Major rescue effort saves 50 snow-trapped hunters in Arizona

11:14 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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9:54 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Man...could have been one of us.

Kudos to those involved with the rescue!

7:25 a.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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Wait a minute, no one was injured.

Other than the firefighter who died when a tree snapped in the storm, no one was injured.

They were just cold and hungry, running out of food and propane.

Hence, in all probability, no one was "saved". That seems like a complete waste of money as well as an unnecessary risk to the SAR volunteers simply to prevent some temporary discomfort for adults who had been warned and ignored the warnings.

I'm not heartless (I hope), I just don't see hunters sitting around a camp with enough food for a week and no injuries require rescue. What were they rescued from, boredom?

Even running out of propane doesn't mean hardship when you are in the middle of a forest.

The Havasu City hunters drank coffee in the Mormon Lake Lodge after rescuers dropped them off Thursday afternoon. They debated how to retrieve their two vehicles, camping gear and the biggest prize of all: the two elk they shot, quartered and placed in coolers.

Still, they weren't embarrassed. The group hunkered down in their tents for two days, hovering over wood-burning stove, sending text messages to family.

"We did the best we could," said hunter Chris Vander Jagt...

Let's see, three hunters, two elk quartered and ready to eat, a wood-burning stove, tents, water... sounds pretty cushy to me. I've spent a month in a hunting camp with the same conditions and considered myself fortunate. However, at least I didn't have to text message anyone (that would be pretty dull).

They should be embarrassed.


12:56 p.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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I would have to say that you are, in fact, being "heartless." No, not for the hunters, but for the "loved ones" who are sitting at home, feeling sick with worry about their hero macho hunters, lost in the wilderness, stranded in their 4WD. Reminds me of Dec 2006-Jan 2007 when my expedition and about a hundred others were stranded in Antarctica, unable to return to what passes for "civilization" because of a combination of weather and the sole aircraft capable of making the retrieval being broken (part of the tail structure was damaged by a severe storm, with the repair parts needing to be flown in from the Ukraine). We ran out of beef, fresh vegetables, and beer, and were reduced to having to make do with chicken curry, smoked salmon, sushi, wine, and cognac for 10 days until the plane was repaired and the weather improved to the point the plane could fly in. Our communications were restricted to Iridium (satellite phone) and ham radio. Entertainment was restricted to some sort of board games and pingpong on an "Antarctic regulation" table (3x6 sheet of plywood). Oh, yes, we suffered, and our loved ones were worried (not! Barb's comment, as usual, was "Goes with the territory!")

Well, to get somewhat serious, as f_klock would tell you (and having done a bit of SAR in my day), SAR operations are most often triggered by the instructions left behind ("I will return on D-day, M-month") on a permit or with friends, relatives, or coworkers, or by "loved ones" (family, friends, coworkers), or by someone noticing that a car has been sitting at the trailhead for an extended time. In other words, by sources or evidence other than the "lost" party. SAR triggered by PLBs and cell phone calls are very much in the minority, but garner media attention, largely because they are rare.

Here in California, we just had an incident in which a person from the Bay Area was reported missing by his family. He was experienced in camping and did a lot of solo backpacking. His plan was apparently to go camping in Death Valley NP, with a stop at Bodie (a famous, well-preserved ghost town and State Historical Park in the White Mountains, north of Death Valley). The media reports thus far are a bit contradictory. He had been missing since Thanksgiving. An aerial search was started, resulting in spotting his Jeep Wrangler. The SAR team went in on snowmobiles and found that apparently the car got trapped in the snowstorms that came through here over the past weeks. Further searching found his body some 3 miles away, apparently dead from hypothermia (no coroner's report yet). Note that he was experienced and prepared for winter camping (Death Valley includes several mountain ranges, including Telescope Peak (11,049 feet - snow levels were down to 5500 ft).

