Boondocking and hiking: Be cautious, stay safe

By Bob Difley

Some time back a 59-year-old woman went missing in a Northern California state park. She went missing for six days before a man and his son found her. When she was finally rescued from where she had fallen from an unmarked trail into a ravine, she said she was uninjured but could not climb out of the ravine and could only wait, hoping to be rescued. Luckily, other than the misery of being unable to sleep at night because of the cold, she was only treated for hypothermia.

There was a small stream in the ravine that supplied her with drinking water but she had no food, no emergency supplies and no cell phone. The nights were very cold and she had only a hooded sweatshirt for warmth. She had told nobody that she was going for the hike, nor where she was going. Her rescue was only accomplished by a great number of volunteers fanning throughout the park, where she was known to hike, and hoping to get lucky.

This hiker’s dilemma should raise the alert flags especially for boondocking RVers who, by the very nature of their love of open country, back roads, backwoods and isolated locations, are at risk of serious problems if they do not take some precautions when camping, hiking, biking or wandering out in the middle of unpopulated areas.

Think of this: You find a terrific isolated canyon out in the desert to boondock, a couple miles off the main road and completely out of sight from the road. There are no other campers around, no hikers pass by, no ATVs. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I have found and boondocked in just such a place.

Now suppose you go out wandering around, exploring the area, up and down canyons and over ridges. What if you were to fall? These desert hills are made up of loose soil and rocks that easily slip and slide from under your feet, easily dispatching you in a head-over-heels sprawl down to the bottom, with possibly a broken leg, or —  as the woman hiker found — you are simply unable to crawl out. How long do you think it would take someone to find you?

I have been lost in the desert. I always thought I was smart enough not to be so stupid. I was wrong. After a few turns and twists, the canyons and the terrain start to look eerily similar, and you can’t tell whether you are headed toward your rig or away from it. Luckily, after wandering and climbing ridges to look around, I always found my way back — hungry, thirsty, tired and feeling humbled.

You can keep these possibly life-threatening events from happening to you with a few simple procedures to follow before you set out:

1.  Always let someone know where you are, where you are going and when you will return.

2.  Keep a survival day backpack stocked and ready to go whenever you head out the door for a hike. In it keep the following items:
• Light windbreaker
• Compass
• Cell phone (most have GPS built in)
• Mylar NASA survival blanket (retains 90% of body heat, waterproof, windproof)
• Several energy bars, trail mix
• Matches or lighter, a few sheets of paper (to start a fire)
• Sunglasses
• Sun hat
• Water bottle
• Sunblock
• Small first aid kit
• Multi-tool pocket knife

3.  Leave a note on your rig where you went hiking, when you left, and when you expect to return so that searchers have a chance of finding you.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “It will never happen to me.” I’m sure the woman hiker did.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.