Walkabout In The Weminuche Wilderness

Herschel Smith · 05 Aug 2018 · 40 Comments

"There are no socialists in the bush" - HPS All of my physical training only barely prepared me for the difficulty of the Weminuche Wilderness (pronounced with the "e" silent).  It's National Forest land, not National Park.  The Department of Agriculture no longer prints maps of the area, so we relied on NatGeo for the map, and it's good, but not perfect. We have a lot of ground to cover, including traveling with firearms, the modification I made to one of my guns for the trip, the actors…… [read more]

Virginia Cave Rescue

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 4 weeks ago

CNN:

Five men exploring a cave in southwest Virginia were trapped inside, and authorities are working to get them out safely, according to Billy Chrimes, search and rescue coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Six men entered the cave in Cleveland, Virginia, on Friday around 7 p.m. and planned to spend an extended amount of time exploring it, he said.

One of those men emerged from the cave, known as Cyclops Cave, on Sunday morning around 2 a.m. and told authorities the others were having difficulty getting out, Chrimes said Sunday.

That man, who is 22, said the other men were exhausted and were starting to have problems with hypothermia, according to Chrimes. The men are not lost and aren’t too far into the cave.

The five trapped men are between the ages of 34 and 59, according to Emergency Management Coordinator for Russell County Jess Powers. Powers said the group was planning to camp in the cave until Sunday, but a heavy downpour Saturday night made conditions muddy and wet and likely contributed to their difficulties.

One of the men was rescued on Sunday afternoon and is being assessed by a local volunteer rescue squad, Powers said. The rescue took much longer than anticipated, Powers said, and the rescue teams have gone back inside to help the other four men.

The cave explorers did not have a lot of extra food or water, and Chrimes said the temperature underground is in the 50s. While that is comfortable under normal circumstances, it can cause problems with hypothermia when you’re not active and moving.

That has nothing to do with it.  Caves are confined spaces, and as I’ve explained before, I don’t go spelunking.

But here is the mistake they made.  There are four different kinds of heat transfer: convective, conductive, radiant and evaporative.

The cave walls were rock, and were a heat sink.  Their bodies were radiating heat to the walls of the cave totally apart from convective, conductive or evaporative heat transfer.  They suffered hypothermia NOT because of the 50 degree F air temperature, but because of the temperature of the cave walls (even if they were suspended in mid-air and with no air movement whatsoever, their bodies would still have been radiating heat to the cave walls).

They should have prepared for this.

Day Hikers Most Vulnerable In Survival Situations

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 4 weeks ago

NatGeo:

In the study, survivors’ most frequently mentioned source of warmth was clothes (12 percent). Their prevailing form of shelter was camping gear (11 percent). Most survivors had a water source—either their own (13 percent), or one they found (42 percent), be it a lake, creek, or puddle, or derived by licking leaves or sucking moist moss. None of the survivors except one were missing long enough to make starvation an issue, but 35 percent had food they could ration to keep their energy levels up. All these data points suggest that the best way to survive getting lost in a national park is to already have the clothing and gear needed for warmth and shelter during the night, as well as some food and water.

This is not the case with most day hikers, who are more likely to bring a camera than extra clothes in a backpack. Herrington concurs. “If you go backpacking and you get lost, or you get caught out in bad weather, it’s like oh well I’m going to be out here another night and maybe go to bed hungry. No big deal. But when you’re out there and you don’t have a sleeping bag and tent, or extra clothing for the overnight experience, you’re much more vulnerable, and that tends to be where most people get in trouble.

[ … ]

In Herrington’s wilderness survival courses, he teaches day hikers to pack a puffy jacket for warmth, and a 200-litre trash bag for rain protection/shelter. Even in warm states. “If you’re wet—because it rains or you fell into water or you sweated through your clothes—and its 65 degrees (18°C), you can still get hypothermic,” says Herrington. “Texas is one of the leading states in hypothermia deaths, and look how warm it is there.” An injury compounds the risk of hypothermia by compromising the body’s ability to thermo-regulate.

Well, you can carry a trash bag if you wish.  I’ve given you my list before.

Bring a good rip-stop nylon tarp.  If it’s good, it’ll be light and it will pack up small.  A gun (with a couple of extra magazines of ammunition), a tactical light, 550 paracord, a first aid kit, water purification equipment, decent clothing, a tactical knife (I prefer one with serrated edges), Mylar emergency blankets (which will also be very light), energy and protein bars, and multiple means of fire starter.  Finally, wear a hat on the trail.  The absence of one will cause sunburn to the head and freezing at night (a large portion of the heat leaving your body does so through the head).