Generally, the advice is to stay with the car. The storms proved much more severe than predicted (even the forecasts posted within the 8 hour period it would have taken him to drive from the Bay Area over the Sierra passes to the turrnoff to Bodie or Death Valley). From your posts over the past year or so, I guess your view would be "tough, he lost. Leave the Jeep and the body there and don't bother to search." His family would differ with you on that. And the "authorities" have SAR as part of their duties that they are trained for.

One thing that has happened in a number of situations similar to the Arizona hunters is that a SAR mission is launched, possibly by frantic family or an unclosed trip plan, the missing party is found, and the authorities say "we are evacuating you." The missing party says "We decided to stay a few extra days, we are just fine, we refuse the rescue". And the authorities say, "You have no choice, we are evacuating you." Sometimes they just won't take "no" for an answer, and will not let you hike out on your own.

1:48 p.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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I've been avoiding this one.

The headlines 50 hunters "saved" --- ??? were they really saved?

Didn't an SAR guy die?

Too many times people make totally stupid mistakes in the wilderness by feeling "THEY NEED TO GET HOME", like why so they don't miss a big game on the tv? So they don't miss a day of work? Too many "folks at home who worry" should calm down. Its them that causes most rescues when the persons in the woods were perfectly fine, even though they may have run out of caviar and down to peanut butter. Spending an extra couple days should be planned for and folks at home should be instructed to chill for a couple days. This dependence on rescue and dependence on "civilisation" to save your bacon when you've been irresponsible by "going into the wilderness where Injuns or wild animals could get ya" is just total BS.

Now how do you adress people like my sister who drive 25 miles into town to go to work at zero degrees wearing stockings a skirt and high heels and no coat? Oh sure doen't she NEED TO BE RESCUED" if her car gets stuck and the heater stops? Maybe she should carry a sleeping bag in her car - but NNNooooooooo.

Hunters a mixture of sissified big city people without a clue as to staying alive without their 12 poiund rectangular sleeping bags and hot tents. Geez, maybe they were down to beer too.

I guess I'd risk my life and the SAR peoples too for an elk carcass. yeh right... Its like the "slow down and live" signs. I live in central oregon - its the jerks from Portland who "HAVE TO GET HOME" who speed on black ice, who scoff at our 45 mph speed limits and swear at locals who drive at 15 mph in town on icey streets, that have to e rescued.

Just my $.02 worth not all hunters are stupid big city people without a clue, no we had a killing where some local good old boys got into a shootout over a deer carcass, boy that was worth dying for...

2:28 p.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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3,956 forum posts hunters, yes I know what you mean. I have hunted with guys up in TN & KY who lived off the land and would go out for days at a time to get meat, many of them were also really good backpackers who just called themselves hunters. These guys lived a hard but happy life, they did not whine about the cold, or having to eat beans & potatoes until they got a paycheck, so on and so forth. They also had a respect for the land 'cause that's where they lived, there was no going back to their neighborhood in the city.

I have also hunted with guys scared to scratch their trucks shiny new camo pattern paint job, and always blamed getting stuck on the condition of the dirt road, not the driver. They enjoyed hunting like a sport or hobby, not a way to stock up on meat. Some of them just let the meat go to the butcher who gave it away.

But I digress.

I agree to a point, the hunters may not have been in peril, only discomfort.

I personally always try to have a contingency plan, extra food, clothes etc. I have been out with hunters & backpackers who did not, nor did they seem to think that things could go wrong. I think that most people do have a back up plan, at least the ones with some experience, or maybe bad experiences.

However I have to trust that whoever made the decision to launch the rescue did so with good judgement. I would also think that if it were me in charge, clearly it wasn't, that I would require those to be rescued to comply. In other words, after that much effort had been expended why would you leave the hunters there? I would not want to have to go back in with another rescue a couple days later just for a 'Told ya so' moment.

I don't have all the facts in this story, I wasn't there, I tend to think the hunters could have stuck it out if given no other alternative, but our society does not work that way, we are benevolent. So maybe the rescue was a decision to err on the side of caution.

Maybe it was viewed as a training exercise by some, not that I take putting people in harms way lightly.

