Wilderness Reality Check

Zion hikes
Zion National Park – Angels Landing Hike

selfie culture turns deadly

  • Instagram deaths in Yosemite NP
  • Bison attacks in Yellowstone NP
  • Fatal falls at the Grand Canyon

hiker

National Park deaths across the US have skyrocketed in the last couple of decades, due to people falling from extreme heights.

There are numerous, recent stories in the news related to clueless people – falling to their deaths, just for a selfie-photo in front of a great viewpoint, that I am simply stunned by the numbers. Tumbling into waterfalls, getting lost in the woods, or just vanishing without a trace. Naive people trying to “pet” wildlife and getting hurt in the process.

Drowning is the most common cause of death inside National Parks, followed by auto accidents and falling from extreme heights.

Social media is the number one driver in a destination’s popularity, and the amount of accidental deaths in parklands. Recently there has been a 90% increase in vehicle accidents, a 60% rise in calls for ambulance and a 130% rise in searches and rescues.

The Deadliest Parks in the West:

With so many stories surfacing and avoidable tragedies happening, that I feel compelled to write a post about the inherent dangers of the outdoors. Not just the bears, but all of it.

Sometimes you have a fraction of a second to make a life-or-death decision. Unfortunately many things in life are not 100% safe. We cannot simply close nature down.

mountains

The advice here is only some of the basics.

Wear proper footwear, understand where danger lies, obey warning signs and know the limits of your own physical ability.

Running shoes are suitable for most trails, but hiking boots are usually better. Never hike in flip-flops and if you must hike in sandals, make sure to get ‘sport sandals’ with traction soles, arch support, plus secure, sturdy straps.

califrepublic

Seems like good reasoning to those middle-aged, who can remember time without the digital age of distractions. For the rest, who have been staring at a smartphone or video game for most of life, this here is life preserving advice. So listen up.

It used to be called ‘common sense’ – and we learned it at a very young age, with overbearing parents, rules, restrictions and reckless playing outdoors (most everyday). Many hours away from home, off on your own and exploring. Falling, scraping knees, taking a tumble off the bike. Living and learning through experience.

Since many children now grow up totally sheltered, in an indoor environment, looking at screens all day, and existing primarily in cyber space – I guess social media isn’t teaching us the basics on how to survive outdoors and in real life.

Unless of course, you gravitate to those specific channels/videos on wilderness survival (bushcraft), outdoor safety, map reading skills, terrain, protection, wildlife, etc.

The hip, cute camping couple with the custom van build (and unlimited funds) may seem entertaining and cool, but are they offering something of substance? Are you learning anything valuable, or just watching someone else travel?

camptruck

books on death outdoors

WISDOM:
Sound Judgement

DEATH and injury are always a factor when enjoying wild and natural places. Lightning can strike you, a wild animal can attack, you could fall off a cliff, you could injure yourself, slip into the river or you can get lost – and die. Happens all the time, especially in the mountainous, extra large land of California.

WILD, naturally means uncontrollable.
(animal, weather, water or location)

This nature experience you crave is not a video game, nor movie on a screen; This experience is real, raw and often dangerous. Being outdoors near wild animals, next to raging rivers, on dirt roads, on hiking trails, way away from society, has some risks involved.

09slipsliding
Granite Slides

HEED the WARNINGS

WATER is DEADLY overall in California: Waterfalls, rivers, creeks and lakes are dangerous due to numerous factors. While granite rock slides may be appealing in the Sierra Nevada mountains; Loosing your balance and cracking your skull on hard rock may change your life forever, if you can even get to the nearest hospital 100+ miles away.

Always know where & how far the nearest hospital is located. Not just the city name, but the physical location. This simple bit of knowledge is often overlooked by eager travelers, campers and hurried city folks looking to make the most of their time away.

The mighty Pacific Ocean is notorious for shark attacks, surfing accidents and drownings. Beach goers often forget the dangers of the ocean water, when kids, food and family are involved. Ocean swimming/surfing can be dangerous to your health (during big storms) with sewage river run-off.

cliffedge
Moab, Utah is surrounded by red rock cliffs

Lakes and large recreational reservoirs  are places where people love to relax and more often than not, drink alcoholic beverages. Deaths related to boating, jet skiing and tubing usually involve intoxication. When boating – wear a life vest.

