the basic ability to use one)
8. Sunglasses (I'm blind without my prescrip shades)
9. A map (good topographic printout preferred)
10. Simple first aid kit (and/or a mirror or some sort of signaling device)

1 comment:

Mz M. said...

I'd just like to ad this to my own post:

Hiker dies on Mount Si

Yup, you really can die on that popular trail right outside your town.