What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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SSSdave
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by SSSdave » Wed May 16, 2018 1:39 pm

Know that Dusy Basin zone well. There are more small ponds than the map shows that no doubt added to your confusion. Another reason to have strong topographic map skills with a habit of always knowing where one is approximately at as well as cross country skills where one must read terrain versus simply mindlessly following a trail.

One of the most dangerous things a person can do out in remote places at night is to walk off a ways from one's sleeping bag/tent to heed nature's call or seek water, especially on dark moonless nights. No doubt the demise of many of our human ancestors. Something I experienced decades ago on my first backpacking trip where I walked off to clean my cooking utensils at a stream about 70 yards from my camp spot through dense tall pines. In my case, the lamp end of the old style flashlight popped off the end and its 2 C-cell batteries plopped into elbow deep water. Found 1 battery but not the other after considerable attempts to find it by feel.

Thus had no flashlight to return to my camp spot. It was then that the extreme danger of my predicament rose in awareness. I did know the direction so very carefully made sure despite the darkness as I walked around trees that I kept my line. And with luck am here today to write this because otherwise in late May, temperatures overnight were going to dive towards freezing making survival difficult. Since that experience, I have always carried at least two light sources as evening approaches and during the night am very careful walking off from my camp locations. Of course the difficulty of returning to a camp spot varies greatly with landscapes with dense level forests worst.

Likewise as a photographer during day hours I sometimes vector off from cross country routes, so may stash my pack and then leave for some nearby location with just my photo gear while making sure I know where it is at a place I am certain to be able to find later. The fact others have already related similar experiences is an indication it is likely more widespread. And certainly important enough for the sake of novices to have a thread of its own.








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apeman45
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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by apeman45 » Wed May 16, 2018 9:04 pm

I almost started a small forest fire in Hoover Wilderness a few years ago. We were camped on the east side of Peeler Lake and the fishing had been pretty good. Peeler has a rule of no campfires within 1/4 mile of the lake so I wandered quite a ways up a gully under crown point to start a fire to cook our fish in. I chose to make the fire in a dry creek bed with the logic all signs of a fire would be washed away the following spring. It was mid October and we had yet to see any snow and things were really dry so I watched the fire closely until a friend came to relieve me so I could go back to the lake to retrieve the fish and prepare them for cooking. I explained to my friend to watch the fire closely because of the nearby brush. 5 minutes later I had gained the ridge and heard screaming. My friend had left the fire unattended to go pee even though there was no one around for miles. The brush had ignited and the couple minutes it took me to scramble back down the ridge towards the smoke it was going pretty good. The sight of my friend frantically trying to put it out made me laugh for some reason. Luckily it was a sandy stream bed and we were able to get it out by throwing dirt on it. It would have burned itself on it's own due to lack of fuel but I felt pretty stupid. Fish were good though!

I've been lost plenty of times. Dumbest one was wandering away from camp on a moonless night to dig a hole in Desolation Wilderness. We were camped near a round flat ridge. After filling the hole I wandered down the wrong side of the ridge before realizing it and got ridiculously lost and had no idea which way was camp. I circled around for an hour before remembering that Mars had been especially showy the previous evening. I got my bearings using the red planet and nearly tripped on my tent when I finally found it. The darkness covered my red face as my friend asked if I had stomach problems or something since I was gone so long. I said yup and went back to bed.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu May 17, 2018 8:53 am

I guess the "biggest blunder" a backpacker can make is not making it back out. But, since we are here to tell our tales, what we have are smaller but significant blunders. If you backpack very long, you will have a whole list of blunders! Each post reminds me of other blunders I have forgotten.

There certainly is an element of embarrassment which also skews our judgement, when we commit these blunders. If you loose your tent at night, especially if you run into other campers, it is safer to swallow your pride and accept their help, rather than continuing to wander around. Easier to say than do!

I have made blunders even before I got on the trail! :o Debating between a bivy or tent (rain was predicted), I failed to pack either. After a 4 hour drive, I realized I had no shelter at all! I drove back home, packed the tent. Next day I salvaged the time by doing a trip from a trailhead only an hour from my home. Must admit I also once forgot to put in my backpacking shoes. That time I just did the trip in my tennis.

