Surviving the Great Outdoors

Sep 10, 2010 Leave a Comment

As those of you who read this on a regular basis already know, I spend a lot of time outdoors.  It's part of the job description.  There are so many things I like about being outside.  Waking up to the rippling sounds of a stream with the sun shining in my tent is very relaxing.  In the forest, there is beauty all around in the form of vibrantly colored flowers of all types and tall trees stretching up into the clear blue sky.  Sitting around the campfire with a cold beer is the perfect ending to a long day.

A lot of people, when I tell them what I do, are very envious of my job.  I get to be outside all the time, and get paid for it!  But I'm here to tell you that it isn't all sunshine and roses.  There are monsoons, often with hail.  The temperature can go from scorching hot to freezing cold in what seems like minutes.  I have to drive between 4-6 hours just to get to the part of the forest I'm working in, often alone.  Even though waking up to the sounds of the stream is relaxing, the real wake up call is crawling out of my sleeping bag and into the cold morning, bright and early, to go to work.

I get the impression that many people think I get to frolic around in the forest willy-nilly, doing whatever I want like it's no big deal.  But there are a lot of things to think about in my position.  First and foremost is safety.  Out in the woods, there is the potential to fall off a cliff, get your vehicle stuck in the mud, be bitten by a poisonous spider or a rattlesnake, get heat stroke, or hypothermia, get a cut that could become infected, and so much more.

About a month ago, a girl I met in a training last year was killed in an ATV accident while at work.  It's been on my mind ever since.  Also recently, a University of Michigan student fell to her death while descending from a peak in the Grand Tetons.  She got ahead of her hiking partner who thought she had already made it back to the camp.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sticking with your hiking partner at all times.  In potentially dangerous situations, two heads are always better than one.  Plus you never know what could happen along the trail, and by the time the person ahead of or behind you figures out what's going on, it could be too late.  Some of my co-workers do not follow this policy and it really bothers me.  While it is important to finish the job in a timely manner, nothing will get done if you get too excited and make careless mistakes.

I'm not telling you all this to scare you away from ever going outside again.  The world is a beautiful place with lots to explore.  But it can also be a dangerous place if you don't know what you are doing, and even if you do (or think you do).  I've been camping and hiking regularly for several years now and I still make plenty of mistakes.  Luckily, none of them have been too serious, but it has made me aware that problems can and do occur.

That said, if you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm off to the wilderness for an extended pack trip starting on Monday.  I should be back the following Tuesday night, and then I will have five wonderful days off!  Something to look forward to.


  • Anonymous said:  

    I lived in a ranger station in the middle of nowhere for seven years......all I wanted to do for vacation was go to town:)

    I second the buddy rule (althoough I have been known not o follow it:( Bad girl.

    ps-I changed blogs:)

  • Sprite's Keeper said:  

    I do envy you the view, it must be spectacular, but I get nervous about almost everything, including snakes, bugs, and strangers. I think I'll stay indoors. Welcome back!
    You're linked!

  • Chloe said:  

    I know I couldn't do it. I admire you. You're very brave.
    How do you have showers in the middle of the forest?
    What do you do if you are sick?

  • Maureen said:  

    There are no showers, although I've seen some other campers bring portable camp shower things. Some people use the creek to wash off, but I wouldn't advise it because of giardia and things like that. I usually just take a shower before I leave and hope for the best :)

    If you're sick, it depends on how sick you are, I suppose. If it's an emergency we would call dispatch on the radio to have paramedics or whatever sent up. Otherwise, just take medicine.

  • Anonymous said:  

    I hope your big trip goes well and without any bad accidents. I've been frequenting the trails alone in my local state parks, but I always go during daylight, take plenty of food and water with me, and keep my cell phone on me. The state parks and forests in MA aren't nearly as large or treacherous as the ones where you are, but that doesn't mean I can't trip over rocks.

  • Maureen said:  

    I used to hike alone all the time at Red Rocks in Vegas, mainly because it was a popular place and I knew a lot of people would always be around. Plus there were well established trails that were easy to follow. So in that case, I think it's ok.

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