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Your call---what to do?

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Your call---what to do?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:12 pm

During one of our trips this summer, we came upon the following charming scene. It was an idyllic place: the sun was sparkling, the meadows were lush and green, and the surrounding mountains seemed as if they were waiting for Julie Andrews to start singing. "The hills are alive...."

And there, in the middle of the meadow, were a couple of pack llamas taking a bit of the breather.

Nearby, a young family was taking a bit of a breather as well. The kids, aged from about 4-10, were having a snack in the shade, and mom was pulling a few more tasting morsels out of a pack for them. They looked hot, tired, and reasonably happy.

But as we approached them, the father of the family came out to greet us as we descended down from our cross-country adventure to Return and Soldier Lakes.

"Is that the trail to Virginia Pass?" he asked, a not of worry in his voice.

We assured him that it was not. It wasn't really a trail at all, although it led to some beautiful country. It sure wasn't on the way to anywhere else at all.

"Can you tell me where the trail to Virginia Pass is?" he asked, a little desperately.

We remembered passing a large cairn on the trail below where his family was resting and mentioned it to him. The cairn also had a huge arrow next to it to point the way.

"Yeah, it's not very easy to follow." he said. "I guess it might get better as you get higher up."

We would like to have helped, but our route was in another direction, and he didn't seem to want to hike with us down to the cairn...so we offered him encouragement that we were sure that was the trail.

And then we hiked off and left him in the middle of the idyllic meadow, with his llamas and his little kids. We hoped that he would find his way up to Virginia Pass. And we made a note to tell the Rangers in Bridgeport where we had been hiking, and to check the backpacking websites when we got back, to see if a family was reported missing.

All has been quiet, and we are happy that it must have turned out well.

Still...it was awkward to just leave them there. Maybe we should have hiked the route past the cairn with them, until we were sure that they could find the trail. But then...it wasn't on our way at all. And the kids had food and water. And the trail to Virginia Pass could really only lead one direction---up over the ridge and down to the trailhead.


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Re: Your call---what to do?

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:38 pm

This actually seems rather benign compared to some of the ones I've seen over the last few years:
1. Type A papa driving several young children up the Rush Creek trail (exposed) on a hot afternoon with no water evident. (We actually saw 3-4 groups of these in various states of dehydration/heat exhaustion/heat stroke).
2. Large family group hiking into the Jennie Lakes Wilderness met at the trailhead. Among the items in their hands, a large rifle-like BB/Pellet Gun.
3. As we hike to the edge of Upper Kinney Lake, a man rides up on a dirt bike (illegal) siphons some gas from his tank, and lights a log on fire. Shortly after he leave with the fire burning. (We put out the fire with a plastic bag we had and reported him to the ranger.)
4. People in my own group that keep their conditions to themselves, at least until they are at a point of near collapse or heatstroke. Thank god for that warm bottle of Gatorade in the car.

Your slightly befuddled papa sounds absolutely charming compared to these players. I would never get home if I reported every self-endangering neophyte I saw on the trail. God/St. Christopher/Buddha/Allah/Vishnu must take care of them, as few people die in the woods. Running into them is disconcerting, no doubt. What is even more disconcerting is that there are so many of them. Help them when you can. Cajole or shame them when they don't listen. Pray for their safety, cause that's all you can do.
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Re: Your call---what to do?

Postby Tom_H » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:05 pm

On a good note, I tend to see them within a day or so of the trailhead and not deep in the backcountry. I think at least if they screw up, somebody else might come along who can help them. Sometimes there is a full sized ax and or shovel strapped to the pack. I don't know how many times I have stopped, pulled out my first aid kit and fashioned mole foam doughnuts around the blisters on the feet of a novice who has been wearing cotton socks in thick new leather boots or running shoes with no socks. In May of 1984, a friend and I were at Lunch Meadow (Emigrant), hiking on deep snowpack in a blizzard. Two other guys up there (not with us) had decided to hike back to Kennedy. The one with the stove and tent didn't feel like staying with his friend and went ahead. The second one got fatigued and disoriented in the driving snow. We found the guy, made camp, filled him with hot soup and settled in for the night. I don't know what would have happened to him had we not been there.

I try to give friendly advice when I run into these people and not come across in an unkind way. Inside though, I am shaking my head and rolling my eyes. Some of them really don't belong there. When we got the guy down to Kennedy the next day, the friend was there waiting. Sheesh I wanted to give that guy a piece of my mind for abandoning his partner in a blizzard. I held my tongue though. Maybe I shouldn't have.
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