Tag Archives: nature

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.

check

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

Recreate

Recreation, Re-create what?
REAL LIFE

the happy tube
the happy tube

recreate

Let’s face it! Human beings were not designed to spend long hours in front of a television or computer. It’s no surprise that 50% of Americans are overweight, with all the lounging we do. The wifi is making my brain ache & too much screen time brings on tension. This cannot be natural, nor healthy.

While computer time is crucial to working & managing a busy schedule, learning a sense of balance in your daily life is of key importance too.

recreate your reality, one trail at a time

Years ago, while living in Los Angeles, I noticed I craved to be outside as much as possible. Whether it be walking in the local park, skating on the strand, lying on the beach or watching the sunset from a mountain top, it was a calling I had to follow. My enjoyment outdoors, be it leisure or recreational, became a very important part of my lifestyle (and thus was born the dream of Total Escape).

The more we go outside & exercise, the better we feel – overall.  Enjoying wilderness & walks outdoors gives us peace of mind, naturally. The stillness we seek, in order to slow our minds & listen to our soul, is a primal one. But overall, we have learned to ignore it.

explore bodie
Bodie State Historical Park

Modern technology should give us more freedom in our lives, but instead, many find themselves strapped to devices, gadgets & insane time schedules. The more we remove ourselves from the natural earth, the less conscious of our own lives we become. Societal influences, daily doses of entertainment, video games, plus the “always online mentality” and smartphone addiction has given us a new reality (always indoors), an invasion of privacy and a sometimes, a false sense of security.

duckduckgo.com

 

Technology is here to work with us, not against us. Set the boundaries, listen to your body & set yourself free each week. No matter if you are an avid gamer, a couch potato or a hi-tech corporate workaholic, we can all benefit from more time outdoors.

You’re not more productive;
You’re more distracted.

Learn to take more breaks, more often, away from the television & computers, for health sake. Total Escape is here to show you a way. Giving you ideas & destinations, to help you create good habits & make visits to nature a part of your weekly routine. The goal is to inspire you to explore & make your dreams of travel happen with a beautiful & easy to use web site, with as minimal obnoxious banners as possible.

dayhikeforest

California Travel this Season:

visit a historic ghost town
discover the wildflower fields
pack a picnic for a day outdoors
watch a million geese, in their natural habitat
bond with forest land, and collect firewood
seek out the deep snow – with snow shoes
stargaze, well away from city lights
soak your worries away, in the hot springs

recreate your life
recreate yourself
recreate your weekend

wildflowerwalks

Find a way to let go of stress in your life on a weekly basis. If the dieting & gym routine never worked, try something else. Keep trying. Tensions of the week will dissipate as you near the county line on that open rural highway. 3pm office day dreams will be brighter as you look forward to your next day off.

Play Hooky

Ditchin, Absent, Gone

break free, break loose, break off, break out
bolt, elude, evade, flee, fly, relief, vent

work slave zombie

Finding ways to ditch work or school has always been a challenge for dedicated students or work-o-holics. Generally (rat race) Americans work more hours, longer hours and take less vacation days than any other population on the planet, the studies have found.

Californians have a true recreation paradise at their back door… and very few get to enjoy it. Too busy in the city. There are so many neat places to go & cool people to see on the back roads of California, that a whopping 5 paid holidays we get per year just isn’t enough.

Plus there is always so much work to do. Well, guess what? The work will just keep on coming, and coming, until you decide YOU really need a break. Taking that break doesn’t have to cost a fortune either.

hookie, hooky?

The slang word conjures up 10 year old kids, neighborhood pals, riding bikes, running around old abandon shacks & exploring deserted mines. Swimming holes, rope swings and sunshine. A whole day of rest & relaxation, the fun kind. Yep. When you were a youngster, you knew the real meaning of enjoying a day. Free time was almost ALL the time and you lived each day with a fresh outlook.

NOTE to self: TAKE THE BACK ROADS, as much as possible.

Springtime, waterfalls, wildflowers. When it has been a long hard, snowy winter, a sunny day is a huge welcome in February. Come March and April, people want to be outside more, before the summer heat begins.

April 20 is a popular day to enjoy nature, annually. The month of April is prime time for traveling, with Easter weekend and Earth Day celebrations. 420 Camp Outs, Earth Day, River Festivals, Wildflower Blooms. Usually the first camping of the season for true die-hards.

A to Z California

see all California small towns & vacation destinations

5 good reasons
to take that extra day off of work/school

As you may have noticed by now, adult-hood is not all it’s cracked up to be. Work, chores, errands, sleep, drive & more work. Time to re-evaluate what is or isn’t happening in your life. If it’s travel you desire you don’t hafta wait until your are retired. Total Escape is here to help with thousands of pages & ideas. Explore close to home. Travel local regions in California, more often, for less money.

1. Cuz You Deserve It

Yes, dang it, you do. And you know it.
Your year is becoming a series of uneventful weekends all strung together. You need a fresh dose of reality & a weekend away does wonders. Clears the head of daily worries, opens up a fresh perspective, makes you think a little better. Whether it’s fly fishing, antique shopping or laying in a hammock near a creek, it all helps you. Subtly, but it does.

