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Backpacking Achilles Heel

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:38 am

I'd have to say that the only one that bothers me is D. I've had two close encounters with lightning, one in SW Montana and the other in Eastern Oregon, and it was a very close call both times. The prickly sensation all over your body and the bomb-like explosion that follows immediately and the smell of argon in the air afterwards...that just doesn't leave you, so when I start hearing thunder getting closer, I make sure I am in NO WAY exposed. I'm not afraid, per se, but I get rather nervous and I take NO chances.
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby rlown » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:37 am

Argon is odorless: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argon

You smell ozone i think: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone

I love the smell of Ozone in the afternoon.. :) but only in short bursts, and hopefully far away.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:10 pm

I stand corrected, I thought it was argon, but I guess it was ozone. The only thing I can compare it to is an "electrical smell" the kind of musty odor that you smell when some electrical appliance is overheating or malfunctioning.
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

Some pics of native salmonids: http://flyguydave.wordpress.com/
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby dave54 » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:37 pm

Not sure why, Must have has some psychological trauma as a child. Streams crossings always give me pause, even shallow slow water I can step across or wade through with with shoes barely getting wet.

Heights, storms, ice... none of the others bother me. I am appropriately cautious but not afraid. Not so with stream crossings.

It seems odd because in a boat I have no problems. I can solo paddle across big water in wind and chop and do not have the same apprehension as crossing a simple mountain stream.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby SweetSierra » Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:11 pm

Dave54,
It's interesting how there can be a fear of something with seemingly no cause. I'm at home in the mountains and so being unreasonably cautious or concerned about something bothers me. I've wondered about my apprehension in deep forests. When I was 12 or so, I spent summer vacations at an isolated mountain cabin with a friend's family on Pine Ridge in mid-elevation Sierra on the way to Shaver Lake. The cabin was several miles down a dirt road and there were no other cabins in the area. I wandered all over the forest with my friend on casual trails and deer paths and without her parents, sometimes into the evenings. One day I walked down a ridge in back of the cabin to a stream that had cans of soda cooling. When I looked up, I couldn't remember the way back and panicked. I walked a little but nothing looked familiar. Then I yelled until someone answered. It was perhaps only ten minutes.
Maybe that explains why (but I'm not sure) in the past when I'm walking off trail and drop down into a forest (and with someone who can navigate through a forest), I feel a sense of dread. If I'm on a trail through deep woods, I'm fine, though I'm still glad when the terrain opens up and I can see the sky.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Tom_H » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:55 pm

SweetSierra,

It's interesting how each of us is different. I grew up in a house with parents who fought like mad dogs. Every time we moved to a new place though, there was either a forest or a large woodland adjacent to the house. The woods became my refuge. It was there I could go and listen to the quiet of the wind whispering through trees, the chirping of southern song birds, the trickle of water through streams. The woods is where I could go for safety, for tranquility, for solace. I remember playing in the woods as early as age 3. Somehow I developed more than just a sense of direction but a oneness with the forest. It became the place that felt like home.

Nowadays, when I am in a city or urban area, I still am a little out of my comfort zone. Put me in a bad part of town with loud people and I am out of my element. Sleazy parts of inner cities scare me. Arguing people make me apprehensive. Nature always comforts me.

Even though I encountered all kinds of animals in the woods, none ever bothered me if I didn't bother them. People, on the other hand, always have been harder to predict. I am fine with nice people, but if someone becomes belligerent, my level of uncertainty skyrockets. If a city is not laid out in a grid, I can get disoriented easily. In the forest, I always seem to know where I am. When on instructor training expeditions in forested mountain areas that were new terrain for us, I was always the first to find a level camp or a source of water. Compatriots used to say, "How do you find these places?" I was never able to explain it other than a sixth sense. With the water, it always seemed that I could smell the increasing humidity in the air as I got closer. As for the flat spots, something about the rest of the terrain just told me where to look.

In civilization, I have always been just a little on edge. Except for rare exceptions like the one above, the wilderness has always been my safe haven, particularly the forest. From a really young age I just knew how to build shelters, find water and something edible, start a fire with minimal gear, and find my way back to my starting point.

