Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
your outing for weeks on end and in your mind you've left no stone
unturned as to the lists of things to bring along on your Labor
Day weekend excursion up in the San Gabriel Mountains.
will take you nine miles into the wilderness area and up to an
elevation of 8000 feet. Your plan is to go to the site of an old
gold mine that is rarely even found on newer topographical maps.
You've brought along food and water for the three-day round trip,
sleeping bag, camera, and the necessary mining equipment.
So, off you
go, rough tough wilderness dude, into the wild of the San Gabriel's.
After six hours of steady climbing in the hotter then anticipated
California sun you realize maybe you didn't bring along enough
water, but hey, you're only an hour from your destination so you
might as well carry on. The steepest part of the climb is up coming
and your backpack is heavy. The can goods you brought along are
really weighing you down. Perhaps a rest in the shade would help
if you could find some. It's two in the afternoon and it's another
hour before you hit the tree line and shade. Better to push on.
The San Gabriel Mountains. A hard
trek back to civilization
An hour later
and the tree line is still looking like it's an hour away. According
to the map you should be at your destination by now poking around
the old mine getting into some other type of difficulty. You'd
like to stop here and just set up camp for the night but the sun
will be blaring down on you for many more hours to come. You push
on and finally an hour and a half later you reach the tree line
and shade. You're exhausted and hungry. You gather up the makings
of a small fire to heat up water to add to your food and realize
that if you do that your water will not make it for the entire
trip. So a can of beans it is. A restless night of aches and pains,
stones under the sleeping bag, and a few creepy crawlers get you
up with the sun without hesitation.
over to the tree where you hung your pack and see that it's contents
have been dumped out over night and all the food except the can
goods has been either eaten or strung around on the ground making
it inedible. What's next, you wonder? This is just the starting
formula for a disaster. The next ingredient would be a fall and
breaking something, or a poisonous snake or insect bite, or perhaps
just totally losing your direction. Whatever the case may be,
are you prepared to survive?
scenario happened to a friend of mine and though he made it back
with the help of some other hikers it was a harrowing experience
The two keys
that I have found to be most important to survival are PREPAREDNESS
in the outdoors takes a lot of plain old common sense. When you're
planning a trip check weather reports right up to the last minute.
Sometimes you just have to make a spot evaluation. How many times
have you known the weatherman to be wrong? Prevention means using
sound judgment like checking your gas and water levels before
heading out into the desert. Sure you can push your luck and many
times come out all right but someday that person will probably
be on the evening news as some sort of casualty to the will of
In the before
mentioned scenario my friend simply had to go on this trip he
had planned no matter what the situation was. He didn't listen
to the weather reports. He didn't bring enough water because of
it and his pack was overloaded causing exhaustion. He went alone
and did not leave details of where he was going.
taken all of the preventive steps possible then you want to be
prepared for what ever might occur. Obviously you cannot prepare
for everything that could happen to you, but having a good general
knowledge of surviving in the outdoors will help. Being prepared
brings confidence. Confidence that you can lick the survival problems
that you may face.
means to live on. Some of the things you should have some basic
knowledge of are, SIGNALING, SHELTER, FIRE, PROTECTION, WATER,
If I find
myself in a jam the first thing I want is an early solution. Rescue
my butt quick and get me to help or home, whichever I need. If
you're broken down in a vehicle with a CB radio, you're in good
shape as you can radio in for help. If you're in the wilderness
the best thing to use to signal is smoke. Green leaves and branches
on a hot fire will create a lot of smoke that can be seen for
miles. At night a fires glare can be seen far. A mirror or a lid
from a tin can be used to signal for help. Sometimes you can raise
a flag of sorts from a tall tree to get attention.
Natural limestone caves provide great
shelter. The dark patina on these rocks contains petroglyphs.
If help were
not on the way soon I would next be thinking about shelter. I
want to get the upper hand on controlling my environment. I want
to be protected against wind, rain, snow, sun, whatever will be
harmful to my well being. Use what you have at your ready. Perhaps
it's your car or boat. Maybe there's a cave or a hollow in a tree
you can use. Learn how to make a lean-to. Sometimes simply propping
up branches over a large rock and covering it with leaves will
do the job.
should be thinking about fire. Anyone who ventures into the outdoors
should stop at the nearest outfitters and get a small handy dandy
survival kit. They sell from $5.00 and up and usually have a means
to make a fire along with other useful items. If you haven't thought
to do that I hope you at least brought some dry matches because
if you didn't you'll be struggling with the following methods.
A bow, stick, and string moved to create friction like you've
seen Indians do in the movies. Or striking iron or steel on a
hard rock will create a spark which if you properly place tinder
a fire will start. You could use the lens from your watch, compass,
or mirror to focus the suns rays on tinder to start a fire.
A makeshift lean-to shelter.
from the elements will most likely be your shelter, but how will
you protect yourself from animals or other unwanted creatures?
A knife would surely help in many situations. A knife can be used
to make larger weapons such as spears or snares to keep animals
away. Smoke and a fire stick will deter many animals and pesky
insects also. You should also consider protection from sunburn,
snow blindness, and insect bites.
downfall was water. In a warm climate a person needs a gallon
of water a day and more if you're sweating. Sometime in desert
climates you'll need two to three gallons a day. If you don't
have water you need to find a source right away, just don't expend
all your energy doing so! Your sources for water will vary depending
on your local. Some sources are ground water, rain, snow, dew,
succulents, and fruits. In rocky terrain you should be able to
locate a spring or seepage from rocks or pools of standing water.
Your survival kit may have water purification tablets in it or
you may want to boil the water you find. Use empty containers
to store rainwater or snow that you find. Using a sheet of clear
plastic, an empty container, and a rock you can make a solar still
to get a water supply from the air around you.
A solar still for collecting water
Food is a
matter of taste. When it comes to hunger I guarantee you that
many luxuries can be over looked and foods you looked down on
before become delicacies. How many times have you heard of a person
stumbling out of the woods after ten days saying they survived
on grubs and bugs? If you're near water, fish is an obvious choice
but keep in mind that many animals come to water to drink and
if you have the means to get one you may have your next meal.
Frogs, lizards and snakes are easy catches and don't taste too
bad once you get past the idea of what you're eating. Snares,
dead falls, and pits can be made for larger animals.
This desert area though it appears
quite desolate, is within 3 miles of millions of people
off I-15 in one direction, and hundreds of miles from civilization
in the other direction. A rough place to be stuck if you
venture the wrong direction.
many edible plants to choose from. Dandelion, yellow dock, golden
rod, nettles, and other similar plants can have their young leaves
used as salad or cooked as greens. Some plants are used for teas
and others as soups.
To me survival
is a responsibility that each and every one of us should share.
A responsibility to our families, our community and ourselves.
It should not be taken lightly. Unless you have natural inborn
survival instincts we should all take the time to bone up on survival
skills because you just never know what will happen when you least
Angier, Living Off the Country, The Stackpole Company, 1956.
2. Mary Elizabeth Parsons, the Wild Flowers of California, Dover
3. Personal experiences of the author through Scouting.