Apr 21, 2008 at 6:04 pm #1228508
@breaksLocale: Flat Ohio
I've been backpacking for the past few years now and am taking my son on his first real trip in 2 weeks. We've planned a 15 mile loop next weekend in a National Forest and are both very excited. He's 7 and the plan is 15 miles over 2.5 days, which I think is a good pace for him.
I've got all our gear taken care of, meals planned, route done, etc. Now I am wanting to start talking to him a little bit regarding the "worse case scenario" of if something happened to me and he was on his own. I don't really like to think about it (won't even MENTION it to my wife), but I think it's something very important to discuss with him.
My plan is to check in with the ranger on our hike and to ensure my son has a bag, water, power bars, poncho, identification, and a whistle in his pack at all times. However, my question is what should I tell him to do if something happens to me and I'm unresponsive? Should he hunker down and keep blasting the whistle, should he head back the way we came, or continue down the trail? Being a kiddo, I think I need to give him some pretty concrete directions so he'd know what to do. I plan on writing some emergency instructions for him to have in his pack.
The trail we're taking is not heavily traveled from my understanding, so not sure how many people would be out there for him to run into, so not sure if/how that changes the game.
Thoughts on this? Thanks in advance!
RyanApr 21, 2008 at 6:20 pm #1429407
He needs to know to sit tight and blow on the whistle at regular intervals. Maybe have him count to some number between whistles so he doesn't wear himself out doing it.
I would tell him in the strongest possible terms not to wander but to stay where he is.Apr 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm #1429410
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
What I taught Ford at that age was "if anything happens to mom, you stay with me and wait". Teach him to stay on the trail where he can be found and to NOT hide from strangers in this case. When I hike with just my son I have always stayed on well traveled trails for that reason…just to be on the safer side!
Also, always check in right after coming out and make sure your wife would call for help if you were late by "x" amount of hours.Apr 21, 2008 at 7:18 pm #1429414
"make sure your wife (or someone) would call for help if you were late by "x" amount of hours."
I would think this would be your best line of defense.Apr 23, 2008 at 8:37 pm #1429873
I'd second (fourth?) this suggestion, with a couple of extra provisos.
First, talk to him about what to do if he gets lost on his own. Of course, you'll watch him like a hawk, but I've never been to a SAR callout where the adults have told us, "Yeah we were really slack, and he was gone for twenty minutes before we realised" Stuff CAN happen, he gets distracted, and next thing he's lost. He could be eight steps from the trail when this happens, and not know it. YOU get down on your knees and see how much less you can see from down there.
Second, tell him all you like, but it means NOTHING if you don't PRACTICE it. Both my kids (6&8)started doing o/nighters when they were 2, and we've played the lost game ever since then. This involves letting them get about ten steps ahead of you, and then you yelling out "LOST", followed by them calling "LOST" You can talk them thru what they should do next. (This should be after having explained what to do) You may be very surprised at how they have interpreted your information. The natural progression of this game is once they're okay with the process, you call out "LOST" but don't help them thru. "LOST", then step behind a tree, so they see you go. We're up to walking 50 yds off trail to explore then calling. They always know I'm close, but they can't always see me. This has to be in their comfort zone, but you will see their comfort zone expand, very quickly.
The purpose of them calling "LOST" at the start, is to make them stop and think, instead of continuing to move.
They ask for this game on almost every hike we do, and love the challenge and praise they get from it.
Enjoy your trip.
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