I still say regardless of the reasoning behind the rescue, right or wrong, kudos to those involved with the actual rescue work. I just respect their training and hard work. I hope those hunters are truly grateful and are not going to turn around and complain about anything.

6:07 p.m. on December 12, 2009 (EST)
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I agree, always agree, with "Kudos to the SAR people!"

Bill, you said:

From your posts over the past year or so, I guess your view would be "tough, he lost. Leave the Jeep and the body there and don't bother to search." His family would differ with you on that. And the "authorities" have SAR as part of their duties that they are trained for.

Why would I say that? Once you initiate a search you should finish it with a conclusive outcome - live rescue or dead body. Anything less is bound to tear at the SAR team members and the family left behind.

I've never said or implied that there are not sometimes legitimate searches and necessary rescue efforts. I feel, as apparently do some others, that the search and "rescue" of the fifty hunters was unnecessary. The Death Valley case is not even similar; he had been missing for such a long time that it was entirely likely he needed assistance due to a mishap that prevented self-rescue.

I suppose my sentiment is similar to the police of any city in the US - an able-bodied adult gone missing is not generally treated as a "missing person" until they have been gone twenty-four to forty-eight hours. (You can report them missing immediately, of course.) However, the non-compos mentis, such as Alzheimer patients or children evoke an immediate response. In the case of a cognitively-able adult, most re-appear within forty-eight to seventy-two hours (self-rescue) so it is foolish to spend money and lives searching for someone who usually just wants to be left alone for a while. OTOH, they may be bleeding to death in a dark alley - but society is willing to assume that is not the case and does not conduct a search. Why then do we initiate searches for someone who is a few hours late in getting home from the backcountry? Unless you believe the urban jungle is safer than the sylvan jungle (statistics would say otherwise).

2:17 p.m. on December 13, 2009 (EST)
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Humm...sending text messages when tent-bound in a storm sure beats playing 20 questions.

12:00 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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While you did not say explicitly "too bad, you're out of luck", that is the implication of your oft-repeated comments that - when you head out into the woods, you are on your own and do not expect anyone, including SAR, to come looking for you, and that you would not carry any sort of device to call back for help (PLB, cell phone, etc), and that you believe that should be the case for anyone heading into the hills. You have said numerous times that your opinion is that anyone carrying such a device is planning to be rescued. I, along with others here, have been trying to understand what you are really saying. I inferred from those previous posts, and your earlier post here, that your attitude would be just that - "tough luck, just leave the Jeep and the body and don't bother searching", or maybe with the modification of "wait until spring and somebody stumbles across the remains." Perhaps you can enlighten us by posting your criteria for when the folks back home or the person lost or injured in the woods should call for help or rescue, or should accept rescue when the helicopter arrives.

A point I and others have tried to make is that no one is truly in isolation. If you (the generic you, this time, not anyone specific) don't show up for work, don't return home, don't show up for work, don't check out at the ranger station, leave your car at the trailhead for days, etc., someone (friend, family, local ranger) will call for the SAR group. And the authorities and volunteers will head out in dangerous conditions at personal risk.

Remember, I used to be a part of a SAR group, and was the lead person and main contact. And keep in mind that I have spent a lot of time waiting out storms in remote areas (sometimes solo) and being the person responsible for groups spending extensive time in remote areas with the risk of someone in the group getting seriously injured, sick, or (with some of the youth groups) wandering off and getting lost. Because of that, I probably have a somewhat different viewpoint, though almost definitely not the one you might expect. Maybe sometime I will post my thoughts on this, but not right now.

2:40 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Our minds must be parallel... they never meet : )

Your record of my input seems fairly accurate, your understanding, alas, less so. That is probably because I am trying to convey more of a vanished aesthetic than a pragmatic approach. Obviously, I must work on my communication skills.

Obviously I think that anyone carrying additional weight, such as a PLB, is doing so only because he/she is making provision for rescue. I can think of no other reason to carry a rescue device (excuse me, a device that requires others to do the rescuing). Where you misunderstand me is that I feel they are cheating themselves out of possible personal growth experiences - or death, one of the common life experiences we all share - by implicitly avoiding self-rescue.