Know how to make a brush shelter (leaf hut) quickly.  It’s that time of year.  There is no excuse for going into the bush unprepared.

Severed Rattlesnake Head Bites Man, Nearly Kills Him

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 2 months ago

Fox News:

A Texas man is recovering after he claims the head of a rattlesnake bit him — moments after he had just cut it off.

Jennifer Sutcliffe’s husband was reportedly bitten by the beheaded snake on May 27 at his home near Lake Corpus Christi.

Sutcliffe told KIII-TV the two were doing yard work when she came across the four-foot rattlesnake. She said her husband used a shovel to behead the snake, but when he went to dispose of it, it bit him.

The snake, Sutcliffe said, “released all its venom into him at that point” because it no longer had a body, and her husband reportedly began immediately experiencing seizures and internal bleeding, and lost his vision.

The man was transported via helicopter to a hospital, where doctors said there was a chance he wouldn’t make it.

“A normal person who is going to get bit is going to get two to four doses of antivenom,” Sutcliffe told the news station. “He had to have 26 doses.”

Her husband is now in stable condition but is suffering from weak kidney functions, Sutcliffe said.

I’ll tell you what, snakes can lay a wallop on you.  I don’t expect this is something that many folk from the far north can understand, but down South and in the Southwest, you’ve got to be very careful where you step and where you reach.  I’ve been bitten by a Copperhead, and so has my dog.

They usually aren’t deadly if treated, but you can lose fingers, hands, toes, feet or whatever if not treated.  A Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin) is worse, but the king of the pit vipers in America is the rattlesnake.  The worst of them (most venomous pit viper in America) is the Eastern Diamondback, and not far behind is the Eastern Timber.

Be careful out there this summer.

Lost In The Smoky Mountains

BY Herschel Smith
2 years ago

Fox8:

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL FOREST, N.C. — A Tennesee teen last seen more than 10 days ago was found Tuesday afternoon after walking out of the Great Smoky Mountains, WLOS reports.

Austin Bohanan was found around 2:30 p.m. after walking out of the remote backcountry area near Tabcat Creek in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to a National Parks Service statement.

He was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, Tennessee.

Bohanan was reportedly last seen hiking off-trail in the remote southwest corner of the park on the evening of Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. He was reported missing around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13 to Blount County authorities.

On Tuesday, four search teams consisting of rangers from the parks Search and Rescue team, officers with Tennessee Wildlife Resource Authority and individuals with the Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue team (BUSAR) had a total of 19 people searching the area. The search continued with canine teams and other special search teams.

Bohanan “had light food and water and was not anticipating spending the night in the park,” according to park spokeswoman Jamie Sanders.

He spent eleven days in the Southern bush.  He was unprepared for what faced him and he’s blessed to be alive.  The rescue team made an official statement, to the effect that “From day one, we treated the search for Austin as an emergency and appreciate the resources from across the region that came to our aid to help us actively and aggressively search through extremely tough terrain,” said Park Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We faced multiple challenges, including a moving target in dense conditions, but our search teams never gave up hope.”

But it was Austin who self-rescued.

On Tuesday morning, rangers explained he woke up on a ridge and saw a boat and some kayaks on Abrams Creek below. He scrambled down to the water and waved to the boaters, who picked him up and gave him a ride to safety.

That’s not to diminish the efforts of the rescue team, but the higher probability rescue in this circumstance is self-rescue.  Even the rescue team had to have water and food assistance from the community to keep going.  The search area was 6700 acres, which is 10.469 square miles.  This may not seem like a lot, but in the back country in the South, it is an eternity of land.

This is what Austin and his rescuers faced.

Steep terrain, dense vegetation, deadfall, blowdown, and almost impenetrable bush.  But we’ve discussed in detail what you should carry with you even if you’re going for a day hike thinking that you’re not going to be far from the beaten path.

(1) heavy rubberized poncho, (2) 550 cord, (3) gun, (4) tactical light, (5) fire starter [redundant means], (6) knife [serrated edge], (7) water and fast food energy, and (8) parka.

I carry this in a day pack.  For eleven days, you can add to this list a container with which you can boil water.  With the rubberized poncho and cordage, you have shelter.  With the gun and tactical light you have protection.  With the knife you have virtually everything (never leave home without a knife).

