What Is Your Biggest Blunder

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Lumbergh21
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What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by Lumbergh21 » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:51 pm

I saw this on another forum and thought it was both fun and informative, and maybe it's already been done on these forums as well. But, what is the biggest or most memorable mistake you have ever made in the outdoors? It could be life threatening or simply humorous. I have a hard time choosing mine; there are so many to choose from.

Years ago as a young man I used to go hiking in Lassen National Park almost every weekend from when the roads opened until they closed. So early one year, while there was still some snow on the trail, I decided to go for a hike, and given my familiarity with the park, I didn't need a map or compass. Also, I didn't need food or shelter; it was just a short day hike. Matter of fact, one quart of water should be plenty. As it turned out, either I didn't know the park like the back of my hand or the back of my hand was a stranger to me. Somehow, the location of my objective relative to Lassen Peak was different in my mind than in reality once I reached it. After about 20 minutes of not seeing any of my tracks I knew I was not on the trail I took in. So I navigated based on where I KNEW I had parked relative to the peak, and got even more lost. Finally, I bushwacked up to a ridge to get my bearings and discovered Kings Creek was not where I thought it should be. I ended up staying high out of the brush and heading in a direction that I knew would take me to the road through the park though no where near my car. For the first time that day, I was right. Late that day, I arrived at a trailhead dirty, tired, and very thirsty. I had three options: 1) take the trail 8 miles back to my car with the very real chance I would lose this trail too, 2) walk 18 miles of road back to my car, 3) beg a kind stranger for a ride. Fortunately, #3 worked. As they drove me back to where I had started that morning I think they began to wonder if they were ever going to get to my car.

Now, I always carry a map of where I'm hiking, no matter if I know it like the back of my hand.
Last edited by Lumbergh21 on Thu Feb 08, 2018 11:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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limpingcrab
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by limpingcrab » Thu Feb 08, 2018 2:43 pm

Ha! Fun idea. Lots of dumb and silly ones for me, but only a few probably could have ended really bad.

1. I was 14 and day hiking up Sawtooth in Mineral King. Clouds were coming in but my friend and I didn't want to bail because of a little rain! Long story short, while on the summit our hair was standing up, camera was turning on and off, and lightning hit both Needham and Empire mountains nearby.

2. Bought some snowshoes and the same friend and I decided to hike Mt. Silliman in on a warm spring day. I had never heard of wet avalanches but we thought the water running along the bedrock under the snow was cool. Later found out that we were in a common wet slide spot at the worst possible time and an old guy that worked at Wuksachi was getting ready to send a search group (my dad was waiting in Wuksachi to give us a ride home).

3. Camping on the NF of the Kaweah in high school, the river was high and there was a long whitewater stretch next to camp that ended in a short waterfall with a roostertail. My friends didn't think I would try to swim it so I yelled, "it's only water you wusses" and jumped in. It was not pleasant but I lived.

Sorry, that was more than one. I consider myself less of an idiot now but only time will tell.
Last edited by limpingcrab on Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by mrphil » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:17 pm

Sheesh! Which one?

I guess probably the biggest was, back in the days before you had no doubt that you had a canister in your pack, I forgot my stuff sack full of food. Not in the car, didn't bother to double check at the trailhead ( I mean, DUH!, what idiot forgets their food, right? ). It was at home, right where I left it in the driveway. Oh, and yes, I did hike in about 6 miles before I realized it that evening.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by cslaght » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:54 pm

I must say, two come to mind but they are not at all life threatening (thankfully), more funny than anything.
1. My first (and only, because of the reaction) solo day hike was of Mitchell Peak a few years ago. My wife finally gave me the go ahead for a day hike by myself and this seemed easy enough. Living in Visalia, I told her I would be back by 2 PM, easy, don't worry until then. BIG MISTAKE. I forgot how long it took to get past Big Meadows, so I didn't start until almost 8:30. I actually made pretty good time, wonderful hike. But, ran out of water about half way down and got to the car about 1:30. Also, I started from Rowel Meadow TH, not Marvin pass, so this was about 10 miles in 5 hours (not a bad rate at all for me), and I really enjoyed my hike. By the time I have signal near Big Stump entrance. I had quite a few messages and an angry wife (so maybe life threatening?). Suffice to say, I haven't been solo since.
2. Summer of '14, I thought I was in better shape than I was and didn't have my gear really well dialed in. My dad and I left from Lake Edison to go up Bear Creek, we took the cut off trail close to the Edison Dam instead of the BC Diversion dam, so there was a pointless climb right off the bat and my pack weighed 47 (!!!) pounds. 10 of it easily was useless to bring. I was pretty miserable by the time we got to the JMT back there.
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by Jimr » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:53 pm

