Independence Days: Camping With the Coyotes

This weekend Brendan, Zoe dog and I went backcountry camping up in the mountains with some of Brendan’s climbing buddies. We found a fabulous little clearing surrounded by boulders and pine trees and enjoyed being outdoors for the weekend. Brendan enjoyed some climbing and Zoe and I hiked in with them one day to watch and then spent the next morning back at camp where I read and Zoe kept an eye out for squirrels. It was quite cold at night and even with two layers of thermals, a polarfleece jacket and two sleeping bags, I was still cold. I think it’s about time I invest in a good cold weather sleeping bag. Despite the cold it was lovely sleeping out in the wild. We were awoken a couple of times through the night by the howling of wild coyotes. You don’t get that in the city.

On our hike from the climbing area to where we would set up camp for the night, we lost one of our party members. She ducked off to attend to the ‘call of nature’ and then we didn’t see her again. We backtracked to where we last saw her. After 20 minutes with no sign of her, we decided to head back to where the cars were parked, assuming she would make her way back to them. Unfortunately there was still no sign of her back there so we started getting worried, imagining that she had either been attacked by a bear, tripped and hit her head or been bitten by a deadly snake. As it was already dusk we decided to split up and go in search of her and meet back before dark. I waited at the meeting spot in case she found her way back while the guys headed off in different directions. Finally, just before dark descended completely she arrived back at the meeting spot in an unfamiliar car. All was well. She had just got turned around while out in the bush and ended up walking in the wrong direction. Luckily she eventually came across a dirt road which by chance some friendly climbers were driving along. I can’t imagine how many ways this could have ended badly.

This experience certainly made me think about a few things. What if she hadn’t found a road and come across someone to bring her back?  By the time we were hiking back to camp I was out of water. I hadn’t kept any aside because it was a reasonably easy trip back. Was she in the same situation? Did she have any water left? Also, it got down to near freezing during the night. Would she have tried to find somewhere sheltered to stay the night, or tried to keep walking in the dark? It just goes to show that even a seemingly innocuous outing could turn into a survival situation very easily.

Preparedness

  • In light of this little adventure, I think I need to read up on some basic survival skills. I’ve taken these skills for granted because I learned that stuff in military training years back, but a refresher is well overdue I think.
  • It was also good to see what sort of ‘stuff’ we needed with us for just one weekend of self-sufficiency. Shelter, water, food and hygiene all had to be considered given that we were nowhere near shops or even toilets. Water was interesting. We brought in our own but if we had got stuck there we would have had to find some more. The only water I saw was a muddy puddle so having a method of water purification is really important.
  • Our backcountry camping kit closely resembles our Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit, so you can check out that list if you need some ideas.

Reduce Energy Dependence

  • Having a small solar charging device was really handy to have to recharge batteries for headlamps or cell phones. You can get some really small and light devices which can easily be packed on a trip like this. It’s also included in our Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit.

Photo by: Vork 22

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2 comments

  1. Hi Mia, glad to hear that your friend turned up ok. People tend to forget just how easy it is to die, even when you are quite close to civilisation. Best rule ever taught to me about bush walking: never split your group.

    Which brings me back to my favourite topic. If “civilisation” stops happening, then there are more ways available to die than most people want to contemplate.

    Human beings alone without tools and knowledge are just food for something else (usually pretty quickly). Human beings in a group, with tools, and knowledge are the most frightening predator you will ever meet (granted bears are pretty impressive, but then bears have never invented nuclear weapons and UAVs).

    I think that most people fail to realise the danger that even minor collapse of civilisation could represent. Most of us are unable and unwilling to co-operate, have little or no ability to provide for ourselves, and definitely don’t have suitable tools available to provide for ourselves if the food stops arriving on the supermarket shelves.

    So, lets be prepared. Lets learn the old skills of preserving, lets learn how to raise and hunt game, grow food and look after ourselves. Learn to love dirt and bacteria and yeast and worms (because they are just amazing critters that give us so much stuff that we don’t even know about – like bread and beer).

    We may never need it (if we’re very lucky) and if we don’t, then it won’t have hurt to have the knowledge. But if we do need it, then it will literally be invaluable to us and to the people who will inevitably look to those of us who are capable for help.

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