Saturday, November 13, 2010

Into the wild...

So I just finished reading this insanely amazing book by Aron Ralston. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he was that hiker who got trapped under a falling boulder in Utah in 2003, survived there for 6 days, and then eventually severed his own arm with a dull, off-brand multi tool to get free.

I just have two words for you: HARD CORE.

Here we have a ridiculously experienced outdoorsman (a mountain and river guide, member of an avalanche emergency rescue team, climbed almost every fourteener in Colorado. In the winter. Alone.) who managed to almost lose his life on what was supposed to be a relatively easy day trip in a canyon. Now I most definitely believe that everything happens for a reason, and so does Ralston, who now says that the incident was the turning point of his life, and that he wouldn't go back and change a thing because of the impact the experience had on his whole existence. However, I did learn alot from the book that I plan on putting into practice on all of my outdoor adventures.

1. When adventuring alone, tell someone where you're going. This was Ralston's almost-fatal mistake. The trip to Utah was a last-minute decision, he was traveling alone, and no one, not even his family or roommates, knew where he was going or when he'd be back. Because of this, no one even wondered where he was until he didn't show up to work several days into the ordeal. This is a mistake I've been guilty of many times myself, but no more! As a closet introvert, I love to go hiking and exploring by myself, and I frequently just don't think to mention to anyone where I'm headed or how long I plan to be gone. My husband hates it when I do this. But I am officially cured!

2. "Geologic Time Includes Now." Which is basically just an elegant way of saying, "Rocks still move. All the time." This is something I honestly have never given much thought to. They're rocks, right? Inherently stable. Immovable. Not always. Ironically, on my solo hiking trip today (yes, I told my husband where I was headed), I was just thinking about that quote when a very large rock I was using to transverse the river shifted under my feet and almost chucked me into the water. Recently, I was exploring a piece of forest that is famously full of ancient sandstone formations. There are warnings before you enter the hiking area not to get too close to the formations, as they are extremely unstable and may fall onto your head. At the time, I just laughed it off. Now, I'm taking it as gospel truth.

3. Be prepared. Luckily, I was a Girl Scout for 10 years, so this motto is basically tattooed onto my brain. But this incredible story reminded me to be even more diligent in packing enough gear for any eventuality when adventuring in remote territory. I'm lucky to have a good friend who is an avid survivalist who has gotten me to start carrying a pretty decent knife everywhere I go already. I also keep police-strength pepper spray on me even for everyday exploration (like say, going to work.) When hiking even on a quick day trip, I'm thinking a bare minimum of stuff to bring would be: more water than you think you'll need, high-energy, non-perishable food, a charged communication device (cell phone, satellite phone, walkie, etc.), a good knife, a flashlight, extra warm/water proof clothing, a hat, high-quality rope or paracord, and a first aid kit. It may seem like alot, but seriously, it's more than worth it if a real emergency presents itself.

4. Appreciate your loved ones, and let them know it often. One of the primary things Ralston did with his time during his entrapment was to record video messages of love for his family and friends to find after he was gone. Don't wait until the end to tell the people you love how you feel. Tell them right now. Today. Don't let another minute go by without verbally appreciating the people who mean everything to you. Go now, you can finish reading this entry when you're done :)

5. Never lose hope. One of the coolest moments of the book came toward the very end, when Ralston had finally resigned himself that his life was over. He was in the 5th night of his entrapment, severely dehydrated, starving, dangerously sleep deprived, and literally wasting away. It was at that moment that he knew the end was upon him. He even carved his name, birth date, and presumed death-date into the canyon wall.

But then he had a vision, a literal vision, that changed everything. He saw himself with a little boy, a blond toddler who he instinctively knew was his future son. In that vision, they were laughing and playing, and he picked up that little boy with one intact arm and a stump. They were happy. And he was alive. After that vision, hope had returned! In an intense rage of hope and fury, he amputated the arm that very morning and found rescue just hours later. Now, 7 years after the ordeal, Aron is married, and, you guessed it, has a beautiful 6 month old son. Never lose hope. It could very well save your life.

I would highly recommend checking out this book ASAP; it's completely engaging and inspiring. Until then, happy adventuring friends!

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