December 18, 2012

Cover all your bases and you still might get clubbed by a falling tree

I realize it’s a far cry from sitting at home on the couch watching a football game or raking leaves in the yard or writing for a blog, but the number of folks that wander into the wild and subsequently get lost or hurt is staggering to me. Maybe, in all my escapades outdoors, I’ve just been fortunate. I had no idea so many people took ill-fated turns or slipped on wet rocks in the wilds – until I began searching for these incidents on the internet.

It all started in the fall, when the first snows dropped on some of the country’s highest mountains. Having walked into these wild areas just before the snows fell, hikers were later either found in knee deep snows and frigid temperatures or lost forever. At the time, I figured that covering these stories on Trails, Trials and Trivialities might provide a public awareness opportunity. However, with the time restraints that hound me, there were far too many of these stories to cover. Instead, I have chosen to report only those carrying a level of uniqueness. For instance, the men hiking in Arizona that were stung hundreds of times by bees before being saved in a helicopter rescue.

As the year nears its close, the number of people lost or hurt in the woods continues to grow considerably. So many of these incidents seem preventable. Others are clearly a case of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some are situations in which someone just did not use their head.
Polallie Creek and Mt. Hood lower slope 
ravaged by 1980 mudslide 
I guess I really shouldn’t expect anything more or less. After all, the wilds are where wolves surround newborn elk and savagely bite at them while their mothers try to fend them off. Eventually, the calf is dragged down, often ripped apart and eaten while still clinging to life. I’m reminded of the Pollallie Creek mudslide that took place Christmas day in 1980. Racing down the Northeast slope of Mt. Hood at 40 or 50 feet per second, its 35 foot high wall devoured a camper with a lone man inside. Tragic.

It is a harsh reality. I think of people who enter grizzly bear habitat, there to see the wonders of the wilds, view breathtaking scenery and clear their heads, only to be ravaged by an animal that knows nothing more than to survive, procreate and protect. It may seem paradoxical, the juxtaposition of Mother Nature and her savagery, but it is as real as night and day or good and evil.

Please, watch your step. Use your head. After that, let the chips fall where they may.

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear

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