1989. My buddy and I had just spent a day and a half down Goddard Creek to Simpson Meadow. We mixed up some Wild Turkey and Crystal Lite for some refreshment. When we packed up in the morning, I had forgotten that my water container was spiked. So was my buddies bottle. We headed up and over the Monarch divide with cocktails instead of water. By the time we were half way up, we were quite buzzed, but could no longer drink the mix. We spent the second half of the march without water. As we got to the top, we considered dumping our packs and heading to Dougherty creek, then come back for the packs. We elected to just push on and finally reached the creek. In short, it sucked.
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by oldranger » Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:07 pm

Only one major blunder that I remember. In 2007 I took my two adult, married daughters on a backpacking trip. Of course I took them off trail thru some knarly terrain. On the 3rd day off trail we were hit by a significant thunder/hail storm a couple of miles from our destination for the evening. Immediately #1 got cold so I had her put on her jacket under her rain poncho. #2 and I were fine and we continued to walk up along the stream we were following. All of a sudden #2 started shivering. We had just passed a suitable campsite so we reversed direction and I sat her under a tree and got her into warmer clothes. #1 and I then set up their tent in the rain and hail and threw in pads and sleeping bags and got #2 in warm and dry. Soon after the storm abated but the creek had risen dramatically and was basically flowing black! Now all this time I was perfectly comfortable so I was not paying attention to #2 as we were walking. Everything turned out ok but I learned a lesson--pay attention to others when on the trail, especially when you are the leader. Just because you are doing just fine doesn't mean that everyone in the group is. As a leader with relatively inexperienced partners whether it is hot or cold, wet or dry it is your responsibility to monitor your companions condition and to make sure they are hydrated, have enough calories in their tank, and properly dressed. I felt that I failed to fulfill my responsibilities that day on that trip.
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Feb 09, 2018 9:34 am

Define "blunder". Does it have to have consequences, to be a blunder? Or is something stupid still a blunder if you get away with it unharmed?

OR, I agree that taking kids backpacking can produce blunders. I took my 17-year old daughter on an 18-day trip that was really too hard core. To make up for it, two years later I took her on a mellow fun 10 day trip which she enjoyed so much more. Thank goodness she still enjoys backpacking.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by Cross Country » Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:47 pm

I made so many that I don't know which was the worse. All of them came from overconfidence. Mike 7yo, Jim 12yo and I drove from LA and hiked over Kearsarge Pass and to the Lakes below on the same day. My kids got altitude sickness and couldn't eat dinner and went to bed at 6PM and slept 10-11 hours. I had never seen someone with altitude sickness before this and it was after I had backpacked about 400 days in my life. I should have been aware of this possibility, especially with young kids. The next year we drove from LA and went over Taboose pass, but this time in two days.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by wildhiker » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:53 pm

On a winter ski-touring trip in Jan 1976 with friends, I was using my Kelty external frame pack (the only one I had). As other old-timers know, the pack bag on an external frame is not intended to encompass all your equipment - some gets tied directly to the frame, such as sleeping bag, pads, and tents. We packed up on the 4th day with one more night to go. I guess I didn't pay enough attention to how I had lashed the tent poles to the frame, because when we got to our destination and started to setup the tent, I discovered that I had no poles. This was an old Ski Hut A-frame design with little metal cross-connectors between the poles of the A at the top that went through a strap coming from the tent - allowed you to adjust the tension. So I immediately realized that I could setup skis in a A pattern outside the tent, lash them together, and run the strap through the lashing cord to hang the tent from the skis. Not elegant, but it worked. Fortunately no wind that night, because it was rickety. The blunder is really that I was a poor student at the time and those poles were expensive to replace when we got back to the city!
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by SSSdave » Sat Feb 10, 2018 9:50 am

