Common Ground |

Common Ground

There is a saying among old experienced people of the woods with some minor variations: “I’ve never been lost. I just didn’t know where I was for a while.”

Even the most experienced backcountry outdoors person has on more than one occasion become disoriented. But lost? Never. Why? Keep reading.

There is one reason that has kept me outback every opportunity for the last 40 years. I enjoy the wild backcountry, the great outdoors.

Enjoyment and survival are two very different things.

I enjoy the outdoors because I’m prepared to survive under Mother Nature’s two simple rules. Survival means staying alive.

Mom’s No. 1 rule: The foolhardy are the first to go.

Rule No. 2: The prepared survive.

Not being as smart as Mom, my rules differ.

The very first rule never violated is to tell someone where you are going (draw a map, give good directions, etc.) and when you expect to return.

Yes, accidents happen. The mere presence of some of us alive upon the Earth is proof of that. Any one of us can get hurt in the backcountry and have a need to be rescued.

Notice I said, “need” not “right.” I’m not sure where today’s armchair outdoor enthusiast gets the idea that it is your “right” to be rescued by anyone.

Think again. Hunters, listen well. So you paid your few cents toward the state rescue fund when you bought your hunter license. So what?

In Colorado, it is the county sheriff who is in charge of any rescue operations he or she may choose to conduct. If you don’t like that, either move or get the law changed.

One other point seems to escape many folks. As soon as you set foot onto public land, be it Park Service, Forest Service or BLM, you are responsible for your own actions. Take responsibility or stay home.

From the very first time I starting hiking and backpacking, when the only choices for gear were Army surplus, I have known what faces me outdoors: possible death. That risk is always in the back of my mind. It’s a risk worth taking. The rewards are immense.

As a matter of fact, it is one’s mental attitude toward Mother Nature that gives you the odds you need for survival. Respect your Mother.

My family knows and understands that there are times that I need to visit Mom by myself. Her ways have taught me much – how to sustain and center myself, how to gain inspiration, how to conduct myself in an often insane world.

I take comfort and refuge in wild places, but I am no expert. Most of the experts I have known or known about are dead now, so there’s no future in being one. One of the best compliments ever paid by a friend was, “Bill you’re the best outdoorsman I know.”

Those words have weighed heavy on my mind as I have written this column. They humble me as I try to walk upon the Earth in a sacred manner.

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