In the South he could have encountered problems with Copperheads, Timber Rattlers, black bear, feral hogs and Coyotes.  Coyotes in the West may still travel as lone predators, but in the South they have learned to travel in packs.  Many hunters in these parts have gone out at dusk only to find five or six pairs of eyes staring at them and encircling them closer and closer.  Retreat is the best option at that point, but if Austin couldn’t have retreated, he would have needed a firearm, and possibly more ammunition.

If this seems like overkill, just remember when you go into the bush.  You’re not in control of everything – the bush gets a say.  Try to be wise about the things you do control.

26 Miles Through The Snow In The Grand Canyon And Almost Dead

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

LA Times:

The snow was at least 3 feet deep and still falling when Tracy Glover and two other men came upon the fee booth at the North Rim entrance of the Grand Canyon.

The door to the booth was always unlocked, according to Glover, the Kane County, Utah, sheriff. Inside were sleeping bags, food, water, matches — items that Karen Klein could have used on this particular Christmas Eve as she and her family found themselves stranded in a remote region of the National Park near the Arizona-Utah border. It was an oasis of warmth within a freezing forest.

“I thought she might’ve made it there,” Glover said.

But after walking 26 miles, dragging a bad left leg with no shoe through the snow, Klein had found another shelter instead — a cabin nestled in the trees about 100 yards away with no power and just a few blankets. She had to break a window to gain entry.

About 5 hours after entering the park, Glover reached the cabin. When he found Klein, she had stripped off her wet beanie and outer layers of clothing and was lying on the bed. She was exhausted. Dehydrated. She had been hallucinating. Frostbite had gotten to her toes and fingers. Glover said they quickly built a fire in the cabin and called a dispatcher to relay the message to her husband and son, who had been rescued hours earlier: Karen Klein was alive.

Klein, 46, of Easton, Pa., was on vacation in Las Vegas with her husband and 10-year-old son when they decided to hit Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Christmas week. But on the drive to the North Rim, their GPS alerted them to the closure of Arizona Highway 67.

It diverted them onto a Forest Service road that is mostly gravel. The car eventually got stuck. Worry settled in.

With no cellphone service and Eric Klein recently recovering from a back injury, Karen Klein, a triathlete, decided to hike for help as snow kept falling. She ended up traversing 26 miles over the course of about 36 hours before Glover found her in the small cabin.

She told “Good Morning America” that as she hiked in search of help, she forced herself to stay awake at night and ate twigs from an aspen tree. She put snow in her cheek to try to stay hydrated.

I don’t care is she was superwoman.  She was unprepared for this, at this time, in these conditions.  We have discussed the bare minimum for being out in the bush: (1) heavy rubberized poncho, (2) 550 cord, (3) gun, (4) tactical light, (5) fire starter, (6) knife [serrated edge], and (7) water and fast food energy.

In these conditions, you can add the right kind of boots (very expensive and not routinely taken on car trips), wool clothing, Gore-Tex, insulated cover (e.g., wool hat), heavy insulated gloves, and eye protection (Goggles and perhaps sun glasses during the daylight hours to prevent snow blindness).

I’m not a big fan of staying where you are, and I’m a much bigger fan of taking what you need or may need.  But in this case, the woman should have stayed where she was.  She’s no good to her family dead.

Hiker Fights For Survival After Getting Lost In Arizona

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

AZFamily.com:

I was going up to Mount Lemmon to spend Monday night in a hammock that I was modifying for cold weather, and to enjoy looking at the super moon.

I was going to have lunch with a friend then proceed to the campsite near the top of Mt. Lemmon. The last time I spoke with my friend regarding lunch was Saturday, we were to speak about it again sometime Sunday. We did not do that, and I assumed that lunch was confirmed.

That was the first of several mistakes I made.

I started up Catalina Highway and had plenty of time to stop along the way.

I decided to check out a trail that I had not hiked in several years, Upper Green Mountain. It was about 11 a.m., I decided to go up the trail for about 20 minutes and then back down.

It is a pretty steep trail and pine needles made it difficult to see the trail. I had on a light long-sleeve cotton shirt, my hat, fishing vest (lots of pockets for stuff) and my water bottle with about 25 ounces.

Near the top I remembered that the trail went down the other side. I saw a path that went off trail to an interesting rock formation.

I went there for a little exploration, and headed back.

When I got back to where I went off trail, I had a major unexpected urge to have a BM.

I had taken a little extra magnesium that morning for some left leg cramps. So I got off-trail again, dug a hole, pooped and used about 1/2 of my water to wash my hands.

I looked around but did not see anything that looked like a trail. I thought I got here by going up, so to get back all I needed to do is go down.

