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Everything is coming together. Last-minute items are being bought. The car is getting an oil change today. The last couple of hotel night stays are getting booked. The trip is so very close. In fact, in a week, David and I will be traveling to Collinsville, Illinois, a city just outside of St. Louis, after we leave work. Then after a night there, we’ll start bright and early in the morning and drive 13 hours to Fairfax, Virginia. It seems a little unreal the trip is almost here.

I’m getting more excited than nervous now, which is great. But I also know I need to keep a good balance between being excited and staying smart once I get out there. The latest issue of Backpacker helped me realize this. (David and I have been subscribing to the magazine for a year or so — hoping to immerse ourselves into what backpacking is all about.) It also helps that I’m my father’s daughter and he taught me to always be observant and prepared.

The Backpacker article I’m talking about is “Survival Guide A to Z.” It lists how to survive in the backcountry if you were to get into any life-or-death situations. When I say backcountry, I mean out there in the wilderness essentially. No camp grounds. No pre-made shelters. You see what I’m getting at? Whenever I’ve been camping, it’s been with Girl Scouts or at a campground where food, water, and shelter are readily available and help is surely less than 30 minutes away. In the backcountry, you don’t have this. If you run into trouble, you have to create your own strategy to get out of it.

I know that we’re going to have a guide with us and we’re highly unlikely to ever encounter these situations on our trip (if ever), but knowledge is power and these tips could save me one day.

  • All about bites. I’m typically scared of spiders and snakes. I haven’t given a second thought to wolves, coyotes, and bears until now. The article has a picture of a hiker and where these wild animals like to attack on your body. Yikes, huh? Wolves target your legs and throat. If one attacks (and that is supposedly rare), you’re supposed to shove your fist down its throat so it can’t breathe. Wahhhh. Are you kidding me?!?! I’ll be dead. With coyotes, they target the calves and throat. To fend them off, you’re supposed to stand upright and jab them with your trekking poles. The article continues on by saying bears target the scalp and face. Apparently, if you get into a hairy situation (couldn’t help myself…) with a bear, you have better odds with a grizzly bear. If a grizzly bear gets you down on the ground, roll onto your stomach, protect your head, and play dead. But if it’s a black bear, fight like hell. Well that’s just splendid. You know what animals are in Shenandoah National Park? Coyotes and black bears.
  • What about hypothermia? Shivering has the power to warm you up. I find this to be fascinating: “At rest, humans produce 100 watts of heat. Hypothermic humans can produce 500 to 600 watts. That’s a third of a hair dryer.” Want another cool (again, I can’t help it…love me some puns) fact? People think they become hypothermic in ice cold water within minutes, but it really takes 30 to 60 minutes to become mildly hypothermic. If you ever find yourself in this situation, stay calm and slow your breathing down in order to make good decisions and minimize hyperventilation. Easier said than done I bet.
  • When to use flight over fight. If you encounter a wildfire or a moose charging at you, run! Wildfires can spread at 14 mph, which is the top running speed of the average person. And with a charging moose, you have to be prepared to climb 12 feet up a tree if the 1,000-pound animal is coming at you.

They brought up a lot of other points, but these were the most interesting ones to me. This may not have been the best read before our backpacking trip, but I’m still glad I read through them. I hope you learned something new and never have to recall this information again. :)

Question for you
1. What animal always creeps you out?
I freak out every time I see a snake. I will never be okay with them.