Friday, July 6, 2012

Thoughts of an underprepared Girl Scout

If a trail is marked hikers only, horses are not allowed.  Seemed like a good idea to avoid the horse patties on the trail when I took the hikers only Bierstadt Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Rookie mistake.  I soon learned that if a trail is not good enough for horses, it's not good enough for me.  That rocky hike measured 3.6 miles on the map but 5.4 miles on my pedometer.  Tiny, slow, careful steps all the way, one rock at a time.  I whimpered a lot.

One  thing about a trail like this is nobody else wants to hike it.  I had it all to myself.  For three hours and twenty minutes.  And that gave me lots of time to think.

Like, what about bears?  Did the sign back at the ranger station say "stand your ground" or "step slowly backwards"?  I think I am supposed to stand my ground. That's a better plan anyway since I cannot outrun even a toothless old bear on this terrain.   And noise, I am supposed to make noise.  Don't have any pots and pans to bang.   What else can I do?  I remember that like a true scout, I have a whistle clipped to my fanny pack.  Good, I will blow the whistle at the bear.  Hopefully I won't see one so I never find out whether a whistle scares or just irritates a bear.

Times like this, I wonder how prepared I really am.  My boot sticks in a rock crack for a minute and I wonder if the National Geographic knife in my pack is sharp enough to amputate my foot to set it free.  If a giant thunderstorm hits, will my dry cleaning thickness plastic poncho keep me warm?  I really should get a space blanket, and next time I am in a camping store, I'll pick up those waterproof matches.  If I had started sooner, I wouldn't be wondering about afternoon storms.  Next time I'll get up earlier. I've gone through my peanut butter sandwich and a bottle of water, but I still have two power bars and another full water bottle.  Not enough to last for days, but surely I can live till the rangers find me and free my foot. Hope my power bars don't attract a bear.......

Luckily  my foot is caught for only a moment and I won't have to amputate after all.  Good to go through the thought process, just in case. 

These rocks are really slippery.  I could fall and break my leg if I lose concentration.  My years in scouting calm me as my mind rambles. I remind myself how prepared I am for emergencies.   I am positive I could splint my leg improvising with my hiking poles and maybe the bungee laces on my pack.  Back in my scout backpacking days, I fashioned a hiking stick from PVC.  Thank goodness I eventually upgraded to my shock absorbing Komperdells.  No way I could navigate these rock piles without them and they will definitely be easier to splint with than a tree branch.

I could use my bandana for splinting.  Every scout has a bandana, and I always carry mine.  How many of the 101 things to do with a bandana do I remember?  Hopefully all the survival ones.  I wish I had brought the bandana with all the first aid hints printed on it instead of the one with the trail markers. I don't need the trail markers because this trail is rocky, but it does have blazes on the trees.  They are about 12 feet off the ground, I suppose for snow shoe or cross country hikers.  This trail would be way less rocky under 12 feet of snow.  Wow, I hope I get out of here before the snow comes.  I did not bring any extra layers. 

I find comfort in remembering that I have my first aid kit, although I am a little fuzzy about what is in it.  Awfully small kit.  Probably no splint materials.  Bandaids and antibiotic ointment, probably.  Next time I should put some Prozac in the kit.  

I realize while hiking alone that I didn't bring the most important thing of all.  In scouting, we always take a BUDDY.   A buddy would sing with me as we hike. It's no fun doing hiking call songs with no one to answer me.  A buddy would make so much noise a bear wouldn't even dream of coming close.   A buddy would take my picture, so I wouldn't have poses like this:

Without a buddy on the trail,  the best alternative is to take the equestrian friendly trails.  Everybody likes to hike on those trails.  Families.  Dogs.  Seniors.  Lots of noise to scare away the bears. And I can hand my camera to a kid named Alex at the top of the hike to Lake Isabella, and he can take my picture.  Like this:

Here's my new buddy, Alex.

On the equestrian friendly trails to Emerald Lake, I might  meet Ranger Billy, who will also take my picture, like this:

My new buddy Ranger Billy:

See you on the trail, new buddies, wherever you are!

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