Toxic algae can be found floating on water and can be deadly to humans and dogs. Know what toxic algae looks like, smells like and keep pets on leash and out of the water.

White water river rafting is also a sport which has annual fatalities, but just wading near a raging rivers edge can be dangerous – if you loose your footing. Once gravity pulls you down, even if you are a “strong swimmer”, it is hard to manage the swiftness of the river. Waterways can be dangerous, so always wear a life vest.

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COMFORTABLE CITY vs LIFE OUTDOORS:

Stay sheltered in your own, comfortable, safe space, with electricity, wifi, cell phone reception, air conditioning, plenty to eat and the hospital nearby.

Or you could choose to venture out beyond the unknown, if you have a good head on your shoulders. This is where education comes in, and we are not talking about typical higher learning.

Read all about the place you want to visit. The more remote a locale, the more you need to know about that area and it dangers.

dangerousSQ

Wilderness Areas in California

rangerKnow your plan, tell someone and go out over prepared. Do the research online and off – for the destination you seek. Collect topo maps, talk to rangers on the phone, discuss trails and routes with other hikers or online; gather info well ahead of time, so you can get the gear to make such a trip into the wild a success.

  • always check the weather, as often as possible
  • carry a cell phone – with fully charged battery; , maybe even a backup recharger
  • automotive: top off coolant, oil, windshield washing fluid, check tire pressure. Tune up, especially for road trips. Carry jumper cables, abundant water and a tire patch kit.
  • know how to read a topographic map, outdoors (without cell phone signal and/or GPS)
  • get a first aid kit (review/restock it)
  • study and practice outdoor survival skills, even at home
  • know current fire conditions, campfire safety
  • learn about (current or recent) wildfires burning and what areas have been affected. Roads, trails and camps could be closed.
  • always carry drinking water; extra water in multiple containers
  • get a reliable water filter (for collecting drinking water en route)
  • pack basic camp tools: shovel, bucket, knife, saw, lighter
  • traveling solo, always err on the side of caution.

califrepublic

Wild Animals

Snakes are the least of your concern. Yes, rattlesnakes can be found on hiking trails and at campgrounds. Know how recognize a rattlers sound, where they may be hiding and what to do if you encounter one.

The small critters are often cute and very photogenic, but they are usually after the food you have. Do not feed the wildlife. Do not try to touch the animals. Heed all warning signs about raccoons stealing food. Aggressive squirrels can chew a hole your backpack and bite you, with the possibility of rabies. Desert burros take leather shoes,  or marmots eat radiator hoses in your vehicle.

Mice or rodent droppings can carry the deadly hantavirus, so this means no sleeping on cave floors, picnicking under boulders or sweeping out old cabins or motorhomes (without a proper mask).

And always use the steel bear boxes for storing food when available.

Camping & Hiking with Bears!

cougarsMountain Lions – generally avoid human contact if possible. There have been a few incidence over the decades where females or children mountain bikers have been attacked by wild cats, often known as cougars.

Know that mountain lions prefer to chase and catch their prey, which means speeding by them can trigger this reaction. And no, you cannot pedal faster than the wild animal.

Best tactic to avoid this situation is to make noise when enjoying the trails. Be noisy with vocals, talking, singing, bells on hiking boots and most animals will avoid the confrontation all together.

If however, you are camping alone at a remote location – and a big cat shows up, then you have to make your presence known, pretty loudly, possibly for hours. You may hear growls, hissing noises or high pitched squeals (mating calls) off in the near distance, which means you might be camping next to a favorite meadow where this big cat hunts for food.

Stay awake and aware of what area the mountain lion is patrolling. Make loud noises, yell, sing, fire your gun off and/or bang on metal objects. Cranking loud music works to drive away wildlife, but don’t totally forget that there is a large predator nearby. Keep alert throughout the night for any new activity in camp and be prepared to defend yourself with a weapon.

snow

Winter Weather in California
Road Conditions in California
Snow Chains / Tire Tools

snow conditions

And lastly, the human factor – 

Strangers

Solo and single – don’t talk to everyone.

Parents used to tell their children “don’t talk to strangers” as that single act could lead to predators taking advantage of a situation. Whether it is a ride they need, directions, a cigarette or perhaps an invite extended to join them, keep it short and polite, but firm. Don’t go off traveling with them, if you just met. Don’t get inside their vehicle. Offer to make a phone call for them, if they need the sheriff or rangers.