At the desk

bodie ghost town

2. Mental Health Day

We are a nation of work-o-holics. It’s that simple. We are becoming an impatient, unpleasant, selfish society that is always in a rush. What kinda life of daily grind is that? As we all have heard, Europeans get x-number of weeks for holiday time. Twice or three times more than us Americans. Do they know something we don’t? Is it time to slow down & use our sick days for our mental health? When your body is healthy, you might not get sick so often, so go for a hike to celebrate. Stop the chatter about it & do it. Enjoy life, every weekend. Recognize every holiday, 3 day weekends & plan something special for yourself and/or your loved ones.

3. Nature’s Well of Wellness

Fresh mountain air, glowing orange sunsets, the scent of cedar pines, the crashing of ocean waves & the warmth of a fireplace or campfire. A full day of hiking the high Sierra or just lazily fishing from your boat. Nature has magical ways of healing even the most weary souls. Come back from your weekend, exhausted & amazed OR refreshed & fully rested … it’s all up to you. We live in a beautiful place. California has a thousand destinations for you to enjoy. Why not start a health habit of traveling?

HelpMeEscape

4. Less Crowds

Summer is slowing down & autumn will soon set in. The hordes of tourists are thinning out, now that all the kids are back in school. This is the time to plan that weekend in the mountains, rent a cabin, a historic hotel or camp out along the river. Ask for an extra day, a Friday off & make that weekend a 3 day mini vacation. Traffic heading outta town is way better on a Thursday night or Friday morning, than the usual ‘mass exit’ weekend jam. Sitting on the freeway not moving is no fun at all. It’s a horrible way to start a vacation & the weekend escape rush hours can be grueling, so try to plan around it.

5. Cheaper Off Season Rates

Many small independent lodges, like the ones we feature here on Total Escape, usually drop their rates in their off-season. Call ahead to find out when the rates are best. Often the same thing goes for recreational adventures, tour companies & air fares. Each season has it’s own unique characteristics, so plan your stay according to preference. There is always a nice balance with winter, as the Golden State has plenty deserts to explore, as well as snowy slopes. Summer always looks great for the high Sierra but the coastlines are best in Fall. So as you can see there is no use waiting for the perfect time to travel, cuz in California the weather is almost always gorgeous.

Marc at Sunset“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you…while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
– John Muir

The California National Forests, State Parks & National Parks have a million & one things for you to do to enjoy your surrounding, or choose to do nothing at all in some pretty spectacular scenery.

your choice

California Weekends, Unexpected Day Off, Back to Nature

BLM / State Parks / National Forests / National Parks

BLM California

State Park California

National Parks California

US NFS

Out of the Box

city buildings
Feeling like you are trapped in a box lately? Is your daily existence in front of a computer monitor driving you bonkers?

Well, well then, the Total Escape web site is the new place for you. This is Off the Beaten Path, California style. The golden state at it’s very best. Local trips. Scenic drives.

cubical ratNot like the traffic hell you experience on the freeways, but open roads, trees, nature, open spaces, wild grass, blue birds, open fields, sunshine, fresh air & open meadows. Openness!! Plenty land, parks, recreation, leisure & simple good ideas for your weekend getaways.

escape cubical life soon

We all have our version of the BOX. What holds us there, is only a mystery. If you are sick of sitting at home doing nothing on the weekends (a house is a box), or needing a reason to kick the boob tube habit ( T.V. the most controlling box of all) or just wanting to break away after (or before) that big project deadline at work, Total Escape is a perfect place to start your day dreaming. With thousands of pages & photographs to show you where to go, you will wanna bookmark this online resource.

try it, you’ll like it:

winery tour & tasting
bike ride along the coast
a dirt road in the countryside
seafood in Baja, plus a hotel
find a bed & breakfast
cozy mountain cabin
natural hot springs
try SUV adventures

development
While you won’t know who’s doing what on television, I can assure you that your new found freedom & stream side camp will keep you reminiscing for many months.

By traveling locally, you can travel more often, experience a variety terrain, towns & recreational activities. Plenty small towns lodges wanting you to find them. Plus camping will work for moderate lifestyle travelers seeking the less expensive option for the weekend. Less cash, more nature.

How broke are you? Money is no excuse either. You will spend the same amount, if not more, staying in town, seeing a movie, doing one restaurant dinner & running up to the store for a sec (3 stores & a mocha freezy later, $$$). Leave the shopping boxes (malls) for weeknights.

Carpool and save on the cost of gasoline. A long road trip, it’s a great way to get re-acquainted with an old friend.
socalsuburb

Dedicate your weekends to yourself for once. (at least every month or so) Try scheduling in a real weekend away.

If you are a home owner, chances are you’ve spent the last year or more on house projects (or procrastinating on them). Time to stop! Celebrate life. Enjoy yourself & go. Let your imagination run wild while you dream of the coolest, most scenic places you can go. A rustic Sierra cabin, walking distance from a lake. A romantic bed & breakfast in wine country. A fly fishing guided tour up north somewhere. Come on, let go & get out of town.

find yourself
Something you can’t find with a GPS.

Yourself.