On July 27 last year I wrote a blog titled, "Want to die? Falling is all it takes." On May 17 the Albuquerque Journal carried a brief story, "Hiker killed in fall near Questa." I'll repeat the full story.
On August 9 I put up a YouTube video about a bear encounter, and on August 10 the Albuquerque Journal published my guest column on Forrest Fenn's treasure.
This morning's Albuquerque Journal carried a story titled "Hiker dies in fall at White Rock Canyon." Hikers tend to be most worried about lightning or bears, but many hiking deaths are due to falls.
For me, hiking is not about distances or other goals, but about a healthy aesthetic experience. I want to be in a beautiful place—so I'm a lousy candidate for through-hiking the CDT and its long stretches of road. And when I eat on the trail, I like the food to taste good—no ramen packets for me! Hence my previous blog on taking red and green chile on a hike.
Given that attitude, it's no surprise that I wasn't fond of my standard bear bell. It warns bears as well as any other bell, I'm sure, but the sound is harsh. When I wear it all day, it gets downright annoying. For anyone else out there whose bear bell annoys them, here's one solution.
On a different page I show how to create a storm-resistant, ground-hugging shelter using a DD tarp. For years, when I needed an open-sided awning for milder conditions, I winged it. No longer, thanks to Dutchware's continuous ridge line.
This morning I was jogging past Hyder Park when I saw this kids' play house, made from branches that came down during a storm. I had to take a picture because it's the kind of shelter you can make if you're stuck in the woods overnight.
One problem with remote hikes in New Mexico is the frequent lack of cell phone service. In an emergency, someone may need to hike out, then drive, just to call 911. If you’re hiking alone, an immobilizing injury could be a death sentence. When a pay raise allowed a one-time splurge, I purchased a satellite messenger.
On May 17, 2016 the Albuquerque Journal reported the death of a hiker who had disappeared the previous December, on the Continental Divide Trail between Cumbres Pass and Abiquiu. Hikers found the body in a campground about 10,000 feet above sea level, east of Chama. The apparent cause of death was exposure. The hiker was experienced and had previously completed the CDT as well as the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.
People never plan to get lost or stuck during a day hike, but sometimes it happens. When it does, there's a good chance they'll spend at least one night outside. How miserable they are, and possibly whether they live to see the morning, will partly depend on the gear they brought along.
If you carry the Ten Essentials, you're properly prepared in terms of gear. Also, I've described kits for unintended overnight stays, here and here, but the bulk and weight of those kits may discourage people from carrying them. Here I assume that you're not yet convinced of your mortality and want to carry as little gear as possible; I describe what I consider the absolute minimum gear for an unplanned overnight stay. The good news: that gear weighs six to eight ounces and fits in a quart zip bag.
If you carry a tarp during day hikes, as the emergency shelter called for by the Ten Essentials, DD Hammocks' Ultralight series 3 by 3 tarp (3 by 2.9 meters, or 9.8 by 9.5 feet) is at the Cadillac end of your options. Although it's larger than the 9 by 7 foot tarp featured on my page about emergency shelter, it's 63 grams (2 ounces) lighter. The total weight of the tarp and stuff sack, minus the four provided stakes and guy lines, is 501 grams (17.7 ounces).
On September 28, the Albuquerque Journal reported another deadly incident that may provide life-saving lessons. On a June night, a flash flood tore through a camp set up by eight Boy Scouts and their chaperones. Four Scouts were swept away and one died. The flash flood occurred about 4:30 in the morning, in Ponil Canyon on the Philmont Scout Ranch in northeast New Mexico. The group was camped well above the stream but that didn't protect them from the flooding.
From today's Albuquerque Journal: "State Game and Fish officers are searching for an adult black bear that attacked a 56-year-old man Wednesday morning on a hiking trail near Los Alamos."
The largest headline in this morning's Albuquerque Journal: "Fourth hiker this year found dead in the Sandias." The subhead: "2 men located on Wednesday were experienced hikers." The only reason to blog on such tragic news is to extract information that may help other hikers avoid similar fates.
Yes, you should take a cell phone with you on a day hike, and most people will anyway. Here's the right way to do that.
The Sawyer Mini plus a squeeze bag works well, but it's even better to have a system where you set up, go do other things, and come back in a few minutes to harvest clean water. Here's a mod to do that without having to develop some elaborate system. You can also see the system in a video.