Thursday, May 22, 2008

More on Technology in the Wild

National Parks Traveler has a great post on the use of cell phones and personal locater devices in the woods. We wrote on this topic recently, but wanted to jump back to it after reading this latest post. Here's an important comment from a NPS search and rescue guy on a story of a hiker who, after feeling lost in the fog, called for help:
"I know there may be things left out of the letter-to-the-editor, but this guy sets off his PLB and then sets up shelter? Whatever happened to setting up a shelter, getting in a sleeping bag, making something to drink, sleep the night away and see what the next morning would bring in regard to clear weather, finding the trail, seeing the highways below, etc.?" wonders Mr. Farabee. "This guy, it seems to me, has very quickly and all too readily called for the cavalry to come to his rescue. At the seemingly 'blink of an eye' he has put a great many people at risk and to a great deal of trouble. Whatever happened to a little personal responsibility, sucking in his gut and waiting a day or two?"
Absolutely right.

Several years back I was on the south slope of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, playing with friends. Half our group decided to do a long hike (a 30 mile circumnavigation of Double Mountain), starting rather late in the day. They stumbled into camp about 1:00 AM, in good shape, but tired. One of our party asked why I hadn't gotten worried and tried to do something after they failed to return after dark (very late August above the Arctic Circle--"dark" was about 10:30 PM). One of my friends responded for me:
"Steve might have been concerned, but wouldn't have done anything until at least noon the next day. These guys were experienced, and relatively well equipped, and sometimes you just get delayed..."
That response was right on. As we ate breakfast with our tired hikers the next day, The same person asked John, "were you worried that we might think something had happened to you?" John replied, "We knew Steve would not have acted until noon today..."

We all need to take some responsibility when out in the woods, on the river, our in the mountains. Take the cell phone if you need to, but let's not use it unless we really have to...