Safety First . . . says the Old Lady with a Tiny Pack

Perceptions vs Reality.

Little did I know when I stopped to chat with some construction workers that their perception of me was an old lady. I’m guessing they were in their 20’s or 30’s. To them 40’s is probably old. Remember when 20 seemed old?

As non backpackers, their perception of my pack was tiny, which in their minds the blue pictured above is probably more normal for overnighting. Funny I took this photo when I received my inflatable SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and included was this giant blue pack for storage and transport.

Why does this matter?

Well . . . about a mile before the trailhead, the road was blocked by ongoing bridge construction and wouldn’t be open for a few hours. I talked to the workers about parking and passage, then up the hill I walked.

Fast forward 4 days. I returned to my car and drove off thinking about my eventful adventure which included a serious dog bite and an obnoxious owner. A runner had been bitten by the same dog earlier in the day. This German Shepherd was off leash and aggressive. The owner didn’t have voice control. It was traveling with another male who also had two aggressive, off-leash dogs, one also a German Shepherd. I was seriously traumatized and angry about these guys who felt it was their right to terrorize others humans, pets and wild animals of this wilderness.

This is the story I shared on my facebook.

I’m hurt, mad, angry, sad, disappointed and so much more.

I was bit by an aggressive off-leash out-of-control German Shepherd while out hiking a wilderness trail. I have two 3” deep bruises covering 7 inches of my bum. Thankfully the dog released before embedding her teeth. It could have been much worse.

Those few minutes were absolutely terrifying, the following hours and days have been filled with pain and nightmares. The owner is a selfish ass who thought his freedom of allowing a vicious dog to run the wilds ranked above anyone else’s freedoms. I found out later she bit another hiker earlier in the day. His wounds were worse as it was his hand.

The back story:

Picture a triangle with a trail on two legs and a river on the other. This guy and his friend had decided to camp in this triangle. They had 3 unleashed aggressive dogs including two German Shepherds. One guy seemed to have some vocal and engineered controls over his dogs. The other guy had zero control and that’s the dog that bit me and the other guy.

The camp I needed to reach was along one of the trails. As I started down the trail, the dogs started barking. One of the guys (the non-bite owner) came up to greet me as well as the biting dog. He told me the dog was friendly and just needed to smell me. I stood still while she sniffed. She seemed to settle and all seemed normal. The guy escorted me down the trail. Meanwhile the dog came around behind and grabbed my butt. When I yelled, the owner said you’re coming into our camp. HELLO I’m ON the trail!

Why would you camp near a trail with aggressive dogs? Why would you tell someone your dog is friendly and have your dog off leash after it already bit someone earlier in the day?

I had a basic first-aid kit with me and was able to clean the wound with soap and water as well as antiseptic wipes, and then treat with triple antibiotic ointment.

I was in shock and scared. I just wanted out of the situation so sadly I didn’t get the owner’s information except I found out from his friend about the previous bite, that all the dogs were supposedly current on shots and where they lived.

It was a nightmarish night. The next morning as I hiked back to the trailhead I warned all the hikers heading the opposite direction. They were much appreciative but felt as I did. They did not come to the wilderness to be terrorized by a selfish asshole.

I left a warning note at the trailhead as the men planned to stay through the holiday weekend. Sadly I didn’t find out their itinerary. There were 10 cars at the trailhead, some could easily be ruled out as not appropriate for transporting 3 giant dogs, but none stood out as the owners.

The story continues . . . As I’m driving through the nearby town I spy a Forest Service Law Enforcement vehicle. I pull in behind and as the officer exits I say, hey just the person I need to talk to. He then says my full name. I’m in shock, WHAT? He says . . . well the construction crew you talked to when you parked (the bridge was closed for a few hours so I parked near it and walked the additional mile to the trailhead) were concerned when your car was still there the next day. They reported their concerns about “this old lady with a day pack” who hadn’t returned. The next day the LEO went up to check out my car. He ran my plates and noticed my PCT sticker as well as my open hiking guidebook noting the trail I’d be hiking. He said I know those PCT hikers, they have tiny packs (ha, with 6 days of food I don’t think mine was very tiny, and it sure didn’t feel tiny). So when I met him at the gas station he was heading back up to see if my car was gone. If it wasn’t he was planning to contact someone in Redding to check with my family and neighbors. If they didn’t know my itinerary, he planned to activate SAR the next day. Eh gads! All because they construction workers thought I was an “old lady with a day pack.” I like this part of the story much better than the dog bite.