Would have to be something I did in my twenties so looked at my oldest trips in my log. To be a blunder, it has to be a mistake or something one could have prepared for with better homework or experience and not something one could have known about or could have been prepared for like unexpected weather. So it could include rookie mistakes where with better preparation and use of available information, one might not have done something regrettable. I've never gotten lost enough where it resulted in trip itinerary problems. Have never had to bail on a trip because of forgetting to bring an important piece of gear other than enough mosquito repellent per below story. Have made a few overly strenuous itineraries that I had to change somewhat but such did not really impact my goals. Never stupidly brought any others out on a death march.

My blunder was at age 25 on my fourth backpacking trip ever and note last summer did my 200th trip. It was a 4 day trip into Emigrant Basin. I had bought a few backpacking books including a very popular one from the Sierra Club that I'd read including much about hiking boots. However I was still pretty poor at the time so tended to choose minimalist ways to get by. Thus no hiking boots but rather cheap tennies, $12 flimsy backpack, a orange plastic tube tent, a square piece of mosquito netting, and one of those rectangular $15 Coleman cotton sleeping bags. My main interest was trout fishing in those days and was intent on reaching Woods Lake that I'd read something glowing about rainbow trout. Since it was early summer, there was still quite a bit of snow about and creeks were high and cold. In those days when backpacking was exploding yet rather new, there was little information about trail conditions outside of books haha. Backpacker Magazine had only begun a few months before. Wilderness Press's Sierra North was all there was outside of direct information from experienced backpackers. And there was no community of such people so one could not say not having info from experienced people might be a reason for a blunder.

The Crabtree Trailhead was blocked by snow up the road some so it was about 11 trail miles to Woods Lake and required two major fords. So long ago that do not recall much. However my feet have never been so sore as when I finally reached Woods Lake as the rocky trail went right through the sole of those cheap sneakers. So semi ignorant rookie blunder, not wearing hiking boots. It was also a very very bad summer for mosquitoes that were at snow melt peak and Emigrant Basin is arguable the worst zone in the whole range in bad years because of its myriad small shallow pools in the glacial bedrock granite. There was no way I might have known about the mosquitoes in those days so that was not so much a mistake. But not having enough mosquito repellent and using a tube tent was a rookie blunder. There were CLOUDs of squeeters everywhere swirling up into the air. Sitting down for a break and within a minute, several dozen would be crawling around on my Levi pant legs trying to stick their probosci through the dense cotton. Recall getting bitten through some worn spots on my not so new jeans.

The most popular repellent then was little white plastic bottles with an orange lid of Cutter's brand that contained a sticky white liquid. I had one new bottle and a mostly used one. Well a "feature" of those bottles was if one squeezed the closed bottles hard enough, the plastic screw in cap could pop off. So Mr Dave had put a bottle in a coat pocket that apparently during the 11 mile torture hike managed to get underneath the pack waist belt squishing the bottle. Upon reaching Woods Lake the only place mosquitoes never visited was that coat pocket. A disgusting gooey mess that I managed to salvage just a wee juice from. Thus had to survive the rest of the trip on meager doses of DEET. Was easily bit more on the one trip than all the rest of my life put together minus an equally horrible mosquito hell up Falls Creek 4 years later.

Fishing at Woods Lake was phenomenal. The next afternoon was to cross the North Fork of Cherry Creek at Cow Meadow Lake in order to reach the fabled fishing at Huckleberry Lake. Well my feet were still quite sore but I was stubborn and stupid. I reached the ford and found the creek too high. A truly amazing number of sizeable rainbow trout were in the creek up above the small linear lake. I might have ventured upstream for a possible place to cross were it not for the reality that it was the most mind bogglingly mosquito infested place with huge clouds I have ever been at to this day. Thus backtracked a mile and 500 feet back up to the Buck Lake junction where sore feet made a camp.

Vaguely recall my feet still being very sore the next day so was not able to go far. Lesson learned, by the next summer had bought a flimsy tent, hiking boots, and a down sleeping bag.

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