[Cdt-l] Hiking Alone and Tech Issues

Daniel D Johnson johnson at milehi.com
Wed Dec 8 13:30:35 CST 2010

I was monitoring various topics on my way to California to test my ankle and
leg on the "smooth-walkin' " southern sections of the PCT.  Was only able to
get 24 miles in before having to return home due to an illness in the
family, but I wanted to weigh in on the lively discussion here.

But first, thanks to all for the very nice notes I received here and through
other venues after my injury in May.  I can't tell you how much those notes
helped get my brain back on track.  Sage, Ice-Axe, Jonathon, Keith, Aussie
Dave, and others I can't remember right now---THANKS!  It also helped to
hear about the various exploits going on out there, particularly from that
crazy madman otherwise known as Ice-Axe!  Sage, you are my hero!!  All of
you guys are awesome!

Hiking Alone.  I generally don't hike alone if I can avoid it.  I'm not out
there to test myself per se.  I'm out there to see what's on the other side
of that hill.  I have three children, all of whom were required to hike with
me down to Phantom Ranch and out when they were thirteen.  I have at last
count about 24 nieces and nephews, all of whom joined my children and I
during their "training exercises" to the Grand Canyon.  There is absolutely
nothing that I have done in my life that has made me happier than sharing
the wilderness experience with others.  I enjoy hiking alone or in a group,
but tend to enjoy the shared experience more.

Now all of those kids are in their twenties and early thirties, and have
hiked with me virtually everywhere you can think of in North America.  I
have a good supply of experienced hiking mates, all of whom have different
needs, hike at different speeds, and generally dance to different music, but
love seeing what's on the other side of that hill.  But many of them now
actually work for a living, so that leads me to the next topic.

The SPOT.  Shouldn't be a surprise to anyone here that I'm fond of my SPOT
now.  I agree with Jonathon, I don't see the big deal about technology in a
hiking context.  It's nothing more, nothing less than a tool.  I use the
SPOT to keep my wife and family aware of my whereabouts while hiking, and as
something used to call for help when necessary.  I don't use it as a crutch,
and if anything, I am usually over prepared for any hike I take.

Someone posted something about how the SAR teams would feel about SPOT
usage.  Can't speak for all of them, but I can tell you that the SAR team in
Grant County, NM loved them.  The guilt feelings I've had since my fall are
hard to suppress.  To think that THAT many people were out there risking
life and limb to help me was if nothing else humbling.  And if one of those
people had gotten hurt looking for me, oh man!  Oh, jeez, please!   I think
the argument can be made that we (the hiking community) should know better
than to hike solo without some form of PLB.  I don't see how having one
affects my hike at all.  It just might help me out of a jam, and it will
definitely help those seeking to help me.

iPod.  I'm biased on this topic since I've been extremely hard of hearing
since birth, and subject to the various paranoia's that come from my
handicap.  I won't wear hearing aids because they distort sound (my hearing
"quality" is actually much better than the average person's, but it's like
someone turned the volume WAY down), and I enjoy my music a lot.  But I will
not even take my iPod into the wilderness.  Forget the beauty of the sounds
in the wild, it's not safe to have all of your senses focused on what's
going on around you.  One can argue this is more important to the north in
grizzly country, but I would disagree.  As they say, s?*! happens in a hurry
on the trail sometimes, and you might not have time to discern whether that
noise is a Keith Moon cymbal crash, or a large boulder heading your way!
Plus, the sounds of the wilderness are so awesome!

BTW, the most significant benefit of my pack goats was their eyes and ears.
They can see or hear something coming from a long way off and let me know
about in a hurry (they start shaking the bells around their necks).  I
haven't decided where I stand regarding future goat usage on the trail, but
I can say without reservation that having them around made me more
comfortable, particularly at night.

Other Technology Issues.  I use my Blackberry for my GPS on the trail.  I
use it with a program called GPSLogger (just Google it).  Does NOT need the
radio on the Blackberry, and allows me to load my tracks and "relocate"
myself as necessary.  IN FACT, my best guess is that the Blackberry had
something to do with my fall.

I am a long time, religious user of hiking poles.  Four major sprains to my
right ankle since 1970 converted me (ranch in northern Colorado, Big Bend
NP, Glacier NP, Muir Trail).  As I was coming down the ravine where I fell,
I lost the trail.  Nothing unusual there.  But when I hit a convergence of a
couple of different streams into the main waterway, I stopped to get my
bearings.  First, I put both poles under my right armpit, then I took my
Blackberry out of my pocket to verify that I was on or near the trail.  Once
I determined that I WAS close, and which direction I wanted to go, I think I
stepped forward with my left foot into the creek bed.  Unfortunately for me,
I stepped into a loose pile of branches, etc. that immediately gave way,
without first getting my poles back in place.  My wife (a physical
therapist) tells me it wouldn't have taken much of a drop to break the leg
and ankle-just a half inch would do the trick.  And one big cracking sound
later..  So anyway, in this case I'm kicking myself (with whichever foot
feels better that day) for even bothering to look at the Blackberry that

I write too much.  Thanks again for all the support received!


Goatman/DannyBoy/Dan Johnson

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