Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bear books and attacks

I am heading for Yellowstone National Park to hike and camp this weekend. In preparation for my trip I just finished reading The Mark of the Grizzly by Scott McMillion. The book discusses some recent grizzly attacks and what various people thought they might have wrong to provoke the attack and what they did right or wrong during the attack. Of course some didn't do anything "wrong", they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and surprised a grizzly. Others stated that they didn't know whether the actions taken during the attack made it worse or helped reduce injuries. I enjoyed the book and it made me think about being in grizzly country and hiking alone. I won't stop hiking alone and do carry bear spray and hope not to have close encounters with bears.

I've read several other books on bears and bear attacks, most notably Steven Herrero's Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. Herrero's book offers specific guidance on avoiding and surviving both black and grizzly bear attacks and is considered the best text on the subject.

This morning I saw a story on a bear mauling in Yellowstone in the Seattle Times. I wish there was more information such as where the man was hiking. I looked in the Morning Report but it was not yet reported there.

I am aware the actual danger from a bear attack in Yellowstone or Glacier Parks or elsewhere in the USA lower 48 states is low, probably much lower than the danger of driving to these locations. Still, it is a lot more exciting to consider the dangers of bears than of driving. And just as I want to avoid a car accident, I want to avoid an attack by a grizzly or any animal.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Essential dayhiking gear

Recently the hiking blogsphere has had a discussion about essential gear to pack. I've read some of these and noted that where I hike and the physical condidtions I hike in causes me to pack differently than some of the other hiking bloggers, see Winehiker and Two-Heel drive.

I usually wear a ballcap rather than a wide-brimmed hat. Hiking in the mountains and forests, I don't get that much sun and I often get enough breeze to make keeping a hat on difficult. Also, it rains a lot except in summer. A ballcap can be used under a hood to keep the rain out of my eyes.

I don't have a GPS, I want one but doubt I would use it much and haven't needed one. Possibly I'm just not an adventuous hiker. I do carry map and compass and don't always stay on trails but don't hike cross country much.

I have a cell phone but rarely take it hiking with me, I leave it in my car. In the mountains around Seattle cell coverage is spotty at best. Many times there is no cell coverage at the trailhead and except for ridges and mountain tops probably no coverage anywhere along the trail. When hiking in Yellowstone Park I have sometimes taken my cell but didn't find coverage on most trails when I checked. I'm always a bit surprised when I read about hikers or other backcountry users reporting on a cell phone.

I always carry the 10 Essentials. I also carry a grommeted poncho, 50 feet of light line, and several other small items mentioned by winehiker such as a hankerchief and lip balm. I also take a pen and small notepad with me, useful for taking notes and leaving messages. Another items I carry is a small ensolite pad to sit on, very nice in wet conditions.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blocking the trail

Most hikers I meet on the trail are friendly and considerate but I've noticed a surprising number sometimes partially block trails when other users are present. One common situation when I'm hiking is to come up to a group who are sitting in the trail with their gear spread around. I end up stepping over and around them and their gear. It isn't a big issue but is mildly annoying if they just sit there with no attempt to move themselves or their stuff out of the trail. Another common situation I see is one hiker attempting to get something out of anothers backpack without removing the backpack. Some when they see another hiker move to the side or off the trail; others continue to stand there blocking. Generally neither of these are more than an inconvenience, I move off the trail but sometimes there isn't any safe area to the side of the trail to go by and I can't get by them. And occasionally I catch up to a group walking more slowly than I am and they don't more over to allow me to pass. There are sometimes good reasons for this, no safe place to move over, near the trailhead, or maybe they have been passed repeatedly. Most annoying are those hikers who continue to walk side by side instead of going to single file to allow another hiker to pass especially when I meet them on the trail and there is no excuse of not seeing me.

Washington Trails Association has a page on Trail Etiquette for all types of trail users. I doubt most hikers or other types of users have seen these guidelines but many seem to me to be simple courtesy. I'm rarely in much of a hurry and don't mind slowing down or stepping aside for others and wish other hikers would do the same.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Trailhead vehicle security

I been lucky enough to have never lost anything important from my vehicle when parked at a trailhead. I've lost minor items such as a flashlight but nothing that couldn't easily be replaced. I'm careful not to leave tempting items out in plain view but since I often have a pickup full of camping gear that is left at a trailhead while I hike, I can't hide everything. Many trailheads have signs saying to take all valubles with you but that is hard to do when I've traveled a distance to get to a park to hike in. I have a canopy over my pickup bed but it doesn't offer much security, it is easier to break into than a locked car, and doesn't offer a trunk to hide things in. Of course a thief may not consider camping gear valuable, certainly less so than cameras and similar small items.

Occasionally around Seattle at popular trailheads volunteers camp at the trailhead or nearby during the summer and provide some security. And various law enforcement personnel sometimes include trailheads on their patrol. Having someone watching or coming by often probably reduces theft but this isn't very practical for most trails

I don't know how often people use car alarms at trailheads but in the last couple of years I've twice encountered car alarms going off at trailheads. Both were very annoying because it took about half an hour before I hiked out of hearing range and neither time did the owner appear to stop it. The first time a snowplow caused the alarm to go off, I don't know the cause the second time. Somehow I doubt that an alarm is very useful if you can't get to your car in 1/2 hour and or are out of hearing distance.