Hidy-ho, campers: For most of the country, winter's warming up a little, and we're halfway to spring (sorry, East Coasters). But with a bigger weekend-warrior crowds comes dangerous situations caused by variable conditions. Let's take a look at some recent wilderness dust-ups and see what we can't learn.
Stranded river trippers rescued in Grand Canyon. A private river trip got their 18-foot boat stuck on rocks in Crystal Rapid, 11 miles from the infamous Phantom Ranch. Three passengers were unable to dislodge their boat or get to try land, so national park helicopters airlifted the passengers to shore just before weather conditions deteriorated. They waited until the next day to launch a zodiac and dislodge the boat. By 4:30 p.m. that day, the crew was back on the river.
Lunchbox's lesson: Tackling the Grand Canyon by raft is a premier life-list experience, but it requires expert skills in river safety. Make sure you've brushed up before planning your epic river run.
Hiker's body recovered from Buffalo National River. A 54-year-old hiker visited the Buffalo National River, seemingly to photograph Magnolia Falls in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness. When his wife reported him missing, SAR crews eventually found the man face down in a pool at the base of a 70-foot cliff surrounded by three waterfalls. The steep canyon walls were covered in ice.
Lunchbox's lesson: Hiking solo never gets safer, especially in icy, cliffy terrain. A second person brings extra caution to the table, and iced-over conditions should remind anyone to keep away from any steep or slippery terrain. No photo is worth it. (Ice makes everything more complicated, but here's a little help for getting yourself out of a slippery situation.)
Dog survives 40 days in freezing Santa Cruz mountains. An old black lab named Buck got separated from his owners in the wilderness near his home on Jan. 6. After weeks of searching, his owners gave up, assuming he'd either been swept away by a snowmelt-swollen river or scooped up by another family. Wrong: 40 days after he disappeared a hiking neighbor heard whimpering and found an emaciated Buck stuck in a hole in a creek with his head barely above water. Bugs and rodents had chewed up parts of his face and he'd lost 50 pounds, but he was alive. The neighbor waded across the creek, retrieved Buck and brought him to safety. He's in good spirits and expected to recover.
Lunchbox's lesson: You think you humans are tough? Try and survive 40 days without food in an icy river and get back to me. That said, we always appreciate a helping hand from humans—we are best friends, after all.