I reported the two men and their three dogs. He planned to pass on the information to the wilderness ranger. Hopefully he’ll do more and go to the trailhead and run some license plates to find out who lives in Grass Valley.

I’m still not sure what to do about this anger. I don’t want to be afraid of dogs. I think I’ll carry mace in my pocket for a while. I don’t want to give off negative energy as I know that makes dogs anxious. I have friends and relatives with dogs I love. I don’t want this incident to stop me from going into the wilderness. In my 10 years of backpacking this was an isolated incident. I know that, but damn this was terrifying. I’m hoping I can overcome with mind-over-matter thoughts like I have after other incidents.

In the meantime I’m hoping to avoid infection. I took an epsom salt soak when I got home, treated with more triple antibiotic ointment, and am now icing and taking ibuprofen to control pain and inflammation.

Sorry for my long rant, but I needed to share the details.

Memorial Day Update – The offender was not caught today and the LEO is off tomorrow when it sounds like they’ll be exiting. He met several groups who encountered the bad group including one whose dog was bit. Another group was camped at a lake when the bad group arrived. They were so bad the group packed up and hiked 3 miles before finding a new camp. The officer believes he found the offender’s vehicle and will minimally be sending a warning letter noting infractions. He’s been doing some code enforcement research and is possibly going to contact Nevada County Animal Control about the dog’s license, rabies etc. I’m continuing to heal with no indication of infection. The bruising is turning dark purple with green edging. Oh so pretty. I haven’t had to ice today.

A few takeaways:

(1) I found a way to wear my pepper spray so it’ll be quickly accessible in the future rather than stored in my backpack pocket. If interested, check out these runner options (link). I wrapped the wrist strap around my pack shoulder strap.

(2) My neighbor is on my notification list and was aware of my itinerary and receives my inReach check-ins. They know about this story and are even more prepared should an officer come calling.

(3) The construction workers noticed the inReach on my pack. That was reassuring for the officer. Of course had my bite been worse I would have used it.

(4) I’m glad my PCT sticker and hiking guidebook alerted the officer to the fact I was most likely a prepared hiker.

(5) This was my first bite in 10 years of backpacking. I’ve had a few other tense encounters but never anything close to this situation where I was terrified all three dogs would gang up on me. It was clear from the bite that dog was ready to take me down. Hopefully I’ll never experience this again or at least be free for another decade.

(6) I didn’t seek medical attention due to COVID-19 concerns. Obviously if it had been worse I wouldn’t have had a choice. However, I’m sure if I would have gone to the Emergency Room, it would have been more likely animal control would have gotten involved with a higher likelihood the offender being caught and facing consequences. Had this happened in town, this dog would be in quarantine or dead.

Stay safe my friends. Be alert, be wise.

2020: What’s stopping YOU from living YOUR BEST Life?

I recently wrote a post about stewers vs doers (link). For many it’s easy to become stuck in a type of paralysis playing the What If game making it extremely challenging to go from a stewer to a doer. I think this image puts risk into perspective.

Are you a worry wort or a carefree risk taker or more likely somewhere in between? Does your worry prevent you from doing? Does it cause you to limit your adventures? Do you weigh yourself and your pack down with the what ifs?

In a book I was reading this morning this quote stood out and seemed applicable to so many situations, “No use wasting time being afraid of something you can’t do anything about.”
My goal is to go prepared mentally, physically and with the right skills, gear and safety equipment so that I can be free to worry less, laugh more, live more, adventure more . . .
What have you done to successfully transition from spending too much time worrying to more time living? What advice do you have for others in same situation?

The Abundant R’s of Winter

We might not hibernate but winter typically signals a period of slowing down, spending more time indoors, and for me doing a lot of R’s. Funny as I thought about this post, every descriptor began with an R so I decided to run with it.

Rest, Recovery and Rehab

My body says thank you for slowing down, tending to aches, pains and neglected areas.

Recondition, Revise, Repair, Replace, Recycle

It’s a time to evaluate my clothing and gear. Broken zippers, holey socks . . .  With discounts at their best from November through January, winter is the time to replace or upgrade gear. It’s also a good time to see if I have clutter worthy of selling, donating or tossing.

Replenish

My food and resupply bins are usually looking quite sparse by this time of year. Nothing says prep quite like the dehydrator, boxes of bars and Minimus.biz.

Reorganize

Might as well put things away where they belong when done with inventory and restocking. When it’s time to play I want to be able to grab and go.

