View Full Version : Greatest concern

Jim N
07-31-2009, 06:31 PM
As a followup to Timberline's great topic on black bears I would like to pose a question.

What do you think is the biggest danger we face in the woods?

I'll start - Panic.

07-31-2009, 06:37 PM
Internally, I'm very comfortable in the backcountry. So much so that I actually feel more at home there than elsewhere. Externally, one of my biggest concerns is lightning. I ramble in very high, exposed areas that are prone to severe lightning. I play it smart, but those kinds of storms are very unsettling to me. The only other concern is the possibility of getting injured to the point I could not walk out. I'm often alone, and this is something you can take for granted when with a partner. It can be life-changing if it happens when you're alone, far from a trail.

07-31-2009, 06:40 PM
Falling Trees!


07-31-2009, 06:50 PM
I have been struck by lightning on one of my fire lookouts, had a window blown out in a severe storm in the Rockies at about 02:00 and have encountered Grizzlies while far from help and unarmed. None of this particularly bothered me and I am very comfortable alone for 3 months in some of Canada's most remote regions; I am not the "panicky" type and have never had much problem with loneliness or becoming "bushed".

I detest BUGS, especially " no seeums" and I am uncomfortable with wind, as you would expect after decades involved in wildfire suppresssion work. However, I can deal with either or both as part of my job or recreation.

I have poor balance as a result of a severe childhood accident and subsequent surgical errors, but, I am not that concerned about falls and will still wade mountain streams to get where I want to go as well as cross logs above those too large to wade....trekking poles help a lot here.

The ONE thing in the bush that REALLY scares the schitt out of me, is avalanches and I am from one of the worst regions anywhere for big and frequent slides. Several friends and former colleagues of mine, some REAL expert mountaineers, have been killed in slides near my hometown and this is THE scary aspect of mountain travel, for me. The oldtime BC bushmen I knew as a boy all felt much the same and my dad, who went to work at age 16, in 1920, in the hardrock gold mines of the West Kootenays was constantly cautioning me about avalanches as I grew up.

I almost got it once and I NEVER take a chance with slides.

07-31-2009, 07:49 PM
Boy, that's a good question. I think I'm pretty well prepared when I go out there in terms of training & gear. (Even broke down & got one of those SARSAT rescue beacons last year since I do a lot of solo trips. Too damned expensive - and not 'fun' since it just sits there in my pack, but could be a life saver.) I would have to agree that blow-downs in high winds are a concern in a lot of areas. Lightening & fires rank up there. - - I guess the biggest danger would be to get hurt & be knocked unconscious and suffer from exposure. So, especially when solo, I go slow & easy. Regards, - - -

07-31-2009, 07:51 PM
Hope I'm not delusional, but I don't seem to panic a lot, except about things like running out of rum and accounting. By "woods" I'll assume northern or temperate forest and possibly alpine conditions.

My first concern is probably hypothermia. It sneaks up and then a few other things go wrong and suddenly it's a major issue. You're exercising and generating heat, saturated with sweat, but still losing a lot of calories without realizing it. Probably underdressed in order to ventilate and stay cool. I'm now doubly cautious after a bunch of bad experiences and a few close calls, but overall, it is a serious threat that seems to resist learning.

Next, the broken leg or some serious injury, often fall-related, per Sawtooth's post. I once had to sew up my lacerated foot and sit for days till I could walk.

Then I gotta agree with Kute on avalanches. I've lost two good friends that way and had some close calls myself. A somewhat seasonal and regional threat, but major. All my scares and losses have been ski-snowshoe related.

Then probably yellow jackets and similar wasps. Typically a summer-fall problem in the north, but if you step on the wrong stump, at the wrong time, it can be major. I never go anywhere without a few hits of Benadryl. And I'll take at least two immediately if I get a bunch of stings.

Beyond those are lightning, bears and floods, about in that order, depending…...

07-31-2009, 08:43 PM
I would say pushing myself harder than I should. It's a bad habit. Push too hard, get too exhausted to pay attention to the small stuff or to make good decisions, and all of a sudden I'm twice as susceptible to all of the dangers that have been brought up in this thread. I'm pretty sure I'm growing out of that tendency, but it still seems to crop up every now and again.

David in OR
07-31-2009, 11:06 PM
Crocs. And I'm not talking reptiles.

[Okay, probably falling, because I've done it before and it hurts.]

