[Cdt-l] Fwd: Fwd: hiking alone?

Matthew Edwards Hetchhetchyman at aol.com
Thu Dec 2 12:48:17 CST 2010

This does bring up a good point. 
Back in 2004 I became trapped in a snow melt flooded canyon in Northern Yosemite. My poor choices
led to my gear and means of starting fire to become soaked. I had to swim and crawl and climb my way
out of that canyon. I "self-rescued". I realized that day the importance being able to make critical survival decisions
quickly. Even if I had a phone the helicopter would have never reached me through the storm before i succumbed to hypothermia.
 I was alone. By keeping the biggest muscles in my body (thighs) moving eventually I made it out of that canyon and four hours 
later the feeling returned to my hands and feet. 
When i began to thru hike in 2009 i immediately stripped my packweight down
as light as possible. One of the first things to go was my heavy knife and firestarter kit.
 On the PCT I did not miss them. However the CDT was a different story... 
There were times in Colorado and Wyoming where I did not see another person for many days. (6 was the record)
My "safety net" was to call my parents at each resupply, tell them where I was going next and when i would call again. 
I also had printed two complete sets of Jonathan Ley maps. One set I carried a section at a time. The other set
was a backup for me incase the first got lost in the mail but also a safety net so that there would be
some clue as to where i was at any given time.
I had the Peek device but the signal was typically spotty. It would not be reliable for use as an emergency beacon.
My plan if i became immobile by injury or disease was/is to always have the means to make shelter and fire.
A lightweight "firesteel" and a knife large enough to cut brush and small branches were my main safety items
for hiking alone.
On the PCT I carried a tiny Victorinox classic knife. This seemed adequate. On the CDT I felt naked. The huge thunderstorms 
and giant hailstones were unlike anything i had seen in the Sierra. I still feel that given the right circumstances 
those hailstones could destroy a modern ultralight shelter. Anyhow that was my greatest fear about being alone out
on the CDT. So when i resupplied in West Yellowstone I purchased a stout fixed blade knife capable of doing
the neccesary work to build a debris shelter in a reasonably short amount of time. 
Not a "Rambo knife" just a 2.5" drop point with a flat back edge for tapping into logs to split kindling.
It seems silly sitting back here in the "real" world now. I never did use that knife. Maybe I am the only one that carried such a large blade.
But you know what? I think it's true that we carry our insecurities. For me it was shelter/fire. The knife and flint represented those 
things to me. Having them and knowing how to use them was comforting.

I think the point I am trying to make is that I always set out to be self reliant whether i hike alone or not.
 In my opinion the CDT has a greater potential to kill a hiker by exposure than the PCT. 
DON"T be paranoid but DO leave some plan as to where you will be and when. 
Carry a phone or a SPOT thingy or a GPS or whatever but never rely
on them for your survival in lieu of basic wilderness skills i.e. making fire, shelter. 

Always believe in yourself and your ablility to survive for someday it might be all you have left.

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