Rewind and Reflect

This is typically the time of year I catch up on photo processing, blog posts and my map track. What were my highlights and lowlights? Yes, my broken blog photo links have been my lowest low of the year. I’m still working to resolve.

Research

While I’m reminiscing about my joys of the previous year, it’s also a good time to starting planning for the upcoming season. Where oh where shall Jan jaunt in 2020?

Reconnect

The holidays and winter provide great opportunities to reunite with friends and family. It’s when I need more social time. My hiking groups tend to provide motivation along with face-to-face interaction during the dark, wet, chilly days of winter.

Rally

My coping strategy is to spend time being active outside at least an hour a day. This has made a huge difference in my moods. Embrace winter! I’m glad I enjoy snowshoeing and hiking in brisk temperatures.

Repay

Generosity seems to be in the forefront of our minds during the holiday season. It’s a good time to not only make my annual financial donations but also to thank those who’ve helped me during the year. I think about ways I might want to contribute in the upcoming year. Do I want to volunteer or teach? If so, where, when, how?

Resist

For me that means resisting the urge to overeat, be lazy and shop the sales (as I sit here staring at 5 down jackets, a tent, pack and sleeping pad).

Rejoice

I’m still alive and I’ve added another chapter to my book of memories! Hopefully it was a year with few regrets, good health and lots of laughs. If not, I can still sing my thanks for living to hike another day. I’m Alive!

Reset

Winter is my most challenging season. The shortened hours of daylight combined with rainy days can lead to the blues. I like many people experience Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). I feel a bit like a caged lion or maybe more like a tigress. Recently Anish (aka Heather Anderson) posted her thoughts on the changing seasons. One phrase caught my attention, “We’re in a season of darkness now. Look to nature. She sleeps.”

Life is simpler on the trail.
So many of us crave that simplicity.
It’s a place where we find our natural rhythm.
A sustainable pace in sync with sun, wind, moon, blossom, and Fall.
We’re in a season of darkness now. Look to nature. She sleeps.
She is not frantically racing, acquiring, preparing.
That time is done.
Now it’s a time for drawing inward.
Relying on that which was set aside already.
Holding tight to the fire within.
Awaiting the return of the light.

When it seems like there is too much busy-ness this time of year I take my cue from Mother Nature. I step back. I draw in. I take a break. Winter is for resting, preparing for another year. The trail gives us calm because it connects us to the essential ebb and flow. Holding on to that off trail is what keeps me balanced.

I know if I focus on the R’s of winter, I’ll be ready for the greens of spring.

2020: What are YOU waiting for?

The reality is time doesn’t stand still. Can you believe it’s gonna be 2020 in the blink of an eye?

I’ve met many people who think big but just can’t seem to convert that energy into wonderful memories of adventure. If you fall into this category, what’s stopping you? How many fantastic opportunities have you missed out on? More importantly how many future ones have you lost because your friends have given up on you?

  • One of the first people I mentored on PCT prep fell into this category. I worked with her on gear, training, realistic expectations, etc. but in the end it was enemies within that kept her from taking those first steps.
  • I’ll never forget a gal I met on a meetup camping trip. She’d come with her ex-husband. She told us she’d been trying to attend events for several months. Fear had immobilized her. She’d get as far as the carpool or meeting location but couldn’t get out of her car. By recruiting her ex for that first encounter, she felt safe and as a result became an active member of the group.

I think of my friends who set goals, make plans and take actions. They are the ones who have chosen to live in the moment. They know tomorrow may not come. Our health is not guaranteed. The forest we dream about may disappear in a wildfire. Other trails may be lost to floods, avalanches or neglect. Today’s perfect weather, wildflower explosion, or snow conditions could just as easily be the opposite. Air quality has become an issue with what the all too frequent large and long-lasting wildfires. Is the risk of waiting worth it? What will you regret not doing?

  • A friend works full time, he’s 60+ and yet makes adventure a priority. Sometimes that means getting up at 3:30am on his day off, driving 5 hours so he can spend the day snowshoeing up some mountain he’s been eyeing. He’s also been known to grab those enviable sunrise photos, and when I’m invited I say YES!
  • Another friend who also works full time, uses much of her vacation time section hiking the PCT. It’s a huge investment in money and time. The logistics are overwhelming. She balances life with a husband, pets, and the desire to meet her goal of PCT completion. She prioritizes an active lifestyle by squeezing in mini trips locally to ensure fitness prior to her vacation adventures.