Any lengthy conversation with an unknown person can lead to a new friendship, perhaps, or a serial killer. California has always been a haven for crime, due to the massive population. During the 1970-1980’s the Golden State had a news story of abductions, missing girls or murder sprees almost every week. These days mass shootings have taken over the spotlight.

Need help, try asking officials if they are around. Park rangers, camp host, store clerks, road crews, utility workers. Keep it short when asking for directions with total strangers. Never tell anyone you meet – your plans, destination or itinerary. If they seem trustworthy and you are not traveling alone, you have more flexibility and can use better judgement.

Police departments patrol cities, whereas in rural areas, law enforcement is served by the county Sheriff. Always know what county you are located in. In National Parks, National Forests, BLM, State Parks and Wildlife Refuges personnel patrolling are called rangers.

Bring local phone numbers written down and in your wallet. Cell phone service (to look these things up online) is spotty and often non-existent when traveling the backcountry roads. Prepare and plan like you don’t own a smartphone.

mist trail
Yosemite’s Mist Trail

sample news articles:

Falling off of Angels Landing @ Zion NP

Yosemite NP (100+ deaths occur annually)

Loving Nature to Death – The Guardian 2018

California Car Rentals

Auto Rentals, 4×4 Rentals
in and around California

Thrifty Rent-A-Car System, Inc.
california

Automotive Rental Agencies
Baja Car Rentals
Bus Service / Tours
Camper Van Rentals
Van Build-out Shops

Hummer Rentals
Jeep Rentals
Limousines
Motorcycle Rental
Off Road Rentals
SUV Rentals
Trucks 4×4 / 4WD
RV Motorhome Rental

4x4    califrepublic    camptruck

Tobin Bridge California
Tobin Bridge California
CaribouWoodbridge
Queen Lily bridge, Caribou Road, North Feather River

Auto Rental Service Agencies


Alamo 844-354-6962
Budget 800-218-7992
Enterprise 855-266-9289
Hertz 800-654-3131

SFthennow

Rent-A-Wreck San Francisco, CA 877-877-0700
Thrifty Rent-A-Car System, Inc.
hwy highway

june lake loop
June Lake Loop is a popular spot for Autumn Colors

camp

bajaexplorin
Paved roads are the main highways in Baja, everything else is usually DIRT

Baja California Mexico Car Rentals

Some San Diego car-rental companies will rent vehicles for driving into Baja California & will provide Mexican auto-insurance. Franchises below can have location drop offs & pick-ups in the US or over the border in MX.

ABC RENT-A-CAR
Costa Mesa, CA 949-200-3367

AVIS Rent a Car
San Diego, CA 619-688-5000
Otay Tijuana 619-588-1309
Mexico 800-770 2847
Baja California Norte, Mexico

DOLLAR
800-800-4000 MX & SD
San Diego Airport San Diego, CA
Tijuana, Baja California

ENTERPRISE 855-266-9289
San Diego, CA 619-696-5000
Mexicali, BC 686-514 2406
en Español 1-877-416-0000

NATIONAL CAR MX
800-716-6625

CALIFORNIA BAJA RENT-A-CAR
619-470-7368
Trucks, Vans, Jeeps, SUV, 4×4 vehicles

Baja Insurance
Buy Baja Insurance online

SequoiaSUV
Toyota Sequoia in Lakes Basin Recreation Area
SUVtrips
Access more roads w/ a Sport Utility Vehicle

SUV and 4×4 Rentals

These days most all car rental agencies have Sport Utility Vehicles for rent, but if you need 4 wheel drive for your trip, then make sure 4WD is an option.

4x4

granitegravelrd
Hard core roads: 4×4 may be needed to reach secluded camp sites in California.

Click below for off-road rentals all around California, from fully outfitted Jeeps (for a week) to quick quad rentals at the dunes (for a few hours).

4 wheel drive rentals = 4×4 Rentals

Overland Jeep Rentals w/ camping roof top tent and gear;
ATV and Quads @ beach sand dune park

snow

snow & ice?

Heading up to the mountains for anything fun? then you better ask rental car company about snow forecast and tire chains – or buy some in route.