More later... must go.

7:12 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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I carry a PLB for a couple of reasons. First she bought it. Then the kids paid for the access. There obvious must be a reason they thought it a reasonable request to me to pack it. (May also be an indication why nobody wants to go the second time with me :) ). In retrospect I should also not have mentioned that I thought it meant they were more interested in a 'fresher' body.

I'm fine with carrying it, if it makes her feel more comfortable to log in on the 'net and see another blip farther along than the last one. The concern I have is she is going to see how much slower I am compared to when we first went out together. That might have more ramifications if she starts worrying about a possible heart condition :0 .

My pleading that I'm getting too old to carry much more weight and there is just too much information about me out there already didn't wash.

Being more worried that I will push the wrong button, I have the hot one well taped shut. That may well be my down fall if ever I need it.

8:27 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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I am not ever desirous of challenging SWMBO, she has her reasons, I am sure.


You said:

A point I and others have tried to make is that no one is truly in isolation. If you (the generic you, this time, not anyone specific) don't show up for work, don't return home, don't show up for work, don't check out at the ranger station, leave your car at the trailhead for days, etc., someone (friend, family, local ranger) will call for the SAR group. And the authorities and volunteers will head out in dangerous conditions at personal risk.

I disagree. It is true that many people fear quiet, hence they must always have a distraction. You can see it as they move from house to car with the cell phone to their ear. Mute - but noisy - terror of ever having a moment of isolation from the din. What would happen if they were in the backcountry without a cellphone with which to text message? Don't misunderstand my feelings to be scorn; it is so bloody sad, pathetic really, that a creature born to be noble has less awareness of reality - the present moment and all that means - than a dog.

In my youth I often went months without any friends or family knowing where I was. This didn't mean I don't appreciate human society, often I might be in a different city making new friends. OTOH, I might be in the woods. When my father died the Mounties were almost able to locate me - within a quarter mile - and left a note tacked to a post, hoping I would find it. I did, a few days later. That shouldn't sound callous, it's just that the world then was not as "connected" as you would have it today. (The nearest phone was miles away and was the first crank pay phone I've ever used.)

Fear really is the mind-killer, the little death. ("Dune", but apt). You (generic) would have us believe that the woods are a greater threat to human safety than the violent crime and car accidents endemic to the congested inner-city. As I noted before, the police do not immediately act upon a missing person in the city if he or she is deemed to be able of body and mind. In most cases the person re-appears before seventy-two hours, no loss, no foul. Why then should we search for a hiker until they have been overdue by seventy-two hours? Because you (generic) fear the woods more than East Detroit. You shouldn't.

If you have that fear, then meet it head-on, without crutches, without the safety net. If you don't have that fear, you don't need the net, either - it is just more baggage.

8:55 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Our minds must be parallel... they never meet : )

Your record of my input seems fairly accurate, your understanding, alas, less so. That is probably because I am trying to convey more of a vanished aesthetic than a pragmatic approach.

I agree that I do not understand what aesthetic (vanished or not) you are trying to convey. As speacock said, the folks back home worry. Perhaps they want a "fresher body", as he put it. Perhaps they are feeling the need to have spouse and parent (the wage-earner and family provider), or for some people I know, they believe that the parent should outlive the progeny (my grandmother - my father's mother - went into deep depression when my father died before her, repeating over and over that a son should not die before his mother).

By the way, there are legal constraints on handling an estate when someone vanishes without a body to prove a death. This can (and has) proven a great hardship for the surviving families.

The ethical considerations I am trying to convey are those relating to the responsibilities of the person heading into the hills to those other people - the relatives, friends, and coworkers who worry and will feel the loss, plus the SAR team who will be called out in response to either the first-mentioned group or the authorities who had the unclosed trip registration or found the apparently abandoned car, as well as the other members of my party (if I am not going solo). As others have mentioned, as a SAR person, it makes my job a lot easier if I have an idea where to look, plus I would much rather use the first aid kit than having to carry out another cold body (a major reason I quit doing SAR). It is even better if I have a fairly exact location.

