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Scouting for advice when going to the wilds? ‘Be prepared’

Common Ground
Bill Kight
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My children grew up hearing about Dad “going to the field.” Oftentimes around the dinner table the question would come up, “How was your trip to the field today?”

Yesterday when my daughter Shandra asked me that question I responded with, “Well, let me show you,” and I pulled the video camera from my wet field pack. After rewinding the tape I played it back for her.

The sound of the Crystal River in the background was deafening. On the screen was a three-foot-deep mudslide with boulders the size of our kitchen table blocking the road in front of our jeep.

“If we had been caught in that slide it would have taken us into the river, and we wouldn’t have stood a chance,” I commented matter-of-factly.

“I’ve never seen the Crystal with that much water in over 20 years,” were my only other words as I put the camera away.

But in the back of my mind was a nagging question, “I wonder how many more people will die in Colorado’s raging rivers this year?”

The field I work in is most other people’s playground. But the rules of engagement are Mother Nature’s, and hers alone. She doesn’t level the playing field for anyone.

The rules to live by when meeting Mother Nature head-on are fairly simple. They have allowed me to live and tell about it.

The first thing to have when heading into the wilds is a good cautious mental attitude. The old Boy Scout motto “Be prepared” will serve you well. How you do that is your business. But sharing a few things with you might help.

Being cautiously prepared means letting someone who cares about you know where you are going and when you expect to return. Violate this basic cardinal rule and you’re a fool.

Going solo is rarely a good idea. Two heads are better than one in any emergency situation.

Maps and a compass have guided the wisest and most seasoned explorers for hundreds of years. What makes you special that you don’t need them? Take the best maps money can buy with you.

For the record, not a single soul I’ve ever helped rescue ever had a map with them. All the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) gizmos made ” without a map ” are worthless.

Clothing is important. Cotton soaks up any moisture and takes forever to dry. I usually wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

As many years as I’ve been exposed to the sun, a wide-brimmed hat is a must. My well-seasoned Gore-tex leather boots treated with water-proofing complete my outfit.

The pack has the maps in a big Ziploc bag that also contains a smaller Ziploc with matches, insect repellent, sunscreen, lots of food, field notebook with pencil, first aid kit, duct tape and more water than needed. A Gore-tex shell and rain pants are stuffed on top.

Doing something more extreme? Good luck.

Getting back alive from the field is enough adventure for me.

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies and hiking in wilderness, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and thoughts with readers every other week.


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