I fear the future day when no wilderness is left for people like me to find a place of tranquil refuge. Humans came from nature, have mastered nature, and now seem hellbent on destroying it. I hope that day never comes.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby SweetSierra » Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:41 pm

Tom_H,
Thanks for your story. I enjoyed it! I was also free to wander around small plots of land near my home when I was a girl. The wilderness has always been a refuge, a joy, and solace for me as well. It's home. Though I've experienced that anxiety at times, it's a fleeting feeling. One of my favorite experiences was at a camp site in Fish Creek valley with my ex-husband several years ago on the evening before the season's first snow storm. Our dog was beside me, the creek was slowly circling an oxbow, and the vast old growth conifer forest with their immense trunks and swaying tops was at my back and seemed to be breathing. There's nothing like a wild place.
Last edited by SweetSierra on Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:06 pm

All of the above at various times. Depends on the degree of danger- the threshold thing. I have bumped up to my threshold in all areas, and thankful I lived to tell about it. Probably the least rational is fear of animals- but only when I solo. I feel I am a tasty little meal when I am alone. I am more afraid of mountain lions than bear. Also moose (not in the Sierra, obviously). Grizzly bears more so than black bears. Rattlesnakes too. I do not fear mountain sheep or goats. Ran around a corner once into a porcupine- that made my heart skip. I have also done a few stupid things- like descend a very steep icy crevassed glacier (100-foot deep crevasses) with nothing more than crampons and trekking poles. Also feel through and got stuck in a melt-out next to a rock wall (in Ionian Basin) on a very steep slope. I was nearly upside down with my leg painfully stuck and the pack was too heavy so I feared hurting my leg so I unbuckled the waist strap and let the pack fly down the slope towards one of those deep blue lakes! Thankfully it stopped short of splashing into the water. Another objective danger that really frightens me is rockfall and avalanches. I have had bowling ball size rocks bounce from one side of a steep chute to the other while I just sat there and hoped I would be OK. I think a lot depends on how far you push the envelope when "backpacking". As I get older I do less of such stuff. Definitely afraid of lightning- sat out plenty of severe lightning on rock ledges while climbing. Rationally, it is true that nothing could be done, but I never was able to "enjoy" the light show.

Thanks old ranger to remind is of our aging bodies. We forget that flexibility and balance are so important as we age and if you really work on these as you age (staring at 40) you can slow down the demise.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:24 am

WD, speaking of porcupines, I was awakened by one while camping in Colorado last year. It came up to the side of the tent and grunted. I sat up straight. I didn't know what it was. I thought, young bear? I said, kind of gently, go away, go away! That didn't work. Finally my light sent it off. When I finally got up, I saw it waddling away. It was fun to see one, from a distance.
Last edited by SweetSierra on Sun Dec 29, 2013 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby John Dittli » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:47 am

Bivied in the Mt Rainier backcountry, I was awakened when the boot I was using as a pillow began to move. Fortunately I slowly opened my eyes; I was looking face to face with a large porcupine. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, I think it was surprised that this salt lick had eyes!

It slowly backed away and ambled into the woods.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Tom_H » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:16 pm

John Dittli wrote:Bivied in the Mt Rainier backcountry, I was awakened when the boot I was using as a pillow began to move. Fortunately I slowly opened my eyes; I was looking face to face with a large porcupine. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, I think it was surprised that this salt lick had eyes!

It slowly backed away and ambled into the woods.


OMG, that is absolutely hilarious! Thanks.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Postby Bargy » Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:10 pm

Stream crossings and lightning for sure - cos I don't climb, or hike in snow....

I never had a problem with stream crossings until crossing on the boulders at the last little lake on the north side of Donahue Pass. I got to the 3rd boulder, felt very wobbly and sat down. My husband had already crossed. He came back and took my pack, and I was then able to cross on the boulders. Later in the same trip we came to a log crossing over Rush Creek and there was no way I could do it. The next summer I once again baulked at boulder crossings - this one at the inlet to Evolution. It looked easy til about the third one and then I had to turn back. That time I ended up wading across and bursting into tears on the other side. This had begun to turn into a phobia. The rushing water seemed to give me vertigo and the higher I was above it, the worse it was. I hated to be dependent on others to hold my hand or carry my pack. So the next summer, I told myself it was OK to wade, and just to see what I could do - no pressure. Taking it slowly, using my poles, I gradually managed what had been scaring me before. But it's been low water years for the last two, and how I'd do in higher-than-my-knees stuff, I have no idea.

As for lightning - it never bothered me at all until we got caught on the way to Duck Creek from Reds - rain then hail then thunder and then really close lightning and thunder. We spread out and all assumed the position, and argued the merits of pushing on or staying put. Finally we were getting cold, so camped at the side of the trail. There was still a lot of tree cover. The lightning crashed around us and hail piled up against the tent for a few hours, then moved off. The next day it moved in again, but we went lower and that was that. But the following year on the JMT, I found myself continually scrutinizing the sky for clouds, then feeling the anxiety build, fast heart rate, cotton-mouth, it was very unpleasant and I'm sure nasty for my hiking partner too. And of course this culminated in a huge, out of the blue, over our heads, lightning storm at Charlotte Lake. I lay in my tent, repeating various nonsense rhymes as a way to distract myself. I know all the science and the wilderness advice on what to do and not do, and which tree to avoid and so on - but all that is really not much help. The previous person who said the more that they know, the more panicked they get, had it nailed! Any advice on dealing with this one, would be much appreciated. I know Maverick hikes up and photographs those strikes - amazing!
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