Be very aware that, in my view, a major part of the responsibility to those others is that the person venturing into the wild is being prepared and equipped for not only what you expect to find, but also what I refer to in the courses I teach as the "reasonably unexpected". You can't really prepare for asteroid strikes and dinosaur attacks. But when you venture into northern Arizona or the Sierra in November or December, you can reasonably expect a blizzard - especially in an El Nino year, as we are having this season.

As for emergency gear, I do not expect to use my first aid kit, and particularly not for some of the more extreme items I have in it (actually, I am very much a disciple of my friend, Eric Weiss, whose various books on wilderness first aid are full of "improvisational" tools). When climbing, even at my limit, I do not expect to fall. But I still use a rope, helmet, and protection I place on the route (I have taken only one serious leader fall on rock in the over 50 years I have been doing technical climbing and one serious fall on steep snow, so my confidence is well-justified).

I guess one question would be, how thin a safety margin are you willing to subject yourself to, and the corollary, the risk of the consequences for others (family, friends, other members of your party, and the SAR folk)? What about other parties in the vicinity, who might happen across you if something does happen? Finding a dead body is unpleasant enough when you are on the SAR team and know it is a possibility. Stumbling across a body unexpectedly is, to say the least, unnerving (haven't done that in the wilderness, but have on the highway).

In a post of yours above, you say rescue is justified in some cases. What are your criteria for "justified" rescues, just out of curiosity?

9:02 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Just for convenience, would you answer the question I have offered twice: "Why do you feel that the woods are more dangerous than a large city?"

The corollary is that if the woods are not more dangerous, why not wait for seventy-two hours to allow for "self-rescue"? If people know that no aid can be expected for a minimum of seventy-two hours, they might be more cautious and/or more independent.

9:30 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Ah, you are talking about shutting out the outside world, the so-called "civilization". Well, that is one of the fundamental reasons for getting out there in the woods and hills. I am not compelled to use the first aid kit. I am not compelled to use the map, compass, or electronic route-finding widget.

More than once I have come out of the wilderness, both solo and with others, and found some major aspect of the world changed. Barb's parents were on a backpacking trip in late 1941 with some friends. They found out about Pearl Harbor on their return to Santa Monica mid-December. On 9-10-2001, I was climbing with friends in Yosemite, drove home that night, and awoke the next morning to find out about the twin towers. My climbing partners found out almost a week later.

That is a very different situation than the one I thought you were talking about, actually the reciprocal, mirror image. You are talking from your own point of view and your relationship to the rest of the world. I (and speacock and several others) am talking about the rest of the world's relationship to you.

To some extent, I can empathize. I have led a good, enjoyable, and reqarding life. If something happens to end it, so be it. But I have a responsibility to Barb, my son, other relatives, friends, and the SAR folks. Yeah, they will get over it eventually.

But one thing you said above that I really do not comprehend. What is this "fear" you are talking about that must be overcome? You say something about "fear of quiet". One of the great things about the newly constructed house is that it is very quiet. You can't hear a car driving past on the street out front. The woods and hills are never truly quiet. There are continuously the sounds of wind in the trees, falling rain and snow, the howl of wind through the passes and over the peaks, sounds of the animals and of the movements of the growing plants, of rockfall and ice and snow avalanches, rushing rivers and gurgling brooks, the movement of ice in the glaciers. One reason I rarely build a fire is that the noise of the fire drowns out many of those other sounds in the wild. The only time I have ever experienced real silence was in a sensory deprivation chamber (just to see what it was like), and even then I could clearly hear all the rumblings and whistling of my bodily functions. No, there is no such thing as complete silence. So how can there be a fear of silence?

9:55 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Just for convenience, would you answer the question I have offered twice: "Why do you feel that the woods are more dangerous than a large city?"

