CS Incident Report

3:26 p.m. on August 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Before I and my brother-in-law ventured out on a multi day hike at and around Cape Scott Provincial Park, in BC, I had written a detailed Trip Plan with lists of clothes, vehicle route dates, ect, just as we are supposed to do as responsible hikers. This was perhaps my most comprehensive package left behind.

Three days (Mon) after we had left home (Sat.), we were approaching the Light House area on a Day Hike, when we say my brother-in-law’s name on the message board. We reported to the Chief Light House Keeper as requested. Both of us were thinking that something “Bad” had happened to my brother-in-law’s family. He reads the message that he was given and found out that our Father-in-law had passed away the same day we had started the multi day hike. (we had married two sisters of the same family) our wives had thought that we should continue with our hike as planed and that we could meet up with them later (Fri) in the family’s home town to burry him.

We returned to our base camp later that day. We were approached by one of the Park Facilities Operators who looked very uncomfortable. The young lady (all of about 22-24) had to inform us that our father-in-law had passed away. At that time she did NOT know which one of us the message was for. We quickly set her straight. We remained in the area for another day as planned then with Herculean effort departed the area for home one day early.

For a more detailed report on our hike see Cape Scott in the Trip Reports section. The main lesson for me was that the Trip Plan is not only for those left behind to find us hikers in trouble, but also for those who really need to contact us hikers while out in the woods. The Plan worked.

8:36 p.m. on August 20, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing your story, redpatch5. I'm sorry you and your family lost a close family member, but it's good of you to share this experience with others so we can all learn from it.

You're absolutely right that a trip plan can be just as important for getting important information in the other direction.

I've gotten better about leaving detailed trip plans primarily since becoming a parent. Knowing that family members have the best chance of contacting me on the trail if something happened to one of my kids at home has motivated me to leave behind better info.

Thanks again and best wishes to your family.

12:15 p.m. on August 21, 2008 (EDT)
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Thank you Alicia for your comments and concerns.

Perhaps one of the main reasons for the detailed trip plan was the discussion that was here at Trail Space about trip plans. Thank You for the discussion. After reading all the posts I decided that it was time for me to be more responsible and leave the information behind so that the SAR folks could come and find me (Help me out of the area that I would be in). I had seldom thought about being contacted about a family emergency.

This alone could become a discussion on this site? Do you want or need to be contacted? In the past I have and have not been contacted about family troubles, so I have mixed feelings about this. I guess each time must be weighed and measured.

Any way, the first surprise for us on that trip was to see our names (my brother-in-law’s name) on a message board way out and beyond in the woods. A contact like this, with the Light House Keeper, occurs several times a year. They did a great job in helping us.

We did have a cell phone with us during our trip. The phone was turned off about a half hour after we left our home area. I was concerned with a loss of battery power thru roaming along the way to the trail head so far away. I did take the phone with me on the hike itself as I thought that if my truck was stolen at the trailhead, I would still have my phone. Normally I use the phone to contact my wife that I have survived and am returning from my trip and not to worry about me. This time the phone was not turned on again until we had returned to a community with cell phone coverage. At that time I received several text messages some several days old.

These plans do work.

7:33 p.m. on August 21, 2008 (EDT)
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There is another aspect to the contact question. Before cell phones and modern communications generally, it was common to set off on a week or month-long trip with no word to or from the outside world. My in-laws and another couple went into the foothills of the Sierra for a week, at a time when there was much less population than there is now. Foothills to avoid the snow in the early December timeframe. When they came out and were driving back to LA, they stopped for gas and saw the newspaper headlines - "Pearl Harbor Bombed!"

I almost had this happen to me in 2001. I had been climbing in Tuolumne in early September. Because of upcoming commitments, I left earlier than originally planned and drove home late on Sept 10, then awoke to the clock radio announcing the World Trade Center destruction. The couple I had been climbing with had stayed in the backcountry 2 more days and hiked out, got in their car, turned on the radio, and discovered the world had changed.

I am not sure in either case what I would have thought or done if I had been in the situation and gotten the news while in the backcountry. Then again, even with the contact information, would my contact person have tried getting that information through?

September 18, 2014
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