It is interesting that our "near" blunders go undetected. Only after getting back home and thinking about it, do we realize we took too great of a risk. Once we crawled across a log over a raging stream; when I processed the photos I realize how dangerous it really was.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by SSSdave » Thu May 17, 2018 9:29 am

Not the biggest blunder for backpackers but by far the most common blunder or better described as the most common cause of blunders, would be failing to adequately inventory and check for gear BEFORE leaving trailheads. Something all we enthusiasts are aware of and usually make a modest effort to go through prior to trips but once out on trails, with so many individual pieces of gear from large to tiny crammed into bulging packs, sometimes accumulated with items over days, doing so perfectly is much easier said than done. And a battle the more lazy and unintelligently performed, the more certain one will add to woe tales of personal backpacking blunders. Often the impacts are small but not always.

I smile every time I recall a big group trip during mosquito season where a good friend forgot to put a nylon hooded wind shell (squeets cannot penetrate) in his pack and on the first day out in just a t-shirt ended up looking like he had a case of the measles. In camp, someone pulled out a cheap plastic neon yellow rain shell that they let him borrow and he wore, looking ridiculous the rest of the trip haha.

For this person where I tend to fall short most often is not fixing or preparing items. The issue is more one of not recording a need to do so thus forgetting about. Solution? Get back to recording such WHEN one remembers to, versus expecting to recall such much later by simply looking at a long long gear list. Thus this morning in dim dawn before rising, grabbed a pad and began penciling down a TO DO/BUY list.

Under backpacking as an example so far have listed:
Fix my headlamp strap since a plastic part that holds it broke off last summer.
Glue boot sole that is increasingly separating.
Glue tripod screw that keeps working its way loose causing wobbly support.
Add a loupe drilled with small hole for a lanyard cord, to photo daypack in order to more accurately view then position my tripod panoramic head's fine graticule scale.

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by wildhiker » Thu May 17, 2018 2:25 pm

Reading some more of these posts reminded me of a true blunder! Back in February of the great drought year of 1977, my wife and I decided to do a little backpacking trip in the Los Padres National Forest down by San Luis Obispo (in the area that was later designated as the Santa Lucia Wilderness). There had been no rain in weeks and the forecast was for high pressure to continue to dominate ad nauseum. Everyone was praying for rain, but nothing in sight. So, in order to save weight, we took the tent body (for insect and wind protection) and left the tent fly in the car!

We had a great hike in along ridges and down to an open grassy valley under beautiful blue skies. We camped at a designated camping area that had an old wooden picnic table. There was no one else there. During the night, I woke up starting to feel a little wet. After clearing the disorientation, I realized that it was raining! Not heavy, but steadily dripping on us through the tent fabric. What to do? Remembering that the tent floor was waterproof, I just had to figure out some way to get that part over us. We got out with our stuff and put it under the picnic table. I then spread out the tent upside down with the tent floor bottom facing up on top of the picnic table. This sheltered the area underneath well enough that we got some more fitful sleep until dawn. We then packed up and left, and of course, the rain stopped and it cleared up!

The moral - ALWAYS take something that can keep off the rain, no matter what the forecast!

-Phil

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Re: What Is Your Biggest Blunder

Post by AlmostThere » Thu May 17, 2018 7:32 pm

My significant alien and I once departed on a camping trip and remembered everything except our sleeping quilts. Fortunately there was a Target on the way to the campground... we bought a King sized down quilt, which did fine covering both of us on our separate sleeping pads, and now it's on our bed at home.

Once drove an hour before realizing I had not put my quilt in the backpack. Added two hours to the trip duration... fortunately it was just me and him, and we didn't have a group waiting for us somewhere.

There have been innumerable people who show up on some of my group trips with an item in full retail packaging, such that on trips I describe as suitable for first timers, I make the recommendation that with new items particularly stoves, filters or tents, that people get it out of the packaging and use the thing at home to make sure there are no defects and everything is in working order. Tents bought new sometimes have missing parts, and water filters with charcoal in need to have a liter filtered through to flush out all the grit from the cartridge. And stoves are sometimes DOA, or the salesclerk really hyped up a model that the newbie can't figure out, or just blows her face off in a fireball (see: overprimed Whisperlite).

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