OFF ROADING, for sure

If you plan to drive on serious dirt roads for hundreds of miles, a week of camping, rock crawling mountains, take a spin on the desert sand dunes, or want to drive into Mexico, then you will need extra insurance. Ask and expect to pay $$$.

likearental
Drive It – like a rental. (Perosi) Moab UT – Crawloween 2000

wildflower

mountains

Air Travel

California Airplanes & Travel

Baja Mexico Flights
Best Times to Fly
Cheapest Airfares
California Local Air Charters
Sightseeing Flights
Small Town Airports

Air planes burn major fuel. More than one-tenth of all transportation-related carbon emissions across the United States comes from air travel, according to the EPA.

Estimates say rail travel emits less than one-third of the CO2 relative to what air travel does. Consider a longer journey, taking in more scenery and traveling by train; California has lots of options.

SDskyshot
San Diego Harbor from above.

 

airportBiggest destination airports in California

SAN – San Diego

SFO – San Francisco

LAX – Los Angeles

ONT – Ontario

SMF – Sacramento

Popular connector flights include – 

  • RENO, NV
  • LAS VEGAS, NV
  • PHOENIX, AZ
  • PORTLAND, OR
  • SEATTLE, WA
  • DENVER, CO
  • SALT LAKE CITY, UT
fly2sacto
Flights to Sacramento

Best Times to Fly

Time of the Flight:
Book a flight before 7:00 am or after 7:00 pm. Also, Saturday & Sunday flights may eligible for off-peak pricing.

Day of the Week:
Certain fares are priced lower on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays

Holiday Travels:
Days surrounding a holiday or 3 day weekend are usually not the best choice for a deal. These are considered “blackout” days. Try to get a “red-eye” (late night) flight just before the holiday rush.

Six major airlines control nearly three-quarters of the air market & airfare prices.

Keys to savings:

Be flexible. Jump on bargain prices and then figure out why you want to go there. If you must travel to Point B for a specific visit, only purchase during deep sale periods.

Familiarize yourself on discount airline routes. You may be able to travel to a city within 150 miles of your final destination, but save hundreds in doing so.

Check out the number of Internet sites that sell tickets below the official, or published fares. Many offers are completely non-refundable and not exchangeable for other travel dates.

How to fly on a private jet for under $150 per person

takeoff
San Diego airport take off

California – Local Air Charters

Stratos Jet Charters, Inc.
888-593-9066

JSX – JetSuite Air
800-435-9579

Premier Air Charter, LLC
San Diego, CA
619-316-5637

LGB – Long Beach Airport
serving: Mammoth, Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon
562-570-2600

Desert Jet Service
Palm Springs, CA
800-381-JETS (5387)

Sierra Aviation
703 Airport Rd. #A
Bishop, CA
760- 872-2202

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Sightseeing Flights

Small Town Airports
Rural California and Remote Destinations

California A to Z

Municipal airports, county air fields, remote landing strips, regional air port links are now listed individually on the town pages under local links.

Cabo

Baja Air Services

Aero Mexico
800-237-6639

serving:
Cabo San Lucas
La Paz
Loreto
Los Cabos
Tijuana

Los Padres National Forest


Popular Airline Deals !

Ghost Towns in California

California’s Historic Ghost Towns

Historic cities and towns are commonplace inside California, but very few towns are totally abandoned. By definition ‘ghost towns’ are population locations that have previously thrived (usually in mining), but they ultimately have been deserted.  Sometimes a few residents will stick around for the seclusion, but the place often appears empty. Finding an open business is a rarity.

generalstore
inside the old general store

North Bloomfield allows visitors inside the buildings to check out the furnishings, decor, fixtures and the interiors. As part of a ranger guided daily tour, you can explore these historic structures up close and personal.

ghost towns

towns in business

almost abandoned

shackleaning

California mining ruins

findingfall
Malakoff Diggins State Park

California ghost town

deserted mines & ghost towns

creosote

Garlock, California
(most of the buildings torn down by Knott’s Berry Farm, for decor at their amusement park)

Panamint City, CA
(old mining camp, way above Panamint Valley)

Montgomery City, Hwy 6
(old mining site, 4×4 required. N of Bishop, CA)

Skidoo, Death Valley NP
(old mining ruins, near Wildrose Canyon)

Tucki Mine, Death Valley NP
(old mining camp, near Wildrose Canyon)

field deserts
North Mojave Desert
greenshack
Randsburg, California; circa 1999
skidoo
skidoo mine, DVNP

woodsiding