Monday, 8 March 2010

The 6 essential small items you need to bring on a hike

I can't stress enough, the importance of being prepared when you are planning to go for a hike, camping, hunting, or just a walk in the woods. Items that I am going to strongly recommend can be slipped in your hip pocket.

In 1995, my father, my husband and I went chanterelle mushroom picking. Something we enjoyed doing for years. This time we went to an are unfamiliar to us. We went to an area a few miles past Elbe, Washington and just a few miles before Mt. Rainier National Park entrance. We were in an are called the Busy Wild.

We each carried a knife for cutting mushrooms and a bucket to put them in. That's all we needed. That's all we ever needed. So we thought.

My father and I headed out. My husband wanted to grab a bite to eat, but said he would be along. We headed up a path, climbing and circling around a hill. We spotted mushrooms down a slope so we both headed for them. We continued picking these mushrooms, working our way around the hill. To make a very long story shorter, we became lost.

We walked and walked. The temperature was cooling and it was getting dark. We walked for awhile and then decided we better start a campfire. Starting a fire with a lighter is not an easy thing to do when your hands are so cold. But we managed. We were able to stay fairly warm by the fire.

In the distance we heard honking, yelling, calling our names. We could see a light on another hill. We yelled back, my Dad whistled (he could whistle pretty loud) and he kept whistling until his tongue swelled. I lost my voice from yelling. If only we had carried a whistle with us.

The weather that night wasn't too bad. It was chilly, but at least it was dry. But morning brought on cooler temperatures. We were both shivering as we walked on trying to find our way back. Later in the day it began to rain. This turned into a drenching downpour. There was absolutely no place to stay dry. No shelter anywhere. If only we had a rain poncho! So simple, but then we didn't plan on being lost.

Our clothing was drenched, we were really cold now, and we had been really quite cold since the night before. We were thirsty, but neither one of us wanted to drink any standing water. A water purifier would have been quite life saving here. Hunger was an issue too, but not near as bad as thirst. Hypothermia sets in faster if you are dehydrated. And hypothermia makes you even more dehydrated. We were definitely becoming hypothermic.

Later, we became separated. Something we had talked about was staying together. But we became separated for reasons that I will never understand today.

I remember freezing and shaking so bad that my body was bouncing on the ground. I'm sure my Dad was doing the same. That night temperatures were in the upper 40's and were were wet to the bone.

I was found the next morning by Pierce County search and rescue. My Dad, however, was not found for another 2 days. His body was laying over a log, on a very steep slope. My mother and 3 brothers and I have visited this spot, where Dad was found, on a couple of occassions. We bring his favorite candy bar, (Hershey bar with almonds) and a shot, and give a toast to our Dad, who we miss dearly.

This is why I recommend being prepared. Always bring a compass, and know how to use it, a rain poncho, a pocket water purifier, a whistle and a fire started device would have been really handy.

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