I can go on and on about both doers and stewers. I’m sure you have stories of your own. If you’re a stewer, what’s stopping you from becoming more of a doer?

  • Chores or obligations?
  • Fitness level?
  • Money?
  • Companions?
  • Knowledge?
  • Time?
  • Weather?
  • Gear/Clothing?
  • Transportation?

These barriers can be overcome once you decide to prioritize yourself.

If you want to be a hiker, backpacker, snowshoer, rock climber, runner, whatever . . . just do it! Tiny steps lead to bigger ones. First steps don’t need to be epic. Just get out of your comfort zone and take that scary leap. Stop saying I wish I could but . . . Instead start saying YES I can and will.

Make 2020 your year of change!

Life Interrupted . . . Forever Grateful for the SOS Button

I’ve always prepared a bit more than the average hiker for emergencies. I promote and mentor risk mitigation. In fact my most popular blog post is specific to this subject, Dear Friends and Family. I live this philosophy and as a result felt better about my situation when I found myself in need of help. 

So what happened?

I was hiking northbound on the PCT. I’d camped at Mirror Lake in Three Sisters Wilderness the previous night.

After hiking about five miles that morning, I found myself falling down a slope. I have absolutely no idea what caused me to fall. The trail was in good condition, flat and wide with no real obstructions. My wrist took the full force of the fall. It was obviously dislocated. 

To Activate the SOS on my inReach or NOT?

My legs were fine. I hadn’t hit my head nor did I have any bleeding. The pain and discomfort was manageable. I had exit options involving less than 10 miles of hiking. I didn’t want to push the button but I knew I was in shock and shouldn’t be making decisions. Thankfully I didn’t have to. Hot Lips and Caveman became my angels. Although I was hiking solo, they were at the right place at the right time and ultimately sacrificed their day for me.

The Waiting Game

This is where I was so happy to have two-way communication via my inReach. I knew my SOS was received and help was on it’s way. It took four hours for an EMT to arrive. 

Just because a helicopter arrives doesn’t mean quick or easy extraction. In this case even though I had helicopter insurance, my condition didn’t warrant a ride. Furthermore, hot temperatures made lift challenging and as such the helicopter departed immediately leaving Jason behind to escort me to a trailhead. 

Jason’s job was to evaluate and stabilize my injury. A SAR volunteer was on a backpack trip nearby so he was solicited to help with this process. Why am I smiling? It might have been the pain medications I’d been given my Hot Lips. The EMT did not carry medications. I had some in my pack but Hot Lips was able to access her supply quicker. Word to the prepared: stock something stronger than ibuprofen for these situations.

The next to arrive on scene were two volunteers on horseback to carry out my pack. 

Once my pack was loaded, we began the 8.5 mile hike to the nearest trailhead. It was now about 7 hours since my accident and 5.5 hours since activating my SOS. 

I ended up with quite a large rescue crew with some coming from the west side, Lane County, and others coming from the east side, Deschutes County. We met up with a team of 5-7 volunteers who’d hike in about 4 miles from the trailhead. The team included a doctor who evaluated my condition and who had additional pain medication available. About 2 miles from the trailhead we met another horseback team who’d brought a horse which would have been used for my evacuation had I not been able to hike.

The ambulance was waiting for me at the trailhead. I arrived at 9pm, a full 12 hours after my accident and 10.5 hours after activating my SOS. One of the most helpful items I had with me to relieve stress and expedite care was a typed page with all my emergency, medical and surgical information so those helping could take a photo, copy or transcribe what they needed. It included my name, address, allergies, medications, past medical/surgical history, emergency contacts, medical insurance, etc. 

I landed at St Charles Medical Center in Bend at 10pm. They rushed me in, gathered vitals, x-rays and treated my dislocation. I was discharged at 1am. Thankfully I had my emergency contacts set up with inReach. Dispatch stayed in contact with them regularly and as a result my niece arrived at the hospital shortly after I did. 

A Different Kind of Nightmare

While I was scheduled to meet with a hand surgeon the next morning in Bend, my insurance had other plans. Since I travel extensively, I knew my plan only covered emergencies out of network. Once I’d been discharged from the emergency room, my condition was no longer considered an emergency. Thus I had to find my way back to California. Had family and friends not been available to help, this would have been a true nightmare. As it was I made it back to Redding just as the Carr Fire erupted, with 38,000 homes evacuated including mine, and 1,000 lost . . . thankfully not mine. The community was in the midst of a major crisis with most businesses closed including medical and surgical facilities. After a few more days of fighting with my insurance, I finally got an out-of-area referral to Sacramento where I had surgery at UC Davis. 

