The nick name bestowed upon me for a couple of decades now by those who know me best, has been Little Miss Preparedness. I always had everything that might possibly be needed stowed somewhere in my pack. The one thing that motivated me above all else was a desire to NOT be a statistic, to NOT be the person written about in the newspaper article. You know the type…the ones that are embarrassing. Experienced back country hiker found frozen….It seems every story about stupid choices are written about those who should have known better. THAT was NEVER going to be about me.
But when hiking near home, I developed a bad habit. I became complacent. And one day not so long ago it caught up with me. That date was December 7th, 2013.
I had an unusual afternoon off, and a brief window to take my dogs out for some exercise and spiritual renewal. It was to be a brief 45minute excursion that would put wags on their tails and increase the oxygen circulating in my bloodstream. We went to a local run of woods that we had visited in the fall, where we would be less likely to run into others. I wanted to let the furbabies off leash to run for maximum expenditure of energy and didn’t want anyone else to feel imposed upon.
I wasn’t worried about losing sight of them since outfitting them in their Redhead Safety Vests. The bright orange with florescent yellow stripes not only assured me that hunters wouldn’t mistake them for targets, but also that I’d be able to spot them at a distance while enjoying the woods. Since I have 4 dogs, the price of $11.99 each at Bass Pro made this an affordable investment in peace of mind.
Things started out relatively well, but within 30 minutes the light sprinkling of snow, changed to massive globs of white dotting the sky, and covering everything including our tracks. I still hadn’t calculated any threat since this was ME, and I NEVER got lost, and this was SO CLOSE to home. I just continued to follow frolicking furbies as we ventured further into the thicket.
It wasn’t even that much longer when I decided that we should turn around, and my decision, quite honestly had everything to do with other things needed to be accomplished and nothing to do with the whiteout conditions that were descending quickly. These conditions were initially enjoyable.
As I continued to video and photograph the doggers, I thought we were on the way out. We were after all, following tracks, our tracks, back to a trail. Wasn’t that a trail? Wait a minute….
Here is where things went frightfully wrong… for four hours. Yes, four hours. And little miss prepared had NOTHING that she always advocated that everyone should have no matter what, when they venture into the woods. I should of refered to My top 10 Survival items but I was to create my own teachable scenario, getting lost in woods, so very close to my home.
As I trudged around looking for where to go, my glasses and sunglasses fogged up. I tried reading the GPS and Compass on my phone but wasn’t able to see through the lens. How many times had I looked at the Nikon Fog eliminator and thought what a useful way to spend $7.99? That price was a bargain taking my current situation into consideration, and it became even more winsome desire as in my struggle to orient myself, I was wearing the battery on my phone down.
Had I brought along a Ray-O-Vac instant charger or 7 hour power charger, another useful purchase I considered but passed on, I might have been able to use my electronics to determine my whereabouts. Instead, I knew my general location, but not my relative location, which would get me back to my vehicle and home. My phone was now dead and I had no idea which way was what. I own both a Silva Scout, a survey compass and a Brunton orienteering compass. Neither was in my pack. I also didn’t have a Coglan ball compass pinned to my coat, something I sold every day to others. Relying on my cell phone compass just made me look more the fool. I was really starting to kick myself.
Luckily, I was able to stay somewhat warm since I was dressed in layers. Starting with my Redhead base layer that wicked the moisture away from my skin so that I wouldn’t get the chills, I followed up with a mid-weight XPS zip collar and bottoms long underwear. Columbia Storm Surge Pants stuffed into my Bogs, good to -40 were keeping my lower half warm and dry, my Columbia Omni Heat Down Jacket was keeping my trunk pretty toasty. But I was starting to worry about my dogs…and about how well this would all do should we not make it out before dark. The Sun, despite not being able to see it, was setting.
I found myself calling out for help. I knew full well that my voice would blend in with the wind, carried away unrecognized. How many times had I encouraged customers to spend a mere $4.99 to purchase a whistle? The sound of such a small instrument could always be recognized above nature, assuring to draw the attention of those who might seek out the inhabitants of a remnant car left in a parking lot. I could have also benefited from having a signal mirror, using the hole in the center to target my best guess towards civilization. Perhaps someone would have seen the pattern of light dance in their family room as they watched TV and called authorities….
The temperature was starting to drop. Typically I would have at least one 9 hour candle with me, a Sparkie fire starter and an SOL silver heat blanket. With these, I could set up a heat station for myself and the doggers, trapping the heat from the candle and reflecting it back with the blanket. If I’d had two of these blankets, or a Scout Kit that included duct tape and some fishing line, I could have set up a lean to with closed in walls and a roof, maybe even a floor, to keep our collective body heat from escaping.
Once shelter was established, I might have even been able to gather enough wood to build a fire in the entrance using a wet-pack, guaranteed to burn even in conditions like these. While waiting for the smoke to draw attention, I could have used ESBIT hexamine tablets and stove to melt snow in my GSI Soloist. We’d have water to drink after filtering it through a sawyer squeeze filter. Staying hydrated would mean less chance of becoming hypothermic, while staving off injury and exhaustion. Extra melted snow water could have then been used to cook some dinner with dehydrated mountain house dinners.
But instead of surviving with confidence and in style, I struggled for four hours, trying to break free of circling back upon my own tracks, while being unsuccessful, navigating out of this in a whiteout.
Eventually I found a fence and was able to follow that out to a main road to be rescued, ice frozen in my hair. The dogs were no worse for the wear, and they would have never shared my secret shame. But I would rather use my foolhardiness to encourage others to be prepared. The extra weight of the items I’d left behind is minimal, take up as much room, and will never be left behind again!
So, whether it’s a brief hike in a local woods or a more adventurous excursion, it is important to always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Everything you need can be found affordably in the camping section of Bass Pro. Knowing its available doesn’t mean you’ll have it when you need it. So plan ahead.
Whether you buy supplies individually or in a preassembled kit, your Bass Pro Professional Staff can help you outfit your pack to be prepared so that you don’t become a statistic or write your own teachable moment.
We have what you need. This is Bass Pro Tammie and your adventure starts HERE.