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  • #3618272
    Karen
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    I need entertainment, so here’s my story, and I’ll look forward to reading yours. I have no doubt that this group can come up with dumb and dangerous behavior they survived on backpacking trips.

    Back in college, many years ago, I went backpacking with 4 women friends. We didn’t know much about the area, the Ozarks in Arkansas, but we had enough experience among the group to get into trouble. We had a fantastic trip, but the last few days were rainy, foggy and wet. We were all chilled and our gear damp, so we decided to build a campfire. I have no idea if such a thing was even allowed, but we did it anyway. Our attempt to find dry wood and sufficient kindling was disappointing. We managed to get it going briefly, and then it started to fizzle. One of the gals – a chemistry major – decided to really get it going by adding some white gas, poured from a metal bottle. Do I even need to finish the story? The fire did get going, the lit bottle was tossed into the woods, and no one got hurt, thankfully. The woods were too wet for the burning bottle to ignite anything, so it just burned itself out. We were then eating cold food for the remainder of the trip, that being our only fuel.

    My friend the chemistry major went on to a brilliant career by the way, Ph.D. And all.

    #3618275
    Jason F
    Spectator

    @jsf80238gmail-com

    Good story, Karen, thank you for sharing.

    #3618282
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    Haven’t really done anything dumb/dangerous while backpacking that I can remember, but I’ve got some doozies from my time in the army.

    #3618311
    Erica R
    BPL Member

    @erica_rcharter-net

    I used to like doing circuits rather than going out and back the same way. This lead to all sorts of difficulties. At a certain point it is too hard to turn back, and I would keep going to complete the loop. The worst one I can remember was climbing down a rotten rock cliff near Tucson within 8 feet of a very active beehive. Fortunately the bees let me live.

    #3618363
    Bri W
    BPL Member

    @bwrightback

    Long story here, but stick with it to the end! It’s worth it!

    I did my first winter overnight backpacking trip with two friends from the Midwest at Crater Lake, Oregon. We were told by three separate rangers not to go out because a big storm was coming in, and SAR would not be available until after the storm. We had to go through a PowerPoint on the dangers of winter backcountry trips at Crater Lake (e.g., cornices, white outs, avalanches, etc.) and then sign a form that said we were still going out despite these risks. This made me uneasy, since we had no avy training or gear, and I was from the California Coast with very limited winter experience. But my midwestern friends were not phased, and I trusted them. Long story short, it snowed 16” overnight, 60 mph winds, low of -10°F (not including the windchill!), and near white-out conditions on our trek back. Fortunately no avalanches. The snow completely covered the trail so my two friends had to plow our own trail (it was almost impossible for me to do this with my snowshoes…it was so deep and fresh I was sinking to my thighs! Thank God they had skis and are super athletes!). The doors to the heated bathrooms at the Visitor Center were completely blocked with a big wall of snow, and we were too exhausted to dig, so we opted to just carry on. We ended up making it back safely, which is a rarity in Crater Lake’s history for people who get caught in winter storms…

    But that’s not even the crazy part of the story…

    While we were setting up camp, the sun was almost set and we were taking pictures. We saw a lone snowshoer with a dim headlamp and a small day pack going deeper into the backcountry. We assumed he was going out for night photography, or maybe to check out the snow cave someone had built nearby. We didn’t think anything of him the next day on our way back, assuming he had not spent  the night out there with just a daypack. Fast forward a few days later while at work, the rangers called me to ask if I’d seen this man’s truck up there. We hadn’t looked, so I wasn’t sure. He had never returned, and the storm was only getting worse! My coworker tagged me in a Facebook post the next day of her friend’s family asking anyone with SAR experience and snowmobiles to help look for this man (their relative…small world). I messaged the family and told them about the possibility of him hunkering down in the snow cave. Turns out, that’s exactly what he had done! He’d gotten injured and couldn’t snowshoe his way back (remember, it was nearly impossible for me and I wasn’t even injured!). He eventually made it several days later to the visitor center, found enough WiFi outside to contact his family, dug out the snow-covered door to a heated bathroom to wait out the storm in there, AND FOUND TWO DEAF PEOPLE TRAPPED IN THERE!!! Had my friends and I just took the time to dig out the bathroom door for a warm break, we could have gotten them out sooner, but presumably they couldn’t hear us outside so we had no idea they were even in there!! All three made it out safely. The fact that six people survived a winter storm out there is unheard of. It’s a fun story to tell now, but at the time I promised myself I’d never do anything like this again unless the weather was favorable! We still snowshoe/ski out to Crater Lake every winter for an overnighter, but never when there’s even a remote chance of a storm!