The corollary is that if the woods are not more dangerous, why not wait for seventy-two hours to allow for "self-rescue"? If people know that no aid can be expected for a minimum of seventy-two hours, they might be more cautious and/or more independent.

Where did you get that idea? You clearly have not read very many of my posts on Trailspace. The outdoor activities I do are far safer, in most cases by orders of magnitude, than any city, large or small, and than driving, bicycling, or walking alongside any road. It is not a case of "feeling" that way - it is readily demonstrated by many studies and published statistics. Since moving to Palo Alto, I have had someone run a stop sign coming from a residential barely 2-lane side street, hitting my car at the driver's door so hard that the car spun 270 deg and was totalled. I have had numerous close calls on my bicycle in the city (several of which were clearly deliberate "scare" attempts). No, the urban environment is far more dangerous than the woods. Over in East Palo Alto or across the SFBay in Oakland and Richmond, there are at least 1 murder in each (sometimes multiple killings, plus the assorted serious woundings) every day.

In many of the places I go, the rules for rescue are (1) only if the responders can respond with no added risk to their being in the vicinity anyway (e.g, on Denali, the probable responders are already on the mountain, and same in Antarctica, on Kilimanjaro, etc), and (2) only an authorized supervisor can authorize a response team. 72 hours is an arbitrary time limit, and in many of my situations, it may be literally weeks before a response is mounted.

What, in your wildest imagination, makes you think that people would be more cautious and/or independent, "knowing" that help will not be available for some arbitrary time? Most of the people who venture "out there" believe that "it won't happen to me!" How many people do you know who limit their intake of alcohol (or drugs) at a party (especially around holidays) despite knowing that the risk of a serious traffic accident goes way up when the driver is drunk? For that matter, how many people do you know who, realizing that there are lots of drunks out there on holidays, take steps to minimize their time on the road? How many people (except probably many readers of Trailspace) pay attention to the foods they eat with respect to health ("I won't have a stroke/heart attack/diabetes/...") How many people do you know who are less careful in urban settings, "knowing" that that "911' brings the fire/police/paramedics within 5 minutes on the average (except here on the SF Peninsula in the parks in the hills, where it can be several hours)?

Frankly, I do not believe it makes any difference in people's behavior at all.

10:02 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Still no answers to my questions?

Whoops! You answered my questions. You feel that the woods are safer. That is true. Then, logically, there is less need for immediate response in most cases.

Most of the rescues here in NH are of physically able people who are too lazy/frightened to hike out on their own and insist upon immediate "rescue". Or their families insist upon immediate rescue. Doesn't matter. Let them try to slog out on their own and in 99% of the cases the individual would benefit tremendously in learning more about himself. He would also be out within seventy-two hours. In one percent of the cases, the waiting period might be counter-productive in terms of learning. In one-percent of that one-percent it might mean death. You never know. When you have one ambulance and two car accidents far apart, which one do you respond to? Will one turn out to be a cut on the nose and the other a slow, but "preventable" death?

10:29 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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...Most of the rescues here in NH are of physically able people who are too lazy/frightened to hike out on their own and insist upon immediate "rescue". Or their families insist upon immediate rescue. .

I am curious where you got the statistics. Where are they published?

When you have one ambulance and two car accidents far apart, which one do you respond to?

Actual practice is "first call, first served". Only rarely is the ambulance diverted (or police or fire, or in our neighboring city of Sunnyvale where they have "Public Safety Officers" who are all certified in all 3 and carry paramedic kits, firearms, and their fire helmets and suits in whatever type of vehicle they are in).

10:48 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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If I may interject,

For quite some time I have divided outdoors people into two general groups, not scientific I know, but just what I have observed.

1. Those raised in homes where self reliance was a way of life, farming, hunting & gardening, or some type of work that could be dangerous. Or learning good skills through BSA etc.

2. Those raised in homes where they were sheltered and protected from danger, no roasting marshmallows, no playing in the creek, etc. Suddenly away from home, maybe for college, and want to try the exciting world of hiking / backpacking without assessing or understanding the possible risks. Not that they are dumb, just inexperienced.

