[Ed. note: This is the first post from Lunchbox—impressive for an animal without opposable thumbs, so be kind.]
Lunchbox here—you may remember me from "The Predicament" in BACKPACKER's magazine. I'm pretty cute, in an ugly-dog sort of way, but you don't want to meet me out on the trail. They call me out when things go wrong and everyone suspects the worse. But there's a lot you can do to avoid that: Let's take a look at this week's predicaments to sniff out what we can learn.
Fall From Acadia's Cliff Trail: An Alabama man on the Cliff Trail in Acadia National Park fell while climbing a ladder section near the summit of Acadia's Beehive, a popular rocky peak that looms 520 feet above Sand Beach. Eyewitnesses report seeing him struggle on the ladder before falling 10-15 feet onto the trail; his backpack may have stopped him from falling another 100 feet. SAR crews pulled him off the mountain and flew him to a hospital in an Army Blackhawk. He reportedly suffered an orbital fracture around an eye, a skull fracture, bleeding from both sides of his brain, and a knee injury.
Lunchbox's lesson: Stakes get exponentially higher on steep terrain. Knowing your abilities and turning back before anything goes wrong can prevent the whole incident.
Hikers Evacuated After Three SPOT Activations in Three Days: Two teenage hikers and their fathers on a hike in the Grand Canyon's remote Royal Arch loop activated the "help" button on their rented SPOT device. When rescuers reached them by helicopter the next morning, they declined rescue because they'd found a water source. But later that night, they activated the "911" button, and when rescuers reached them they were worried about dehydration because their water source "tasted salty." The helicopter denied their request for evacuation but left them with water. The following morning, they activated the "help" button again, but after a park helicopter flew them out, they refused medical attention or treatment. The group had little backpacking or Grand Canyon experience, and the park issued a citation for creating a hazardous condition.
Lunchbox's lesson: When asked what they would've done without the SPOT, the group leader announced, “we would have never attempted this hike.” Technology doesn't make up for inexperience, people (here's an example of how the SPOT can gum up even experienced peeps like our own Steve Howe). The Grand Canyon is an unforgiving place, and some people are better off sticking around the visitor center.
Never climb with ninjas: Six British martial artists hoped to raise funds by nailing two records in one: most martial artists atop Wales' Mt. Snowdon, and first wheelchair-bound man at the top. The six men attempted to carry the 31-year-old man in a wheelchair to the top, but they ran out of gas and instead left him on the trail halfway up. They continued summiting, and on the way down found they were too tired to heft their handicapped friend back to the bottom, so they called for rescue. Rescuers found the man suffering from mild hypothermia, and they chastised the judo-chopping jerks.
Lunchbox's lesson: Never, ever trust a ninja, especially if they say they want to help you up a mountain. They'll just leave you to die—it's what ninjas do, after all.
Grizzly survivor dies in fall: Experienced outdoorsman T.J. Langley survived a crushed skull, torn back, and broken pelvis at the hands of an enraged female grizzly in Yellowstone 10 years ago. He was able to walk out and get help. But while on a solo 3-day hike in Washington’s Wenatchee National Forest, he didn't return. Luckily, he left an itinerary, but unfortunately searchers found his body along the proposed route. It appears as if the man climbed to 8,600 feet before slipping and falling 300 feet to his death.
Lunchbox's Lesson: No matter your level of experience, hiking solo exponentially decreases the margin for error. If you run into trouble, you're on your own. If you still want to hike solo, read "Start Smart: Hiking Solo" first.
Black bear charge: A man hiking in Mission Creek Greenway, British Columbia saw a mother black bear and her cubs across a creek. Angling for a closer look, he walked towardthe bears to watch from the edge of the creek. The mama bear charged him, crossing the creek and coming within ten feet of the man. The man attempted to climb a tree, but failed and ran away. The mother returned to her cubs.
Lunchbox's Lesson: Well, this guy did just about everything wrong. 1) He approached the bear. 2) He tried to climb a tree, which any bear, especially a black, can climb better than you can. 3) He ran away, which could provoke an even more aggressive response. He only got lucky that this mama bear felt merciful that day. I'm prescribing a viewing of "How To Survive A Bear Attack" for this guy.
Deer Gores Woman: A 63-year-old woman from Florrisant, Colorado got gored by anaggressive mule deer buck after she tried to pet him. She called it closer and it lowered its antlers and charged, leaving lacerations on her elbow, arm, upper leg, stomach, hands, and hip. A motorist finally scared it away by honking a car horn. Luchbox's Lesson: People, don't feed or pet the animals! (Unless it's me.)