    #3618364
    Bri W
    BPL Member

    @bwrightback

    Here’s a news article on it that claimed it was one of the worst storms in 20 years!

    https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/2017/01/post_255.html

    And here are some photos of us, including a few at the visitor’s center when we opted NOT to dig out the bathrooms.

     

     

    #3618379
    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member

    @balzaccom

    Locale: Wine Country

    Good stories, people.  Keep them coming!

    #3618386
    Dave Heiss
    BPL Member

    @daveheiss

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Way back when, two friends and I were taking a motorcycle trip around the country and our tour of the West coast took us as far north as Englishman River Falls provincial park in Vancouver Island, Canada. We camped there and headed out to explore the area. The Englishman River flows (falls) into a deep crack in the ground – very cool to see – and downriver a bit from the falls we could peer down from the rim and see the river below. In one spot we spied a pool full of trout and decided to climb down and do some fishing.

    I recall that we caught a few nice trout, and then prepared to climb back up to the rim and head back to camp for a fish dinner. But we couldn’t. On the way down we had jumped the final part… and that part was a seamless expanse of rock about 10’ high which ran the full length of the shoreline and there were no handholds or toeholds we could use to get us up to the cracks and ledges we had followed on the way down. We had thoughtfully brought a length of nylon rope with us, thinking that it might come in handy, but we quickly found out that particular rope wasn’t suited for climbing. We used our food bag hanging skills to cast the rope over a sturdy branch above us but no matter how high we grabbed onto that rope it would simply stretch back down to ground level when we put our weight on it!

    10’ never looked so high, and as time went on our fears grew that we were going to be stuck there for a while. But we kept trying and after a bunch of unsuccessful attempts we managed to combine a little rope climbing with a whole lot of boosting and we got the lightest member up to the first ledge. From there he was able to pull the rest of us up one by one and once back on the ledges we easily climbed to the rim and on to camp.

    Those hard-won trout were delicious but my hands were rope-sore for days afterwards.

    #3618388
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    2011 Wapama Falls Hetch Hetchy.  We had a four-day trip hiking around Hetch Hetchy.  On the last night, it was pounding rain all night.  We woke up, packed everything up and hiked out.  When we approached the bridge at Wapama Falls, there were a few people stopped near the bridge.  It had been raining so hard that water was crashing down on the boardwalk.  I checked it out and it was impassable.  It turns out that two people from the same party had been washed out off the bridge.  The first person fell and was getting swept away, the second man jumped down to help but was too late and he was getting washed away, but he grabbed his wife’s leg.  Rather than pull her over, he let go and was washed away.

    Following that, a church group of about 12 kids and leaders came up.  They didn’t have tents and slept in cotton sleeping bags under a flat tarp.  The kids were starting to experience hypothermia and we broke out shelters and jackets to keep the kids warm.  We heated up food to keep the kids warm.  The leaders were useless.  The Rangers came by and the search and rescue transitioned to recovery.  They brought boats in to shuttle everyone back to the trailhead.  I haven’t been back to Hetch Hetchy since.

    #3618408
    Bri W
    BPL Member

    @bwrightback

    Did the people swept into the water survive?!

    #3618434
    Karen
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    Jon, what a sad story, looks like two men did not survive, but the wife did. That bridge seems to have quite a history of accidents, sadly. Glad you were able to help the group of kids.