Really big mistake.

I headed down for about 15 minutes and did not see the highway as expected. So I picked up my pace and decided to maintain one direction — I kept the sun on my back and headed north.

The terrain was very steep, and starting to get difficult to hike through. After about 1/2 an hour I thought I have to be near the road. Then I came to an area with a impassable cliff on the right and left. I was convinced this was the point of no return, no back tracking. I kept up a fast pace through some pretty difficult terrain, thick areas of shrub oaks and sticker bushes.

But I was still thinking I would find the highway.

After about 1 1/2 to 2 hours of going down the wrong side of the mountain, I realized that I was in really big trouble.

I was lost and would need to spend the night.

I was up on a ridge, looked down and saw a flat area somewhat clear of trees.

I remembered thinking about one of the most important things to do in a survival situation — keep a positive mental attitude. It would not help to be thinking about the mistakes I made that got me lost. I needed to focus on the present.

I started down to the clearing, came across a prickly pear cactus and cut off some pads for food, Great, I had a food source.

I arrived at my campsite and started gathering wood for a fire. I always carry a lighter in my vest, thank God!

While gathering wood I noticed bear poop, many very large piles of it, all around the campsite.

OK, positive mental attitude, fire will keep them away. And in case it didn’t, I tied the larger of my two knives to one of my ski poles.

The fire was in a water erosion ditch so there was no need to build a fire pit and could put longer logs in it and move them towards the fire as needed.

I had about 10 ounces of water left when I remembered another survival technique — I would have to start drinking my own urine.

Eating prickly pear pads have a side effect of diarrhea, which I found out the next day. To borrow a line from the pharmaceutical industry — ask your doctor if prickly pear pads and pee is right for you.

Having a sense of humor helps with positive mental attitude.

Anyway I had a collapsible camping cup in my vest so there was no need to pee in my water bottle while it still had water.

That night it was pretty cold, with a very cool breeze coming down the canyon.

I did not have a flashlight. I had to keep close to the fire, and rotated keeping my back, buttocks and legs warm.

The ground was cold and I couldn’t lay on my back for very long.

Also, I had to keep the fire going so I did not sleep that night

Sometime that night I saw what looked like several bright lights on the east side of the canyon. Could it be people? I shouted out hey, but in a little while realized it was that super moon coming up shining a little light through the pines.

Wow, the super moon was beautiful. I enjoyed the beauty and kept a positive mental attitude.

Time passed incredibly slowly that night.

He managed to make his way out and you can read the rest for yourself if you’re inclined.  But listen to me.  Drinking your own urine IS NOT a survival technique.  It’s a death technique.

Even on day hikes, I take at least the following in a day pack: cordage (550), gun, knife (serrated edge), tactical light, multiple fire starters, rubberized poncho, water, clothing for warmth (some sort of parka even in the summer), usually a light Mylar blanket, and energy bars.  At times I’ve carried a compass and maps if I don’t know the area.

Don’t do what he did.  If you escape into the wilderness in the Western U.S., your gun needs to be a big boy like a .44 Magnum or .454 Casull.  I sure wouldn’t carry anything less than .357 magnum.

How To Pack For A Day Hike

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

This is another report of folks who needed to do some work to survive in the wilderness, albeit for a short time.  From this article comes this video.

Don’t listen to her advice.  What is she leaving out?  We cover this frequently here.  Also make sure to take trekking poles, a tarp (or heavy rubberized poncho) and 550 cordage (from which three items you can have virtually instant shelter).  Take a container that can be used to boil water, a knife, a tactical light, and a gun.  Oh, and don’t leave out the fire starter.

Unlike this very unwise man and his son, don’t keep on pushing in the hopes that something good will happen.

We heard waterfalls, one after another, but the mind tends to latch onto something it yearns to believe. A waterfall, Jack and I had been told, marked a faint fisherman’s trail out of the gorge, and we’d been searching for it now for the last few hours. We were no longer thinking of trout; our fly rods were broken down and tucked under our arms. We were trying to get out of the woods before dark, but each waterfall we heard turned out to be the wind coursing through the trees or the creek rushing by boulders. It was one false summit after another. And now worry began to gnaw at my gut, because I’d broken every rule when we left the truck.

We had no map, compass, or flashlight. No shelter, signaling device, or fire starter. No firsthand knowledge of where we were. No clue how to beat the dropping sun back to the trail. I had ignored 40 years of knowing better.