Of course I haven't come up with anything new here, most of us are aware of this. My point being, that certain types of people are aware of potential danger, and have already had the painful learning experiences of lessor incidents that caused them to develop the sense of caution they use when making decisions.

Others seem to assume everything will be okay....'cause they are going to be "careful" within the vacuum of having little or none of the necessary skills to attempt what they are fixing to do.

I don't know how accurate the correlation is that I seem to see. I'm sure some people just don't learn regardless, Evil Knievel comes to mind. Although not a great comparison here, as he had both skills, and no fear apparently.

I once watched from a distance as a guy tried to walk a wet mossy log across a swift stream, he got about halfway and fell landing on his side on the log, then doing a flip landing in the rocky creek bed, all with a heavy backpack on. As me and my buddy Chris caught up with him he had been helped to the creek bank by his buddies and was trying to catch his breath. He said...Quote..."I can't believe I slipped off that log like that!"

The possibility, or lack of, a rescue played no apparent role in his thought process. I really think he thought just being careful was adequate planning for that maneuver, and he was genuinely stunned he got injured. This happened about 13 miles from the only trailhead.

So for what it's worth.

8:02 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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Those "statistics" not unlike real statistics are bull. I'm just passing on the sentiments I once heard from a senior SAR fellow, off the record.

Here are some real stats for NH -

Epidemiology of wilderness search and rescue in New Hampshire, 1999-2001.Ela GK.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the epidemiology of wilderness search and rescue in a region with easily accessible, heavily used wilderness areas. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective review of New Hampshire Fish and Game Department wilderness search-and-rescue reports between January 1999 and December 2001. The study group consisted of all the subjects of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department search and rescue in the state of New Hampshire during the study period. Demographics, types of incidents, type and location of injuries, environmental factors, fatalities, and use of medical services for all the subjects were analyzed. RESULTS: Three hundred twenty-one incidents involving 457 subjects were analyzed. The mean age of the subjects in the incidents was 35.6 years, with 64.5% men and 35.4% women; 73% of the subjects resided in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At the time of the incident, 57.3% of the subjects were hiking. Injuries precipitated 39.3% of the rescues, whereas lost and missing persons accounted for 41.4%. Fractures accounted for 33.7% of the reported injuries; 49.7% of the injuries were to the lower extremities. Sixty-four of the subjects (14%) died; 32.8% drowned, and 23.4% died from cardiac events. Volunteers were used in 53.3% of the rescues, a rescuer was injured in 2.5% of the incidents, and at least 36.4% of the subjects were transported to a hospital. CONCLUSIONS: The most prevalent demographic group requiring search-and-rescue efforts in New Hampshire was men aged 30 to 40 years who were hiking and who resided within a 4-hour drive of the area where they encountered difficulty. To decrease the number of people involved in most search and rescue, efforts should be focused on preventing wilderness users from getting lost and preventing lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries. Wilderness deaths may be prevented by focusing attention on cardiac health in wilderness users older than 50 years and on water safety.

However, that was a mix of boating and hiking. Also, use of cellphones and coverage has increased dramatically since 2001, so the calls for rescue have increased as well.

12:41 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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560 forum posts

A 'civilized' city has most of the infrastructure already provided for a reasonably safe and secure environment. Many of the little (and big) things are now mostly an administrative and funding activity with routine maintenance the mainstay. It is fairly obvious what you need to 'survive' or prosper. A nearby library, grocery store, bar and a bowling alley and a job unless you are on any one of a number of doles.

In the woods the only mainstay you have is what you have upon you. For the experienced it is chosen wisely. For the most part the initiates fair well until experienced. Living off the land is now too plebeian or outlawed.

In the city there are uncounted significant risks that range from a pot hole that will send you skidding into an unyielding wall to structure fires you can not escape. You do not need to go out of your way in order to put your self at extreme risk. Most of existence is taken for granted with out undo concern, for example, of the carnage that occurs at 60mph.