    #3618447
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    Locale: California

    I wrote up some of my stupid backpacking stories several years ago:

    An epic tale including thrashing through “green stuff,” a Tarzan-like swing (with similarities to @daveheiss story), an embarrassing encounter, plus an unfortunate meal choice topped off with painkillers.
    https://rockssandwater.blogspot.com/2012/02/stupid-hiking-story-1.html

    Don’t always believe weather forecasts or rangers, even in Southern California. And remember to close your poncho hood if used for shelter.
    https://rockssandwater.blogspot.com/2012/02/stupid-hiking-story-2.html

    How I almost died of hypothermia on a warm sunny day next to a freeway in San Diego.
    https://rockssandwater.blogspot.com/2013/01/stupid-hiking-story-3.html

    Why did I have to learn so many lessons the hard way?

    — Rex

    #3619031
    Jenny A
    BPL Member

    @jennifera

    Locale: Front Range

    WATCH THOSE TENT STAKES!  AND PAY ATTENTION!

    I tripped on a tent peg and it turned into skin cancer.

    Just 3 short months ago, I was setting up camp in the Big Horn Mts in Wyoming on Day 1 of a long-awaited fly fishing trip to Yellowstone.  While eyeing the nice little creek near the campsite and plotting how I was going to fish it, the toe of my sandal got caught in the hook of a tent stake, and down I went.  Unfortunately, it was my face that broke the fall.  I wouldn’t have believed it was possible to hit the ground that hard and that fast, with no time even to put my hand down.  I heard my head slam the ground (a mix of hard packed dirt and gravel) and I remember wondering if I was going to have a concussion and if I had actually broken my nose and if the trip was going to be over before it had barely begun.  My sunglasses were shattered and left a big gash across the bridge of my nose, but at least no rocks poked my eyes out.

    I couldn’t stop the bleeding over the hamburger that was my forehead, so I jammed a paper towel under my hat band, got the tent packed up and thrown into the back of the truck, and headed west (toward Yellowstone, mind you…hope springs eternal) to drive for an hour to try to locate the nearest ER before my eye became swollen shut completely.  I had to stop a state patroller to ask for directions to the hospital.  He looked at me kind of oddly, but asked no questions.  Guess he’d seen worse.

    The kind folks at the county hospital were able to get my forehead cleaned and stitched up – “macerated” is the word the doc used to describe it – and they sent me on my way with big bandages and instructions to get a tetanus shot and prescription for antibiotics the next day.  (The doctor’s hands were shaking as he stitched up my forehead.  He said maybe he shouldn’t have had that cigar on his break.)  I did not camp that night.  Despite one eye swollen nearly completely shut and some discomfort for a few days, I was able to complete the trip as planned and had a great time fishing.  Thank goodness I didn’t break a wrist in the fall!

    Fast forward a few weeks, and things had healed up pretty well except for the pea-sized lump that was growing on the bridge of my nose.  I figured it was just some imbedded dirt or gravel that was getting infected, so I spent a couple of weeks trying to dig it out and slather it with antibiotic ointment.  (Yeah, I know, dumb.)  When that didn’t seem to be working, I went to my doc, who referred me to a dermatologist.  A biopsy showed it to be a type of skin cancer that can develop on sun-damaged skin at the site of trauma.  (Check all the boxes there.)   One Moh’s surgery later, I think we got it.

    Lessons learned:  watch where you are putting your feet.  Don’t use stupid hook tent pegs.  Buy cheap sunglasses.  Black eyes clear up pretty quick.  You don’t need your face to fish.  And things that grow on your body quickly and unexpectedly should probably be looked at by a professional.

     

    #3619054
    Erica R
    BPL Member

    @erica_rcharter-net

    Absolutely amazing story. Not a dumb as some, but very moving.

    #3619057
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Now this is really fun! Good stories everyone.

    In June 2002 I was doing a circumnavigation of Yellowstone NP, and came to a crossing of the Yellowstone river here after crossing the Chipmunk Creek-Badger Creek divide:

    The river was about 80 yards wide (my really bad estimate), and cold (spring runoff).

    But I had my MYOG 1mm neoprene wetsuit with me for swimming, and all was good, right?

    I picked a spot where the current seemed “slower” (albeit the river width was wider…) to make the swim.

