Scenario 8, Lost

The Scene: Padgett is in her early 20s. She’s working for a veterinarian, a man she has come to respect and admire. Her boss takes a vacation to Standing Indian Mountain with his family. While they settle into the campground, Padgett’s boss goes for a hike. The trail is a loop, so he doesn’t think to bring a map or much in the way of supplies. But soon, he starts to worry—is he going the right direction? How much further does he have? Daylight starts to fade and his family, worried, calls 911.

“The whole rescue squad came out,” says Padgett, who was relayed the story on the following day. “It took a long time to find him, but he was right there. He was still on the trail!”

Short of suffering a moderate case of embarrassment, Padgett’s boss was just fine and reunited with his family shortly after. Getting lost, says Padgett, is a real problem for outdoor enthusiasts, even if you are in an area considered well traveled and developed.

“That scenario really illustrated to me that folks who go into areas that are created for recreators with trail signs and beautiful walkways, if they’re not prepared, they can get lost in places we don’t consider easy to get lost in,” says Padgett.

What not to do:

Forgo planning or map familiarity.

Continue wandering. Just stay put.

Leave designated trails. “Our mountains have so many nooks and hollers and are quite steep and full of nearly impenetrable thickets,” says Padgett. Theories like following water downhill or hiking in concentric circles can not only lead to increased fatigue and disorientation but can also move you farther away from help.

Rely on your cell phone. “Although I’ve witnessed the accessibility of cell towers skyrocket in our region in the last 20 years, you still cannot get a signal in a lot of areas. Part of your pre-trip planning is knowing where cell service can be accessed along your route.”

What to do:

Plan ahead and prepare. “Know where you are going, know your physical limitations…and be fully prepared with shelter, food, and water.”

Tell friends or family where you’re going and when you are expected back.

Have a map and compass and know how to use them.

Bring food and water, or a means of filtering water, always.

Have a buddy, especially if you are an inexperienced hiker.

Scenario 9, Bear Scare

The Scene: Brian Sarfino of Tucker County, W.Va., is embracing the simple life outside of South Lake Tahoe in California. His home for the summer of 2003 is nothing more than a backpacking tent and a 10’ x 10’ mesh canopy that acts as his kitchen. He’s been camping out at one particular site in the forest for, he admits, longer than the two-week time limit, but there’s no one else around and, being from the rural mountains of West Virginia, Sarfino feels right at home in the woods. Comfortable. Complacent, even.

“I had definitely pushed my luck and gotten lazy with my food care and storage,” Sarfino says. “I just stored my food in the [kitchen] tent.”

One morning, Sarfino wakes to the sound of heavy breathing. A muzzle nudges his one-man tent. Then, he hears what he’s been dreading—the shredding of claw-on-mesh, and the subsequent ransack of his kitchen.

“That’s when I knew there were multiple bears,” Sarfino says. “I could feel the vibration in the ground when the momma bear would come down from her hind legs. Everyone was getting really excited, or aggressive, I couldn’t tell which.”

Now, Sarfino’s sleeping tent isn’t the recommended 100 yards away from his cooking area. No, Sarfino is lying on his mat a mere five feet from the bears’ plundering. As one bear after another charges past with their loot in tow, Sarfino can practically feel the fur brushing past.

“I thought they were going to run right through my tent or try to get into my tent,” he says. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Escape for Sarfino is not an option. The bears are all around his campsite, and his truck is too far to comfortably reach. Seeing no other option, he rolls onto his stomach, assumes the “play dead” position with his hands over the back of his neck, and waits for three painstaking hours. Fortunately, the bears moved on, satisfied with their night’s feast.

What not to do:

Leave your trash and/or food near your tent.

• Leave a messy kitchen.

• Turn and run in the event of a bear encounter. “They will chase you, and they are faster than we are,” says Padgett.

What to do:

Hang food at least 100 yards from where you’re sleeping. “Also, identify where you’re going to do this hang before it gets dark,” adds Padgett. “Setting up a bear bag in the dark is very hard to do and causes people to do a very poor job.”

Cook at least 100 yards away from your tent.

Hang your food at least 12 feet off the ground, five feet away from the tree trunk, and five feet below the branch holding it.

When traveling solo or in small groups, make noise or bring bells in bear country to prevent the element of surprise.

Travel with bear pepper spray on you or quickly accessible.

Should you encounter a bear, face them, slowly back away, quietly. If the bear continues to approach you, make yourself physically look as big as possible and make a lot of noise.  Get close to others if you’re in a group and clap and yell while backing away. “You can even hold backpacks over your head. We want them to want to avoid us.”

