Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Into the Wildnerness

Queen's Saddle
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
My husband and I have been following the tragedy that befell the Kim family in Oregon these last two weeks. We are so sad for all of them. As parents, it is all to easy to imagine the terror and despair that grew in that car over those days they were trapped. I can't bear thinking about it.

I lived in the Sierras in my "middle school" years. I did backpacking in the high country. I skiied and was on the local race team. My step-father did Search and Rescue. I have three times been surprised by unseasonable snowfall and once found myself the last car on a snowy road as night was falling deep in the high country. We joke about the night I drove over the Sierras in a snow storm to get to my parent's house to prepare for my wedding but what I should have done was stopped and spent the night somewhere. I was very lucky -- and thankfully was in a 4WD pickup truck with mud/snow tires.

My husband and I had a long talk this evening about what we do right when we go into the high country and what we should do better. We do pretty well -- we are generally fairly thoughtful and cautious about how we travel.

Here's what we do right . . .
  • we take our truck with 4WD and mud/snow tires or we take a car with chains (no matter if it's August and 100 degrees when we leave home)
  • we have tools with us whenever we travel
  • we have extra water, oil, transmission fluid, etc. for the car if needed
  • we take blankets and pillows
  • we take food (although on ourlast trip, we didn't take anywhere near enough)
Here's what we could do better . . .
  • fill up with gas before we head into the high country -- even if that means topping off at an expensive station
  • have backups of water, fluids, etc for your vehicle in case of trouble
  • take cold weather gear even in the summer
  • make sure that people know when we are leaving and when we expect to arrive and we call if the plans change
  • pack hiking boots and warm socks -- even if we aren't planning to hike
  • Put together an emergency kit with a handheld cb radio and a solar powered battery charger along with a first aid kit, gallon jug of water,and long-lasting food
  • trust your gut -- if the weather gets bad, turn back and spend the night in a motel. It's just not worth it to "push through"
I am not saying any of this as a criticism of the Kim family. By all accounts, they did amazingly well given the circumstances -- and even if they hadn't, mistakes happen to all of us. I am saying this to remind myself that it could happen to anyone and that we have to respect the wilderness and prepare for the worst. I grieve for the Kim family and hope that they all find a way to peace after this ordeal.

Edit 12/7/06 - Found this article by Tom Stienestra of the SF Chronicle. It says what I said but says it better and has some great ideas that I'm going to add to my plan.


Anonymous said...

The Kim family's ordeal saddened me too. Very much.

Susan Gets Native said...

I was shocked when I read Julie's blog and she said that the mother was the niece of one of Julie's friends. It made a news story much more real. All mothers in the country I'm sure, are hugging their husbands and kids a little tighter.
And she nursed those kids for how many days? She kept them alive with her body. Amazing.
Here in our part of Ohio, we don't have mountains to worry about, but there are plenty of places out in the country where you can skid off the road and no one would see you. And if the doors were crushed and you couldn't get out...Oh, man, I gotta stop.
We have a first aid kit and blankets in the trunk, but that's all. I think I will be packing a survival kit tomorrow. I have scared myself silly.

And the area they were deadly and beautiful at the same time.

-llm. said...

I saw some footage on our local (San Francisco) news tonight of the area where they were and it is very isolated. Even a look at it on Google Maps (in the hybrid mode) will give you an idea of how remote and isolated this place is.

The amazing way that Kati fed her children will make every mother ache inside and thinking about it too long is just too painful. The sacrifices they both made. Sigh.

Sandy said...

Such a sad thing to happen.

Great ideas for traveling. Here in Maine, people who travel a long distance to work keep gear with them, too. If you break down below zero,in bad weather, you can die along the interstate!

My husband also used the google maps yesterday to locate the area. We have lived in Oregon, and have a special interst in that area.