Tag Archives: wild

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

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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.

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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

Camp Kitchen Rules

springtable

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rodents to raccoons / bats to bears / fish to frogs

Outdoor Kitchen Rules:

    • At home you can let your dirty dishes sit for days in the sink, but not out here. As much as you hate to, wash the dishes right after your meal – so you don’t attract wildlife to your camp. Heat wash water to make cleaning up easier on your hands. A large towel helps w/ drip dry process, so carry old towels.picnic
    • Picnic tables outside in the elements and are used by everyone, including the animals and rodents. Bring a table cloth, plastic, or an old sheet to cover the table. Hold it down with heavy objects on each end.

Hantavirus is a serious and deadly lung infection that is caused from inhaling fine dust particles from rodent droppings.

      • Avoid eating or preparing food directly on the ground. Place a ground tarp down and then a picnic blanket, at the very least.
      • Use caution (and a wet sponge) when staying overnight in rustic cabins, tent cabins.
      • Beware of older buildings that may be or may have been populated with rats or mice. Bring tarps, sheets and extra blankets to minimize the dust level. It’s advisable NOT to sleep or eat in any place that has evidence of mice turds.
      • Avoid sleeping or camping in caverns or caves, as rodent populations are in excess.
      • Do not feed wildlife, birds, squirrels or rodents. They can carry rabies and/or many other diseases.camp

    garbage (pack it out)

        • Put food left overs in the ice chest as soon as it cools. Use paper towels to wipe food residue out of pots – before washing. Dispose of trash food into paper grocery bag.  Dispose of paper bag & towels into the campfire. Let it burn down all the way w/ the last wood scraps; No more food smells to attract bears!
        • Do not leave the garbage outside overnight. Deposit trash in a dumpster at campground, or treat it like food and lock it away in a vehicle. Double bag it – in case it leaks. Always carry extra black trash bags when traveling, to clean up litter. These large bags can also be used as storage for blankets and pillows.campfire

      campfire (safety)

        • Obtain a free campfire permit from the local ranger station, if you plan to cook outdoors, using a stove or a fire. Know current fire conditions and obey RED FLAG restrictions on fire.
        • Do not leave campfires, lanterns or candles burning unattended at camp. Make sure the propane or butane fuel is turned off (at the stove and at the tank) after a meal. Drowned campfires before bedtime, or when you leave camp.

      washing (clean)

            • Do not wash dishes or cookware directly in the stream (lake, creek, river). Bring a large bucket or wash tub. Avoid dipping dirty dishes or pans into the lakes, rivers, or creeks. Wash nearby without putting soap into the natural waterway. Some campgrounds do not have piped water, so carry your own.
            • Disperse wash water over the ground at least 200 feet from nearest stream, river or lake.
            • Use a sponge scrubber with soap in the handle for convenience w/ minimal liquid. Store it is a ziplock baggie. No more chasing the floating soapy sponge down the creek, in the cold, swift current.
            • Same rules apply when washing your hands in the creek or bathing your body in a lake. Keep the soap to a minimum and rinse soap off – away from the shoreline of the lake, river or creek.

            water (raw water)

            • Do not drink untreated water from a lake or creek, no matter how fresh or clean it looks. Boil water, or bring a portable water filter for use when camping/hiking. If you carry bottled water, pack trash out; recycle bottles.
            • Boil water, Boiling is sufficient to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
              • If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.
              • Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. At altitudes above 5,000′, boil water for 3 minutes.

            Giardia is often found in rivers and streams. These organisms exist in waters because they exist in our digestive tracts and those of other animals. So anywhere that there’s poop near water, that water could contain pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Yersenia enterocolitica, Leptospirosis, Listeria, or Vibrio, in addition to a suite of viruses and protozoan parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Some only cause short-term, if severe, gastrointestinal distress. Others can cause issues that last for weeks, months, or even years.

            califrepublic

            wildlife

            • Bears? If you are camping in ‘bear country’, do not cook in or near the tent or sleeping cots. Cook downwind from your sleeping area. Use metal bear boxes for food storage, when provided at campground. If not, use the trunk of your vehicle. Windows up!
            • Two large plastic boxes/containers with lids help in storing items properly, away from rodents & rain. Use one box for kitchen wear & Use one box for food storage. Wooden crates or plastic crates can also work.
            • Keep cooler in the shade -always! When stored in a vehicle, place blankets or tarps over ice chest to prevent sun from baking down on it. Overnight – put the cooler inside a vehicle. Windows up!

            camp

        racoonwarnsign
        click to enlarge
            • Raccoons are super-crafty creatures and can get into almost anything. Close your car windows at night. Tarp down the truck bed securely. Bring an extra tie down strap or two, to wrap the cooler or food box.
            • No food or SCENTS in the tents! Animals are attracted to smells. No BBQ sauce t-shirt or greasy jeans. No snacks, no candy, no cough drops, no toothpaste, no ointments, no deodorant. Store those scented items closed up in a vehicle, or in a metal bear box.
            • Bats may come in close at  night to eat mosquitoes and other flying bugs. On occasion they may find your cabin interesting and want to explore; Or a well lit motorhome could be inviting, so keep the screen door closed.
        taters
        Breakfast taters, coming up.

        How to deal with Bears & food storage

        RUBtub

        A large rubber container with lid is great for storage & doubles as a wash tub, so you don’t end up adding suds to the stream. Many mountain streams are used for local water sources & the less polution in them, the better.

        watercont_i
        Camp Kitchen Care

        tarptenttub
        Ground tarps help keep gear clean and provides for food prep space.


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.