• In the event of a bear attack, follow the National Park Service guidelines. For brown or grizzly bears, play dead by lying flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck and spreading your legs to prevent the bear from easily turning you over. For black bears, do not play dead. Fight back if a car or some similar form of shelter is not available. Use whatever weapon is available and direct kicks and punches toward the bear’s face.

Scenario 10, Burns

The Scene: Hawkins is leading a sea-kayaking trip in the Florida Everglades for the Yale Outing Club: clear coastal waters, sandy beaches, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. The trip is stacked up to be a memorable one, until one of the participants gets sunburn.

“Sometimes we dismiss sunburns as not very important, but this participant got such bad sunburn that his ears and nose were blistered and he was in so much pain,” Hawkins says.

Serious burns, whether from the sun or otherwise, can be seriously painful. More recently, Hawkins’ colleagues answered a call for a woman who spilled boiling water in her lap as she was removing a pot from her camp stove.

“The two things we see most often are burns from stoves exploding or boiling water dropped in people’s laps or kicked over from kids running around the campsite,” says Hawkins. “Usually people don’t have medical kits that have sufficient pain medicines to treat that level of pain.”

What not to do:

Try to get a tan in the backcountry.

Underestimate anything hot. “A lot of times people get contact burns from trying to flip grills off campfires because they think they can just do it quickly.”

Sit down while you are cooking. “Be mobile and be on your feet in case of a spill,” says Hawkins.

Apply snow or ice directly to the burn site. “You can cause more damage to the skin tissue if it’s too dramatic of a cooling measure.”

What to do:

Establish a “no-run” zone while cooking.

Keep stoves clean and in proper working condition.

Place bowls or thermoses on ground (as opposed to holding them) when pouring hot water.

Submerge burn in cool water or use cool, wet cloth to soothe burn.

Apply burn cream or, if not available, antibiotic ointment.

Wrap in dry dressing for extensive burns.

Scenario 11, Fish Hooked

The Scene: Hawkins and his family are on vacation in the Outer Banks. Hawkins is out in the surf trying to squeeze in a few more waves before the day is done. Out of sight and farther up the beach is a man illegally surf fishing with a long line, but when Hawkins feels a sharp pain in his right big toe, he first suspects a crab, not a fish hook.

“I pulled my leg up and it took me awhile to figure it out, but it was a sea fishing fish hook that had gone through my toe. The line had hog tied me around my ankles, so I lost the use of my legs in the surf.”

Hawkins frantically waves his arms, helplessly flailing without the use of his legs. A passerby sees Hawkins in distress and gets him to shore. Hawkins successfully depresses the barb to the point where he can edge the hook out of his toe, an uncomfortable but fairly straightforward procedure most anyone can replicate.

What not to do:

Panic.

• Yank fish hook out of the track it has already created.

What to do:

Remove line and anything else attached to fish hook.

Disengage barb and slide out backwards, or rotate barb forward to complete its path so it exits the skin. Cut off the barb and then rotate backwards through its track.

Clean puncture wound with the cleanest available water and mild soap if available.

• With fish hooks that have the possibility of transmitting tetanus or animal bacteria, seek medical treatment immediately.

Scenario 12, Drowning

The Scene: The Catawba River is flooding. Law enforcement and rescue personnel in Morganton, N.C., are working around the clock to ensure the city’s safety. Despite their warnings, a group of young teenagers decides to hit the water in recreational kayaks. One of the boys hits a low-head dam where the river passes through town. His kayak flips and washes downstream, but his body recirculates in the feature.

“By all definitions of the word, this kid drowned,” says Hawkins. “He was pulled out of the water, without a pulse and not breathing, by his friends who did not know CPR.”

But what they lacked in medical training, the boy’s friends made up for by placing a call to the Burke County dispatch center, which employs Emergency Medical Dispatchers specifically certified by the state to practice medicine over the phone.

“They can train lay public to do CPR over the phone and in real time, that’s what they did,” says Hawkins. “They taught this guy’s friends how to do CPR and he recovered.”

What not to do:

Delay CPR.

What to do:

Clear out airway obstructions. “Almost invariably people who have drowned have a lot of foam that comes out of their lungs,” says Hawkins. “That’s creepy for people to see, so they spend a lot of time trying to clear this foam, but that can be breathed back into the patient with no complications during emergency ventilations.” Obstructions here can be things like river matter or vomit.

Check for pulse.

Begin rescue breathing immediately. “Now with CPR they are teaching people to look at compressions as really important, but especially in very young kids and drowning patients, it’s the breathing that’s really important. It’s a lung problem, not a heart problem.”

Once the patient establishes breathing on their own, turn them on their side, lying on one shoulder, and place them in the recovery position. “They almost always vomit. If they’re lying on their back and that happens, they can swallow that vomit and get into serious trouble.”

Keep patient warm.