Hiking and clambering up hills and mountains can be one of the more
enjoyable ways to get exercise and to enjoy nature. Then you hear of stories where people can be
injured or lost in state parks and you might wonder how this could happen. We all know there are basic, common-sense
rules that anybody would follow when hiking out in nature. Well, this year I had a chance to experience
first-hand how easy it is to ignore those basic rules. Let this be a warning to hikers and climbers alike.
The story goes as follows:
I went with a photographer friend, Tammy (not her real name), to take shots of my artwork on limited edition, high quality tee shirts -- supposed to be draped on the legendary, ancient bristlecone pines up in the mountains. When the road through the park became too wet and slippery and we started skidding backwards down the muddy road in our 4-wheel drive truck, we figured that there was no way to get through. (Apparently the entry gates should have been closed after rain.) So we drove off road onto a flat area and parked.
Tammy went off around the side of the mountain to see if she could take some good photos despite the fact we hadnÃÂ Â¢ÃÂ ÂÃÂ Ât officially made it to the Bristlecone forest. Yet when I looked up at the mountain before us I spied my first Bristlecone pine at the top. It didn't look very far so I decided I'd try to get a bit closer for a photo.
At this point we cut to the little video I madeÃÂ Â¢ÃÂ ÂÃÂ Â¦.
The end of the storyÃÂ¢ Â Â¦
I continued to the bristlecone pine in hopes of having a 'spiritual epiphany' by touching this ancient living thing (this tree was probably a youngster only about 3000 years old). But I was so worried, exhausted and confused from the thin air that the concept ofÃÂ any spiritual communing with nature was totally ridiculous.ÃÂ So, I slowly scrambled off to explore the other side of the mountain (knowing I couldn't get down the way I got up) and found a route that had more sand than shale.
Ever so slowly I picked my way down, wondering how I would ever explain having done anything so stupid to Tammy.ÃÂ Who climbs a mountain in the wrong shoes with no rope, water or communications?ÃÂ Instead I was bravely armed with a tiny video camera and a plastic bag filled with tee shirts!ÃÂ Very useful.ÃÂ I figured she'd laugh at me at best and get angry at worst.
Once I got to the bottom, I couldn't find Tammy.ÃÂ So I figured I would go back to the truck where she was probably waiting, wondering where I had gone.
Half way there I hear her voice far away in the distance calling my name.ÃÂ I looked all around.ÃÂ No Tammy.ÃÂ Then I finally looked up.ÃÂ And there she was.ÃÂ At the top of the mountain.ÃÂ Right where I'd been.ÃÂ "Jane!" she called frantically, "How the hell do I get down from here?!?!"
Clearly, Tammy and I deserve each other as friends.ÃÂ And we continue to chuckle at the experience.ÃÂ But the truth is that a story like this could have had a serious ending.ÃÂ I now know how easy it is to dismiss the potential danger of a situation.ÃÂ So, no matter how unnecessary it may seem, never go hiking alone ÃÂ¢ Â Â even taking a small side trip.ÃÂ Always carry water, basic tools and communications (tee shirts and cameras do no good if you need help).ÃÂ And think twice before deciding ÃÂ¢ Â Âit doesnÃÂ¢ Â Ât look so hard!ÃÂ¢ Â Â