08-01-2009, 03:40 AM
Other people

08-01-2009, 06:00 AM

08-01-2009, 07:32 AM
i will turn this around slightly.

i have been in the most danger on the water. several times i have been close to getting in trouble but did not have time to get scared. so i did not worry about it.

i have seen a lot of lightning damage so i fear it. i try to avoid being on top in the afternoon or if a storm is brewing.

but a snowstorm that had trees falling all night long left a lasting impression. i did not sleep that night for the ground shakeing when a big tree fell, every few minutes.

08-01-2009, 07:36 AM
Trees/branches falling on my camp.

I go to great lengths to find campsites that are as safe as possible.

The year before last I managed to get out for at least one overnighter a weekend for 5 or 6 weeks straight during hunting season....most ever. Of those, I laid awake listening to the unforcasted winds howl, wondering if my selected sites were safe enough.

08-01-2009, 08:04 AM
Running out of scotch!

08-01-2009, 11:00 AM
I suppose all of us who have prowled the lonely spaces for years have blundered into risky situations as cited above, but the fact that we are still here and more or less intact indicate we blunderd our way out of them, too. Age and experience count a lot. (The ranger teaching my SAR course observed that we ahouldn't discount the older folks as we are both tough to have lived as long as we have, and cautious.

While I don't run a checklist, I find myself constantly evaluating risks - including all of those mentioned - and ways to counter them.

My greatest concern, though, is a medical emergency I can't predict and have no control over. I've had two spontaneous lung collapses with no obvious provocation - they just happened. Running with one lung is debilitating, and there is always the possibility of the situation developing into a full-blown tension pneumothorax that could kill me within minutes by suffocation. This situation has made me reluctant to go solo for any length of time. Within a week I am going to be discussing with my doctor the possibility of a kit to insert a chest tube in an emergency, though I am not at all sure I would be able to do this by myself.

I've been doing the outdoor thing long enough to feel quite comfortable in the woods and able to handle just about anything that came my way, but given my history, this is a whole new area and maybe that is why its my major concern.

William Clunie
08-01-2009, 02:10 PM
My concern is that I can't get out in the woods often enough. Out there, I really don't have any concerns/worries. There is nothing there to hurt me. I'm hoping to breathe my last while enjoying myself out in the willy-whacks, rather than laying around in a hospital bed (that would be a nightmare). I can easily understand why the aged Indian might just wander out and not come back when it's time.

08-01-2009, 02:17 PM
I would think hypothermia.

08-01-2009, 03:54 PM
Running out of TP....until you have had it happen you can't imagine the horror. Okay now that I have had some fun, I have to admit that I can't really think of anything that scares me. If the question where what do you think is the biggest hazard you face in the woods or your most likely scenario for trouble, I would be able to quickly answer interaction with idiot humans. I guess since I have dealt with a lot of the situations already listed I just feel confident in my abilities to deal with them by being careful. No matter what you do an idiot human can wreck your day.

Oh I guess I am scared of Evan's Hubris as well. I have paid the price for it more then once with exhaustion and soreness, wait maybe that was my hubris?

08-01-2009, 04:40 PM
Here in the Southern Appalachians I think I'd have to vote for flash floods--this time of year especially, a lot of rain can come down in one place in a hurry, with no place in these narrow hollers for the water to go. Lot's of ways to have a bad day if you've got a lot of fords to cross: drowning (obviously), broken bones/concussions, hypothermia (especially if you're separated from your pack.)

If only I didn't love those little wild trout so...

08-01-2009, 04:50 PM
Got in a confrontation with Hugh Briss once, it just wasn't worth the hassle of dealing with his know it all arrogance!

08-01-2009, 05:25 PM
While running the weed eater on our property just now I thought about rattlesnakes. Not much of a concern where I ramble in the summer time, but here at home and in the canyons I wander in the spring and fall, there's a lot of rattlers.

08-01-2009, 05:36 PM
Meth labs and the people that go with them. I on occasion have stumbled onto these labs in areas that I hunt in the morning before work. Theyre in road closure areas so Im guessing these vermin feel that the stash is safe. If conditions are just right " rainy,snowy,very wet" they sometimes spontaneously combust. This forces the fire department to respond and they are then emediatly shut down and investigated. If they dont spontaneously combust and are lets say reported they can be out there for months until Law Enforcement get around to investigating.

08-01-2009, 05:47 PM
Yesterday I read a thread over on the Bowsite about folks having heart attacks and such while hunting. One guy had just hoisted a pack of elk meat and went down for the count.

