Wilderness Safety - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Wilderness Safety

Seeing that I fell out of a tree stand on November 09, the good folks at Wilderness North thought I should write about “safety in the outdoors.” The good news is I’m okay. The more sobering news is that I fell far enough for it to be fatal. I was 16-feet up in a manufactured tree stand wearing a safety harness. I unhooked the harness to climb down (which you have to do) and while taking my first step from the stand, the branch I was holding broke.

You might say it was a quick flight with a rough landing. But I survived without serious injury, just some nasty bruising and sore joints. Hear the whole story here

Safety in the outdoors is paramount. While the wilderness experiences we enjoy bring a lot of joy, they can bring a world of hurt if we are not careful – and even when we are careful. So prepare for the inevitable. The steps you take can make the difference between a great holiday and room at the hospital.

Those of us who enjoy the outdoors do it with a passion – and with passion comes pain. Do anything with passion and eventually you will get hurt. That’s the price we pay. Trails, waters, and skies that look daunting and difficult are mere challenges to us. But like Mom used to say, “if you play with knives, guns, sharp hooks, and animals with sharp teeth – you’re eventually going to get hurt”.

I’ll give you an example. You’ve just caught a small pike you intend to unhook and release. You grab your pliers, open the pike’s mouth and grab one treble hook with the jaws on the pliers. The pike gives a vicious shake, slices your finger to the bone and impales one of the treble hooks into the meat of your hand past the barb. Now what?

If you’re like most anglers you have every lure and gizmo known to man – including an Orvis Tie-fast knot-tying tool, a fish stomach sucking pump, and a pair of Dr. Slick Pisces Pliers – but no first aid kit. DANG IT! I should have listened to mother after all!!

Anytime you go in the outdoors you should have a small but complete first aid kit consisting of gauze, bandaids, sutures, antiseptic, elastic ankle wraps, and some form of pain relief – at least a strong analgesic. And no – not booze. It just makes you, well, a stupid injured person.

I also bring Super Glue. I have a small pill bottle full of one time use Super Glue that can be used to temporarily close a laceration – among other uses.

Bring a GPS – AND A COMPASS – and know how to use both. Relying too much on something that works on batteries is sketchy. If you’re in range bring a cell phone to text or call for help. My son, Timothy who works for AT&T in Portland OR, tells me that texts will often work in areas where cell phone signals are marginal.

Have a water-bottle filter on hand and carry anti-nausea/anti-diarrhea meds, as well as the aforementioned analgesics. Benadryl works great for swollen insect bites and allergic reactions to plants and moulds.

Always bring matches, a lighter, and a fire starter. Flint tools are great for starting a fire if you’re Bear Gryllis or Survivor Man, but a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cotton balls makes you “Getter-Done Man” while the others are spending half the night rubbing two sticks together in the dark.

Always have rain gear and layers of non-moisture absorbing clothing like polypropylene, fleece or wool. Our northern weather can turn from summer to fall to winter in one 8-hour period.

Finally be careful, be smart, and let others know your plans for the day or outing. And if all of the above fails, pray for help. It can’t hurt.
…Scott Earl Smith

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