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Lunchbox here: I keep trying to finish my list for Santa (Beggin’ Strips, a new leash, couple of bones), but it’s tough because I keep getting called back into the field to rescue someone—or worse. Let’s take a look at some recent outdoor mishaps and see if we can’t learn some lessons before heading out on our weekend’s wilderness adventures.
Sleeping Arizona hunter killed in tent by falling tree. A 27-year-old Arizona man on an elk hunt died when a 70-foot ponderosa pine snapped 20 feet off the ground and fell on his tent during a nighttime storm. His tentmate was miraculously uninjured and managed to cut his way out. Storm watchers clocked winds at 60 mph.
Lunchbox’s lesson: This is mostly a case of bad luck, as a 70-foot tree would probably look pretty solid. But it’s a sad reminder to be extra careful when pitching your tent near trees: Seek protection in low-lying, dense forests, and keep away from dead or sickly-looking trees. Avoid spots among trees that show obvious signs of frequent wind, like stunted growth or bent trunks.
Spanish snowboarder rescued in French Alps after 2 days lost in fog. An 18-year-old snowboarder from Spain spent two days lost in thick fog in the French Alps. He’d given up all hope when a helicopter found him not 500 yards from a road. Rescuers expressed amazement that he hadn’t wandered off a cliff in the poor visibility.
Lunchbox’s lesson: Navigating in fog can be extremely dangerous—you humans don’t have much of a nose to rely on. Here’s a few tips: 1) Do periodic checks—verify your map position immediately when fog
moves in and every half hour after. 2) Navigate object to object If the fog is too dense to find your way,
take a compass bearing from your current location to your intended destination. Then, note any obvious
landmark in your line of travel, and move without deviating until you reach it. When you get there, take
another sighting, pick a new landmark, and repeat. 3) If you’re not alone, you can play leapfrog. Here’s how: In featureless terrain, like a large open meadow, use hiking partners as intermediate objects. Send them forward as far as possible and wave them into position along your course. Then leapfrog ahead. Give them the compass as you pass so they can repeat the leapfrog.
Searchers looking for dog hero still missing in the backcountry. 3-year-old black lab mix Zulu helped save her 50-year-old owner when he got lost for 7 days in the frigid Gila National Forest of New Mexico. Rescuers found Robert Sumrall semi-conscious with Zulu lying on top of him to keep him warm. She took off when the searchers found Sumrall. While he recuperates from frostbite in the hospital, volunteers are still searching for Zulu, and fans have contributed a $3,200 reward.
Lunchbox’s lesson: See? When you humans are in a tight spot, we canines might be your best shot at making it out alive. Isn’t it time you gave a little back? Follow the search for Zulu here. You’ve done us proud, Zulu—good luck and Dogspeed.