In the woods there is nothing to protect you, nothing supplied. You are, at the basic level, putting your self at risk as soon as you leave your car. But, other than weather and cliffs that have great exposure and rare falling rocks that are a bother if too close to them, you are not gravely at risk as long as you have supplied yourself with a few essentials to live upon. You will not be electrocuted by the normal environment you live closely within. Lightning hazards are real but not continuous.

In the city you have a large population that if not marauding with intent, are scheming to separate you from wealth and beauty and love.

In the woods, wolves in packs are not all that dangerous. If you survive a charge by an outraged moose or of a confused penguin, you tend to leave most big, ugly things alone. Or you hear about it from another survivor or observer. Not a very complex environment.

In the city there are hazards just walking across a street.

When was the last time somebody got run over by a speeding badger while crossing a trail without looking.

The city (where most reside) has extremely risk all the time, most of it ameliorated by the technology that expose us to it. If you are injured or are missing, it usually takes minutes to get you transport or usually hours or at most a day to find you. Well, unless you (or those with you) don't want to be found. SAR is for exceptional disasters.

With out the technology available in a city, most people who live in or visit the woods return unscathed. Even when you consider the relative small population in the outback, the statistics still favor a retreat into Mother Nature's back yard over a barbecue in your own. SAR is for exceptional incidents.

Most people in the city know first hand of technology failures that have maimed or killed and social failures that make a pack of wolves look like cuddly hamsters in a cage.

Most hear of sorrowful things that happen in the woods through a rabid news media. And are scared out of their wits to be within a 1000 miles of blood thirsty brown bears.

So yeah, I've never been bit by a dog in the woods either.

More deaths in cities by dogs than by rattlesnakes. More bites too. More dogs too.

If there is one lesson I have learned from this, it is:

Don't try to compare coconuts and canon balls just because neither of them is square.

1:26 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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560 forum posts

I do chuckle at those who insist on having radio contact between all members of the group. Who spend so much time worrying that they no longer have visual contact with stragglers and who call to make sure there is nothing wrong - on the first two miles of a 3 foot wide trail on a trip that ends at lunch. The feeling of hopeless worry when they discover their low powered Big Box store FM units don't work well in heavy foliage or behind big rocks. Their entire excursion is a partial failure because of technology and a lack of confidence in others.

I remember how proud I was of my canvas covered US Army surplus canteen strapped to my waist as an 8 year old 'mountaineer'. I had confidence in me being so well equipped and ready to meet all adventure. It obviously saved me from any fate worse than being grounded for a week at home for not showing up one night.

Or the ones who come back for looking for me (assuming the worse) - on a 9 day trudge - when I am an hour late to camp on a well marked single track trail. They know I am self sufficient, love to take naps in a sun and flower filled meadow, slower when I want in an exceptional area I may never see again and take the time to set up good photographs. Like telling children NO over and over, they have yet come to the conclusion that I think that it might have been a waste of a day to get to camp at 3PM to just hang out there. Even though I treasure their company. At times I like to be separated from others by an hour. Gives them a chance too.

I've been separated for more than a day from other members of the team. None of us seemed that worried...except I had some of the spare fuel. That was a nice enjoyable trip with folks I liked to be with.

I have come back from an extended hike alone only to be met with a gangling group crowding the middle of a trail on a high pass not concerned, nor seeming to care, that if I trip over and fall upon them it will crush us both. Most have their PDA or cell phones out asking for their wives or moms to guess where they are. Little do they know that the loss of their wilderness experience is less than a quarter inch away from their cheek.

I don't feel bad that others carry a cell (and an iPod) for any reason. I feel bad that they have lost a chance to take a chance and may never know they have lost it. Especially their building terror when there is no signal.

There needs to be a sorrow for those who perceive a non-risk or are deprived from what they are there for.

For those who crave adventure more than most, it probably is a good idea to have a safety net. I really did hate walking for days looking for their pieces.

June 25, 2018
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