    It did not turn out well.

    I started wading, swimming, wading, swimming, then as I got near the other side, was swept down by a very strong current – more than 1/4 mile downstream before I finally made it to shore – shivering, cramped, and pretty much unable to move.

    So do I build a fire or keep walking?

    I collapsed – I simply could not walk due to the cramping – I had no choice.

    From where I fell, I had access to wood, my firestarting kit, and at least enough mental faculty to build a fire.

    So I stripped naked, warmed up, gathered my senses, and was able to move on after a few hours, and complete my trip.

    What a totally miserable experience.

    My “80-yard” estimate later was validated using sat imagery to be a wade/swim of nearly 2500 feet – almost 1/2 mile – a bit more than my original 80 yd estimate. Oof!

    Lesson learned: I shoulda brought at least a light packraft. Something like a Scout would have been ideal.

    #3619088
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    My “80-yard” estimate later was validated using sat imagery to be a wade/swim of nearly 2500 feet…

    Wow, a factor of 10.  I’m rotten with distance estimates when there’s lots of elevation change, but that scares the dickens out of me.

    #3619095
    Karen
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    I just watched Ryan’s spring alpine storm video – I know, I’m late to everything – and that actually fits this theme, although it was intentional not a mistake. That scene probably has been someone else’s mistake, and could totally be dangerous for less experienced hikers. The UL tent really looks like a kite! It should maybe be titled, “what not to do…”

    I don’t have a truly UL tent, they just look so flimsy, like tissue paper. Tempting, but our weather is so variable any time of year. So far my Tarptent Moment has done well in wind, rain and frost, haven’t tried snow.

    So often in the summer I’m in high wind, and the only real option is descent, even if it means miles off trail. No reason to try to sleep in that stuff! Makes for a long night of waiting for daylight to hike on, all the while listening to the gusts, and every new gust you’re wondering if things will hold up. But a night departure can also be a serious mistake, depending on terrain, weather, clothing, ability to navigate…I wouldn’t unless I had to, say with a night visit from a bear or a medical situation. In that video, say the gps wasn’t working, a night exit could have been a bad move.

    #3619132
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    among many: crossing a steep, icy snow field where a slip meant death, most likely. Without microspikes. But it was short! And doing this several times over several years (I love this spring hike!) always knowing the 40 foot serious patch ‘might’ be there and still failing to take microspikes.

    and here I am! through dumb luck. It can never happen to me, right?

    In my own defense, the section was never so icy that I couldn’t kick steps. I would have turned back faced with complete iciness.

    but worse: what never occurred to me until later was that this was an avalanche chute and conditions above the rock race towering over me were entirely unknown.

    #3619354
    Casey Bowden
    BPL Member

    @clbowden

    Locale: Berkeley Hills

    I didn’t share this when it happened, but think now is the time…

    ———————————-

    Drakes Estero
    by Casey Bowden
    6 September 2015

    Emily, my wife, would describe the man as “on the spectrum”, as in a functioning adult who doesn’t quite pickup the same clues as most when relating to other people. In this case the man was one of approximately 10 kayakers either standing or sitting around their vessels while watching wildlife from a sandy beach in Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore. I approached the group jogging, from the north, and had barely stopped before the man launched into his verbal assault.

    “Do you realize the stress you caused the seals when you ran towards them? You forced them off the mudflats and into the water.”

    This was not a reaction I was anticipating. Imagine a compass where I started at East, the seals are at North and I jogged directly to West, never coming closer than 100 yards to the lounging seals or running directly towards them. Did this action warrant such a response from this man? Yes, my actions did cause the seals to enter the water but something more extraordinary was afoot. The man, whose face was sunburnt despite wearing the ubiquitous REI sun hat and having white paste indicating zinc-oxide on his nose, did not ask the obvious question.

    “Are you OK and why are you naked?”

