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Backpacker Magazine – September 2008

Never Fear: The Phobias

Use this step-by-step guide to beat 7 common backcountry fears. Plus, ideal hikes for overcoming–or avoiding–the source of your scare.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Photo illustration by Stephen Beneski
Photo illustration by Stephen Beneski

GETTING LOST

The trail you’re following fades out. A storm obscures trail markers. A cairn is missing. Suddenly, you have no idea which way to go.

The Real Risk
Lost hikers are typically found quickly. At Yosemite, the vast majority of lost hikers are rescued within a few hours, says veteran SAR ranger John Dill—and at the Grand Canyon, rangers locate most hikers less than a mile from where they went missing.

The 4-Step Fix
  • Knowledge is your best defense. Take a course in reading topo maps, using a compass, and navigating with GPS.
  • Tricky trail junctions ahead? Get detailed beta from rangers so you’ll be prepared for any potential trouble spots on your itinerary.
  • Always leave word of your plans with friends and/or rangers. Though you probably won’t need it, just knowing that rescuers will be on the way if you run into trouble will help calm anxiety.
  • Still terrified? Learn navigation skills, then get deliberately lost with a guide. Find your way back and you’ll be confident you could do it alone.

The Big Test
The Maze District in Canyonlands National Park is like New York for navigators: If you can find your way here, you can find your way anywhere. nps.gov/cany

Safety Zone
On California’s Lost Coast, directions are simple: Hike south, keep the Pacific on your right. blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/arcata.html



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READERS COMMENTS

Star
BrandiGuide
Jun 22, 2014

Slow loading 7 pages to get this. More useful on one scrolling page, right? BTW, what is the fear of being watched by wildlife while doing a #2 called?

Ellen
Oct 29, 2010

Thank you for this. I had a mini "panic attack" on Shasta this summer. My guide was intimidating when I needed more words of encouragement. Now I'll let my partner know he has to help me with the words the guides hesitate to provide: "You can do this. You've done it before. It will be alright."

Sean C.
Jan 06, 2010

My main fear on this list is being alone in the dark. When in a protected shelter, this typically isn't such an issue. but once I'm out in an unfamiliar place doing an activity, anxiety will start to kick in as the sun goes down. Thankfully I've used similar techniques to mostly overcome this irrational fear. Being an avid bike rider also, I set out on a 10mile, one way, trail through the woods about half an hour before dusk. Timing it perfectly, I made it to the end of the trail right as the sun set. Due to being a one way trail though, I was forced to ride the 10 miles back in the dark in order to get home. while this might have been a little extreme for a first step, it was successful, and now I find nighttime riding almost more enjoyable that in the sunlight.

Keith D
Oct 29, 2009

I'm still with Indiana Jones, "SNAKES! It just had to be snakes!"
UGGH!

Keith D
Oct 29, 2009

I'm still with Indiana Jones, "SNAKES! It just had to be snakes!"
UGGH!

Lil Jimmy Norden
May 19, 2009

Raaammooonnnee!!! Bring me a snake with some girth!

Lil Jimmy Norden
May 19, 2009

I love big long snakes with big heads

Jerry Doyle
Oct 30, 2008

The article is correct to say that snakes are more afraid of humans than humans are of snakes. The safest response to snakes is to make vibrations on the earth (such as heavy walking) and to proactively never put your hands, feet, etc. into closeted areas such as crevices, logs, etc. Snakes will feel your foot vibrations on the earth and move out of your way. Strike a rock or log that you plan to sit on and the snake will move away, although be careful of scorpions and spiders. A snake will only strike you if it is cornered, or if you have ignored its warning. In the south in swamp land while in a boat, look overhead at tree branches, or better yet, avoid boating under the tree branches to prevent the possibility of a snake falling into your boat. Good Hiking... Jerry D

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