This situation can be dealt with by building a debris hut for protection against the rain and wind, and pine bows or straw to get your bodies off of the ground, along with finding a potable water source.  But in order to pull this off, you have to stop in time and quit hoping that civilization is just around the bend.

Skills You Might Need

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Debris hut shelter.

Friction fire.

Field medicine.  Matthew gives us an interesting run down of what he learned.  My son Daniel went through a combat lifesaver course in the Marine Corps where they used live pigs, shot them in select places, and had to do things like find and clamp arteries to prevent bleed-out, all the while laying down suppressive fire.  I’m not too worried about what PETA has to say about this.  They know it happens, just like when doctors use pigs in medical school because of the anatomical similarity.  The pigs are sedated.

At any rate, Daniel told me out of all the training he received in the Marines, room clearing, CQB, field markmanship, sniper school, etc., the medical training was the best he had.

Survival Gear

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

It’s that time of year again.  Be careful out there.  This is one man’s take.

Though Falls Creek is a short hike, winter is no time to fool with the elements. Read the harrowing account of Mischelle Hileman of Wallowa, who lost both legs to exposure after what was intended to be a 45-minute elk hunt in 2002, if you’re thinking otherwise.

Regardless of the time of year, I always carry matches, kindling, water, a compass, whistle, survival blanket, poncho, flashlight and lots of power bars — and generally the dog. Off-leash Well=behaved dogs are allowed off-leash throughout Eagle Cap.

I have my own list, similar to but slightly more robust than above.  I’ve discussed it before.

550 cord, a tarp or rubberized rain poncho, trekking poles, a gun, water, protein bars, a tactical light, redundant means of fire starting, a small water filtration device or a small container of household bleach, a tactical knife, clothing for warmth (e.g., parka, emergency Mylar thermal blankets), and a compass.

With this simple list you can have shelter, fire, self protection, warmth, light, and ability to stay dry.  And if you’re going out in the woods, stop and buy a lighter or Ferrocerium rod.  Do this whether you’re going in the wilderness for one hour, one afternoon, or one week.  Do it regardless of how long you intend to be in the wilderness.

I’ve also explained what I do for fire when intending to go into the wilderness.  For every night I expect to be in the wild, I put a briquette of match light charcoal and a cotton ball soaked in Vaseline into a waterproof container (one piece of charcoal and one cotton ball for each night).  The cotton ball starts immediately, and helps the charcoal to start within seconds.  This makes fire starting quick in the event that you get wet when it’s cold or in the case of wet wood.

As I’ve implied, with 550 cordage and a poncho or tarp, along with trekking poles, you can have shelter in under two minutes if needed.  With redundant means of fire starting along with charcoal or char-cloth, you can have fire even when everything is wet.  With a parka and mylar blanket, you can have warmth when you need it (I have many parkas, my all-time favorite is Simms).  With a handgun (and an additional magazine or a few loaded moon clips) you have protection, and with a good tactical knife, you have a cutting tool or a chopping tool.  I carry a heavy folder, such as a Ka-Bar Mule, or CRKT M16-14DSFG-Tanto, always something with serrated edge.  Otherwise I carry a Ka-Bar straight edge fighting/utility knife, again, with a serrated edge.

This is my version of ultralight.  This list doesn’t weigh more than 10-15 lbs.  In case I haven’t mentioned it before, unless something has gone badly wrong, I will always have my baby with me, like the writer above.

Notes From HPS

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 11 months ago

John Jay has created a functioning plywood gun.  No, seriously.

David Codrea:

Agreeing with federal prosecutors, U.S. District Court Judge David Bury ruled on Friday that testimony regarding guns tied to Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” will be barred from the murder trial of the two men accused of killing Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Per KVOA News 4 Tucson, the jury “will not hear any details of how two guns found at the murder scene were part of a U.S. government-sanctioned weapon program.”

It’s criminals in clown cars, all the way down.

Mike Vanderboegh in Trump being a Charlatan (or Mike citing Jack Kelly).  Well of course he is.  He’s also an egomaniac, believer in a single payer health system, and has promised to bring all the Mexicans back across the border “legally” just as soon as they go home (which of course means that you would take care of those little Hispanic babies until they are 85 years old, just legally rather than illegally).  And he has a squirrel on his head.

Remington’s problems aren’t over yet.  I told you so.  I told you the better thing to do would have been to acknowledge the problems and recalled the Walker Fire Control System.  But then the lawyers and corporate executives got involved.

He left camp without survival gear or the proper clothing.  As we’ve discussed many times before, don’t be that guy.


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