    Rewind to earlier in the day. My family and I are driving from the Berkeley Hills to Drakes Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore for the annual sand sculpture contest, which is held on Sunday during the Labor Day Weekend. During the 90-minute drive over, while we are listening to the audio book “A Hat Full of Sky” by Terry Pratchet, I am planning an adventure. So after arriving, getting the family settled, greeting our neighbors who we would be sculpting with, I tell my wife I’m going for a walk, down to the estero. My map, Point Reyes by Tom Harrison, does not show the distance but from the scale it appears to be about 1.5 miles. I leave at 11:30 am, wearing non-swimming shorts, cotton boxer shorts, a cotton tee-shirt, a hat and sunglasses. In my pocket is my iPhone and the Tom Harrison map; shoes, water and wallet are left with my family.

    Beach walking can be hit or miss, with misses caused by soft sand, steep slopes, high wind or inclement weather. A few years back I was hiking along the Lost Coast and experienced all four of these at the same time. However, today was sunny and clear and the sand was flat and hard. As literally thousands of people disappeared behind me I remember thinking how unusual, and enjoyable it was, to be walking alone. Our family walks, hikes and backpacks quite a lot, but since my children are 4 and 7, I am seldom alone. I pick up the pace and soon find myself standing at the water’s edge, looking longingly at the sandy beach of Limantour Spit perhaps a quarter mile away across the entrance to Drakes Estero.

    I HAVE to go in, just to scope things out. On the drive to the beach I decided backpacking from the Point Reyes Lighthouse to the Golden Gate Bridge would be a grand adventure, but two unknowns exist. First is crossing the estero here, and second is crossing the lagoon from Bolinas to Stinson Beach. Amy and Jim, amazing folk I know through a backpacking website, did most of the rest in trips in 2009 and 2010. But they spent several days walking around the entire perimeter Drakes Estero, why not swim?

    All of my belongings are, I hope, safely above the high tide line, piled neatly in the sand close to where I judge the crossing to be the shortest. Tentatively I enter the water and am surprised to find it refreshing rather than cold. Quickly the water depth reaches just below my nipples. I tell myself I’ll turn around when I need to swim, but I’m able to keep walking, and it isn’t getting any deeper. But it’s not calm. I discover that the shallowest path is parallel to the standing waves, which are about 1 foot tall. Leaving the turbulence results in deeper water so I follow the waves. And then I’m half way across.

    A cloudy blob exists on the flow chart at this point. Clearly I should have turned around but driven by the powerful force that caused man to walk out of Africa, I find myself swimming. Two people are on Limantour Spit, and I aim for them as they also appear to be at the closest landing point. If they were not there would I have gone? Now that the water is deeper it is calmer and I alternate between breaststroke and freestyle. Objectively, and almost as a disassociated observer, I think about panicking. To be clear, I don’t panic, but I think about it and what a terrible outcome would result if I did. It’s longer than I thought, but swims always are. A lifetime ago, in 1997, I raced in the Santa Cruz Triathlon which started with a 1-mile swim around the wharf, in a wetsuit, with emergency staff on kayaks. I haven’t really swum since and now I’m further north, naked and alone.

    Finally I reach Limantour Spit. One of the two people approach, a woman, and we arrange ourselves such that we are both looking at where I came from. I tell her that my wife is going to kill me and she offers me a sweatshirt which I refuse since I need to get back, somehow. I’m not fatigued or cold, probably due to adrenaline, but know that I don’t want to go back the same way I came. “Would you mind waiting to make sure I get back across OK?” This is what I want to ask the lady, but don’t. What could she do? Hike 3 miles back to the Limantour Beach parking lot, which doesn’t have cellular phone reception, then drive 45 minutes to Drakes Beach to tell a ranger a naked man disappeared while swimming across the estero?

    The flow chart is now clear, get back soon before anyone starts to worry and don’t go the way you came. Jog, swim, jog, swim is the plan. Break the long swim into two shorter swims, jogging along the shore as required to minimize swimming distances. I bid the woman farewell, and jog east. After only several minutes I stop, this is the place. Heading further east will only increase the length of my second swim. As far as I can, but not nearly as far as I would have liked, I wade until I need to swim. A strong and steady freestyle this time, no breaststroke as I need to get back. Quickly I tire. My cardio is good but I have a hiking and cycling body, not swimming muscles. Then something bites my toe, panic is avoided but I swallow some seawater. Seconds later I realize my foot has simply touched the mud, soon I am out of the water and jogging counter-clockwise around the estero, looking for my third and final crossing.