Sometime you just have to laugh about the ridiculousness of the situation. 

And give thanks to friends and family who understand, and who’ve gone out of their way to assist in my recovery. Let’s say I have a lot of pay-it-forward debt.

Shit happens. Life is full of risk whether I’m out hiking, taking a bath or driving a car. I choose to manage risk and prepare for it but I also choose not to let it rule my life. As soon as I’m able to hold a hiking pole, I’ll be back out there adding miles to my resume. Until then, I’ll be working to rebuild strength and dexterity in my arm, wrist and fingers. I was so happy the first time I could make a ponytail (the things you don’t realize takes two hands) and even more so when I could braid my hair. 

Good thing I have a lot of blogging to catch up on since typing is great therapy. 

Tips:

  • Wilderness first aid training is beneficial. A hiker who’d just taken the course made this excellent sling out of my rain jacket. He also soaked my buff so I’d have a cold compress for my wrist. 
  • If possible hike to water before activating SOS. We knew there was a creek and meadow a couple miles from my accident site. I immediately soaked my arm/wrist in the creek and then used my pack liner bag for soaking during the long four-hour wait. I couldn’t have found a better place to wait vs in the middle of a recent burn where I fell and where it would have been less likely I could have gotten a signal out. It’s also a good reminder of carrying sufficient water in case you’re stuck somewhere for a day or two awaiting help.
  • Know your emergency device. I’ve been using mine for about five years and had it paired with phone for easier texting and access to my contacts. I’d read the FAQ’s and had spoke with a couple of hikers who’d had to activate the SOS. I knew what to expect. Take time to set up your emergency contact online. Consider getting the helicopter insurance as it’s not always provided as a free service. Carry an external battery and don’t drain in case you need it to recharge your phone or inReach in an emergency situation.
  • Carry resources to help with exit options. While I was carrying Halfmile Maps which don’t show much beyond the PCT, I had also downloaded a much larger area to my Gaia app. The couple who helped with my sling also had a NatGeo map which we reviewed for exit options. 
  • Carry/wear a rescue color. By the time the helicopter arrived there were about 10-15 hikers around. My friend Ron’s shirt was the only one they could see. I’ve since been told that bright blue is the best as it’s not a color found in nature. Other ways to get attention are a signal mirror, a mylar emergency blanket or by taking flash photos.
  • Do the work in advance to help SAR help you. This will also help in the case of a medical emergency. Dear Friends & Family, If I become a Missing Person . . .
  • Make a donation to your local SAR, consider becoming a volunteer, and definitely make a donation to the ones who responded if you ever have to push the SOS button. If you want to make a donation on my behalf, here are the links: Lane County SAR and Deschutes County SAR.

 

 

Long-Distance Hiking and Backpacking Skills, Summary Post

As hikers get ready for another season on trail, I thought it might be helpful to provide links to a few of my popular articles.

Safety first:

Beginners:

Long Distance:

Navigation:

2017 PCT Hiker Survey Results:

PCTA Words of Wisdom:

Let me know if you have questions or would like me to cover additional topics in the future. Have a fantastic hiking season!

Food Jabber – Greens To Go

Do you want an easy and economical way to add greens to your backpacking meals? Spinach is my vege of choice as it goes with everything and it’s a quick no fuss, no prep dehydrating project.

Step 1:

Place baby spinach leaves on dehydrator trays. A 12 ounce bag fills my 5 Nesco trays.

Step 2:

Dry the leaves. On my Nesco, I set temperature to 125F and cook for 8-12 hours. I rotate trays maybe once or twice.  Leaves need to be dry and crunchy. 

Step 3:

Remove leaves from tray. I find tipping the tray into a large bowl is the easiest. 

Step 4:

Crumble the leaves. I like filling a gallon ziplock bag and then mashing with a rolling pin. Any leaves that don’t crumble are not sufficiently dry. Either toss those leaves or put them back into the dehydrator. If you add to your completed batch you’ll run the risk of mold. 

It takes about 20 ounces of fresh leaves to make 2 cups of dry spinach crumbles. I add a pinch or two to all my dinners before rehydrating such as mashed potatoes, rice-based meals, hummus, etc.

Link to more Food Jabber posts