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biggest mistake you made in the outdoors?


jay

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Any of us that have been in the outdoors for more than about 30 minutes has made some kind of superb blunder that we learned a very basic (and often obvious) lesson from.  I figured, why not share them on here and maybe save someone else the embarrassment and/or agony of learning that lesson the hard way, too?

I will go first as mine is still very fresh in my mind after over 25 years. My recent trip back there (please see my trip report) took me past the scene of the crime so to speak:

I was living near Glen Rose, Texas, at the time.  I had just moved there for a new construction job and was enjoying the July 4th holiday weekend with my parents, who lived there also.  I heard about a place that rented inner tubes that you could float down the river on for a reasonable fee and thought, why not?  There was a landing place about 4 miles down the river and my mom agreed to pick me up there.

I started out about 9 in the morning, didn't bother with sunscreen as it was early in the morning and the river was mostly shaded as far as I could see.  Now I grew up in Texas and am very aware of the literally killing power of the sun there.  I had a great farmer tan and I am sure you are seeing where this is going.

I missed my 4 mile jump out point due to some fast current there.  No problem, I told myself, I would just jump off at the next place.

It was 11 miles further down before I could safely get out of the river. 

About 5 PM that day I got off the river, found a pay phone (pre cell phone days) and got a lift home.  I was severely burned and got sun sickness from it.  My feet swelled up to about triple their normal size, and I had blisters over most of my exposed body; lost my shirt during this trip also.  My knees and shins took the worst of it and for a couple of weeks I could peel strips of skin from my knees all the way off my toes in solid strips.  Remember that new job I mentioned?  It was on a construction site and I had to stuff my tortured feet into steel toed work boots.

When the doctor asks me about the 1-10 pain scale they love so much?  This is my 10.

Object lesson for me?  You can never have too much sunscreen and protective clothing.  Sunburn is nothing to laugh at if you get caught out too long.

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Your story reminds me of the time I used a weed eater to clear poison ivy from a river bank.

Backpacking blunders that stand out in my mind include:

  • not bringing a topo map with enough detail to keep me on the trail and bushwacking until my feet were raw
  • falling off a wet log while crossing a creek and breaking a rib.

Those mistakes caused physical pain.

(Jay - did you work at CPSES?)

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poison ivy....I was blessed with being immune to it.  My dad wasn't.  he um...forgot the necessary TP once and grabbed the wrong leaves.  That was a hard lesson to learn, knowing and recognizing your local flora and fauna.

(yes - 90-92)

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I'll keep thinking about my own personal mistakes in the backwoods but for now I'll recount the mistake of a friend of mine. Admittedly he was new to backpacking. As a matter of fact almost all his gear he was borrowing from me as I have 2 of just about everything. We got up early and made the 7 hour drive and arrived about 2pm and then hiked till about 7:30 or so. We each chose a spot to pitch our tents.

As I was getting mine set up I kept glancing over at his progress to see how he was doing and I noticed that he kept looking in his bag and taking things out and putting them back in. when I got done with my tent I walked over to see what was going on. I figured he just wanted help setting up the tent. However, that is when the truth came out, he had forgot to pack the tent. Not the just the stakes or poles but the whole thing he had left at home.  Ughhh!!

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freebrownies

First semester of college.  A friend and I decided to summit Utah's Mt. Timpanogos (in the dead of winter).  Rented snow shoes and an ice axe (with no knowledge how to use either), ended up spending a long cold night just a few miles up the trail on a steep side slope in chest deep powder.  No shelter. Blizzard. Avalanches rumbling down all around us (covered our tracks) through the night.  Ya, I'm lucky to be alive.  Hundreds of backcountry miles later, I now have a profound respect for nature! 

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I feel like such a rookie even retelling this story. :)  

My husband and I went up to Grand Teton and decided to snowshoe to Taggert Lake.  We've hiked there before but never snowshoed.  The snow looked packed well and the trail to the lake wasn't bad at all.  I thought we were going to head back the way we came but my husband had other plans and decided to leave by a different, less used route.

I don't know why, but I thought this was going to be easy peasy and my dumb butt wore jeans.  Yes, jeans. How many of you just groaned out loud? :D

It started snowing and like I said, the trail wasn't heavily used so the snow wasn't packed down very much and I fell waist-deep, many-a-time.  Soaked and exhausted, I was glissading at the end down any steep parts because, hey, why not?

Lesson learned...NEVER wear jeans in the outdoors.  Just don't.  And bring extenders for snowshoeing no matter what.  

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Oh, wow, that's definitely one to chalk up as a learning experience.  I have not done any snowshoeing myself.  Wet jeans and freezing temps, though, are do not a good combination make.

Great addition to the thread, thanks.

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