    Rocks are now the dominant theme, the sand is gone and I am barefoot and rock hopping. Slow down, slow down; a cut foot or even a sprained ankle will not matter at this point due to all of the adrenaline flowing through me, but it might be game over if I slip and hit my head. Suddenly I notice two vultures not more than 8 feet to my right then I audibly gasp when I see why. They are feeding on what I think is an elephant seal, at least 12 feet long and perhaps 3 feet in diameter.

    My mind wanders as I thread through the rocks. Concurrently I am: blown away by the scenery, really enjoying naked-barefoot running, horrified by the stupid situation I’ve put myself in, and thinking about how I’m going to write about it. I’m too old for this, making decisions which often kill teenage males. When I was that age, or a bit older, Emily and I hiked up Nevada and Vernal Falls in Yosemite. I crossed the guardrail and walked in the water until I was looking down the face of the falls. Emily was furious when I returned but I couldn’t understand why. Didn’t she see how carefully I moved, sliding my feet instead of walking, and never going in water deeper than my ankles? Now, with children of my own, I am horrified by my past transgression, yet here I am again.

    Leaving the rocks and dead seal I head for the base of the cliff, and begin running in the soft, narrow band of sand that has accumulated directly at the base of the cliff. It seems safer, and faster, than rock hopping below and suddenly I am Colin Fletcher, exploring the Grand Canyon. Then I consider falling debris and realize I have ascended high enough that a fall to the rock below would be really bad. I backtrack and continue rock hopping at sea level until I find my third, and final crossing.

    It turns out to be the easiest, and after wading a bit I swim for no more than 1 minute, probably less, before I can walk again. But I’m not done. With a better view of my situation I realize I’m at the East end of a mudflat island. I jog across to the West end, scaring the seals who I originally thought were birds, given the combination of their distance from me and my near-sighted eyes. I find the shortest distance to cross at the West end and have to swim almost immediately after wading out. This is my fourth swim and it seems almost as long as the first. But I know it’s the last and the water here is calm. I try to freestyle but quickly resort to the breaststroke. It seems the water is flowing into the estero, from my left to right, yet something seems to be pushing me the other way. With a tree as my guide I make it ashore.

    Several minutes of jogging takes me to the kayakers and the “spectrum man”. Despite what I wrote above, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but my verbatim response was “This was clearly not a planned adventure!”, followed by a haymaker to his jaw which knocks him out cold. As I set off I hear the other kayakers cheering and a susurrus including, “He kind of is an asshole” and “He had it coming”. I’ve never hit anyone before in my life and attribute my action to my extraordinary, vulnerable situation. I’m thinking I may never see my family again, am naked, and have an exceptionally small penis due to the cold water; three strikes and he is out.

    Leaving the man, and my imaginary fight club scenario, I am angry. Completing the fourth swim meant everything was going to be OK, I should be celebrating, but instead I’m allowing this man to upset me. My reaction to him, and indeed how we react to most everything in life is our choice. Others may influence my emotions but I, and I alone, control them. Now where are my clothes?

    Shirt in one hand, map and phone in the other, I jog back and arrive about 2 hours after I left. The sand sculpture is done and lunch is being finished. No one is concerned. When asked how my walk was I mutter “fine” then resume my parental duties, which at this moment involves keeping the kids from getting sand into the food.

    #3619360
    Brad P
    BPL Member

    @brawndo

    My friend the chemistry major went on to a brilliant career by the way, Ph.D. And all.