Talk about a situation! Do you pack the meat out first so it doesn't spoil? I'm pretty sure my partner would want me to save the meat, good lord, especially after FINALLY killing one. I don't think his wife would understand the second and third trips though. I'm going to call him here in a minute and be dang sure he knows what to do if it's me that goes down. He could probably just urinate all around me to keep the animals off till he gets that meat on ice. He has mentioned doing something like that on my grave anyway.

I have been hunkered down a few times with lightning hitting too close to run in any one direction and contemplating if it might be my last day, is it going to hurt, and all that. Even though I am at peace with my demise, it is still makes for anxious moments.

08-01-2009, 07:05 PM
For me it may be serious injuries caused by falls in steep and even not-so-steep places. I have lousy, just terrible balance and have learned the hard way that I must go slow and be overly careful in tricky situations.

Iíve also seen too many guys seriously cut as the result of sloppy handling of knives, hatchets, axes and even broadheads. Always treat anything sharp like itís a loaded gun.

08-01-2009, 07:15 PM
The "unexpected", what that is, I don't know, but you can't ground yourself worrying about it either. Control what you can, and put yourself in the best position to live with the rest.

NH Hunter
08-01-2009, 07:29 PM
My greatest concern is being seriously injured while hunting solo up in the mountains. Be as prepared as possible and don't take unreasonable risks is my approach.


08-01-2009, 07:35 PM
Got in a confrontation with Hugh Briss once, it just wasn't worth the hassle of dealing with his know it all arrogance!

I'd be willin' to bet that ol' Hugh kicked yer arse good, more'n oncet.

08-01-2009, 08:31 PM
What do you think is the biggest danger we face in the woods?

I'll start - Panic.

I kind of have to agree with that one.
That is the short answer.
The one greatest concern. Since there are so many things that can turn the wrong way I would say when and if I am faced with a challenge I hope I am prepared and can handle it as smoothly as possible. And that panic is not part of the deal.
There are so many twists I have run into I don't think I could say one thing in particular. Some twists are serious and some not. I have had to deal with death several times while out - from heart attacks to avalanches - not fun. There also has been hypothermia, drowning, and lightning.... also not fun.
Sometime it is just bizarre. Like a knife thru a kids foot.
I once watched a female intern (at the outdoor program I worked with) have a seizure while skiing down a mountainside in the backcountry - she went right off a drop at mach 10 and into a tree. (She survived the ordeal.)
Another time guiding a sea kayak trip - I beached my kayak in a cove and said to myself "what a perfect day" - the group came in behind me - when a 20 year kid in our group steps from his kayak and cuts his foot on a barnacle - He sees the blood and goes lights out.... backwards..... cracking his head on a rock and then into a full seizure (in the water). My perfect day just took a turn for the worse.
Who could predict this stuff?

And then sometimes its the little stuff.
Sorry, again :) - another story.... On last years elk hunt (I left this part out of my report) I was so stoked to be out roaming the hills trying to match wits with them that I hadn't eaten much the day I established my camp. I went down that afternoon and got into a few elk. As it was getting near dusk I climbed back up to near timberline where my tipi was located. About 100 yards below it was my food bag hanging from a tree limb. I decided to get something to eat on the way to my camp. I had a tort with some chicken for a foil pouch and sat there chowing down. I watched as a black bear ran from behind my tipi and across a drainage when I tooted my bugle just for kicks. Life was good! And that was when I got some of that grub stuck in my throat - my camel back was dry in my pack and the closest water was in the tipi. Crazy as it sounds ....I was in big trouble. I dropped everything and climbed up to the tipi - not breathing. Got the water and it would not go down. I crawled out in front of the tipi and layed face down and just as I was passing out the obstruction moved enough to get some air and eventually it open up. That had never happened to me before....
I remember my thought was - that bear is going to come back and find me and I remember thinking my wife is going to be pretty torqued that I let a bear get me. (I told her that and she didn't see the humor in it ;)).

So, yeah, I would have to say sh*t happens from time to time but I would like to be able to handle whatever with as little panic as possible.

08-02-2009, 12:29 AM
I'd be willin' to bet that ol' Hugh kicked yer arse good, more'n oncet.
And to add insult to injury, once't walloped good, I'd panic, fall down into a nest of vipers, whack my noggin on a dole', get up and run like H E double toothpicks, get all sweated up, and then start hypothermiating. What a mess to get in, huh?
But you know, I think the worst situation one can encounter is after having been subsisting for a few days on GORP and fresh liver. A man can seriously strain something when attempting an evacuation.