    Is this friend related to Eddie Murphy, by chance?  :)

     

    #3622082
    Dean F.
    BPL Member

    @acrosome

    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    Is this the “My Flirtation with Darwinism” thread?  Ok, I’ll play:

    When I graduated from residency I decided that since I had had no life for the past few years that I would try something new and exciting and expeditionary. I talked a couple of friends into doing a kayaking trip 160 miles down the Stikine River from Telegraph Creek, British Columbia to Wrangell, Alaska. Our research had shown that this was usually a very forgiving if somewhat grueling float, on a river that was wide, wild, and fast but had no white water. People did it often using sea kayaks so this was our plan, so that we could hit some of the fjords and glaciers around Wrangell at the end. My residency had been in Tacoma, Washington and I had picked up sea kayaking, whereas my friends had some river kayaking experience, so I felt this was probably within our abilities. We found an outfitter and made reservations for our kayaks as well as for the shuttle upstream on a jetboat.

    Well, that year turned out to have a late and sudden thaw. The river was running at 14 knots.  There were standing waves the size of houses in some places, but on the shuttle up we always thought that there was an obvious line that we could make along one shore or the other to avoid them, and having come so far and invested so much already we were loathe to bail out.

    Long story short, we made it about eight miles, and about half of that was AFTER the disaster.

    We got horribly strung out with immense distances between us. I came around one corner and saw one of my friend’s boats pushed up against a wall on the left shore and spinning on its long axis, and he wasn’t in it.  In total earnestness I thought that he was dead, trapped against the wall by the current. I nosed my boat close to the wall while back-paddling furiously trying to spot any sign of him. Then about a half of a mile downstream I saw an arm raised as he tried to swim to the far shore.  (Later he would tell us that he had indeed been washing-machined for what felt like forever before the hydraulic spat him out.)  I abandoned his boat and headed for him, but he did manage to get to shore shortly before I got to him. I shouted to him but hypothermia had been at work on him and he didn’t recognize me, confusing me for a local, and told me that his friends were around here somewhere and could I contact them and let them know that he had taken a swim. Unfortunately where he had gotten to shore was rocky and I could not land my boat in that fast current, and had to satisfy myself with streaking past him at 14 knots. I radioed the others and told them to pull over, then landed next to them further downstream. We were on the same shore as our distressed friend and began bushwhacking back toward him, but not until after I made a brief attempt to catch his kayak, which had sailed past us in the interim.  I was not successful, and his kayak loaded with several thousand dollars worth of high-grade photography equipment is probably still circling the Chukchi Sea to this day.

    There was a road near the shore and one of my other friends flagged down a truck to send word to town about what had happened. We eventually found my hypothermic friend, pitched camp, and got him warmed up. Shortly a Mountie arrived to check on us with a few local teenagers to guide him. We were able to contact our Outfitter by satellite phone and he came to pick us up two days later.  We went back down to Wrangell and instead spent the vacation sea kayaking around the vicinity.  Miraculously, since the guy who took a swim had his sleeping kit in a different boat we could all still do that much.

    Our mistake, of course, was not being willing to abandon our plans when conditions proved severe.

    #3622101
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Casey, I missed your post when your wrote it a few weeks ago. That was an amazing and amusing story. Thanks for sharing it.

    #3622329
    Jenny A
    BPL Member

    @jennifera

    Locale: Front Range

    Good heavens, Dean.  That could have ended much differently.  One of my favorite sayings is, “Chicken out to die another day.”

    #3622895
    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member

    @sbhikes

    Locale: Santa Barbara

    a type of skin cancer that can develop on sun-damaged skin at the site of trauma

    Thank you for this. I have been wondering why there is a scab on my ear, where it came from, why it bleeds so much when it comes off and why it never seems to go away.

    #3688762
    Scott Chandler
    BPL Member

    @blueklister

    Locale: Northern California

    We did our first “In search of snow and storms trip” to San Jancito. We set up my Oval Intention, which had a dark taupe fly. Off to climb San Jancito, and came back just around dark. What we didn’t consider was how uniform the area was in terms of many, many small pockets of open ground separated by batches of trees, and just how much that tent looked like every other slightly snow dusted granite boulder in the area. We simply couldn’t find the tent. We were just about to bail, head back for the tram and hope we could find an open bathroom in which to spend the night when we nearly tripped over the tent. Whew. This was before LED headlamps, otherwise I would have set one on flash and left it in the tent to act like a beacon for our return.

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