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Thread: Simply Survival

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    Default Simply Survival

    Simply Survival

    by Rick Donaldson, N0NJY, CET, SEC+

    In 1990 I took a position with a local college in Colorado Springs to teach Basic Electronics. At first I imagined I'd be working at the school itself and would be training students new to the field of electronics, troubleshooting and explaining things like diodes for dummies to young people.

    As it turned out this was not to be the case. I spent the next eight weeks going through a “Bootcamp” that is given by the state of Colorado to personnel who would become Department of Corrections security officers, to the staff of prisons, even the cooks, and other service personnel who had to spend any amount of time inside any prison facilities. I was about to become a teacher in a prison system, to train inmates on electronics so they could make themselves useful on the outside when they got out. If they got out.

    During this time I was living in Colorado Springs and the place I would be working was the Buena Vista Minimum-Restricted prison facility, a lovely green roofed... ummm prison. I suspect there was nothing lovely about it. In any case it was a one hundred mile drive, one way from my drive way to my parking space at the prison and I made the trip throughout the better part of a year once my own training was completed. I put together a quick and dirty Basic Electronics course, syllabus, collected books, materials, tools and parts to be able to teach basic theory, obtained my classroom and interviewed inmates who wanted to “go to school”.

    Over the course of about three weeks I put this all together and in the middle of summer had it all ready to go. In the mean time my wife and I realized that $12.00 an hour was not great money, but it was a job. Unfortunately, the distance was eating up anything extra with gas money. So, we made a hard, but prudent decision to purchase a small piece of land near the town of Buena Vista and place a trailer on the property. I found an ancient, nineteen foot Airstream trailer for twelve hundred bucks, and a three acre lot in the middle of the wilderness for about eight thousand dollars. Not bad, we couldn't truly afford it with the house payment, but on average we figured we could sell the property later.

    The land was part of the old Western Union Ranch and the piece was almost exactly one mile off the main highway. There was a “Home Owner's Association” which did little to help anyone there, other than demand a yearly payment of money to maintain whatever bad habits they had, but I signed the contact, placed the trailer, fixed up the little trailer and installed a small solar panel, some new propane tanks, food and water and got a friend to help haul the trailer to the property.

    Over the next few months things went relatively well at the prison, I filled the class room quickly with people who actually seemed like they were willing to learn – though I admit I felt most of them were there to get out of some other, worse, job they would be given if they didn't get into a class room.

    Monday mornings I would head out around 4 AM with a load of food in a cooler, some extra water bottles, my rifle, a back pack full of clothing and other things and stop at my trailer on the way to the prison to drop off my supplies. I'd unload, jump back in the car, an old Ares K car station wagon we'd bought because we had five children back in DC a couple of years before. On to the prison, another fifteen miles from the trailer I would go. I had no cellular phone back in those days, there was no electricity at the trailer, no running water, I had a basic toilet with a holding tank in the trailer which I had to empty twice a week and I stayed there Monday night through Friday mornings.

    Friday after work I would pack up everything I'd taken up, my food supplies were generally depleted by then, my water nearly gone, all of my dirty laundry and head for home usually by 5:00 pm or 5:30 at the latest for the two hour drive back to the Springs. I would spend the weekend with the wife and children, load up Sunday night and start all over again. This went on for several months until winter came.

    One Monday I headed to work and found that the weather was predicting snow for the evening for the Springs. I had not a thought about my altitude, location nor my physical danger at that particular time. On a hunch I tapped the gas tanks and realized that one was empty, and the other nearly so. I took one tank down and filled it up since I really didn't have enough cash for gasoline or much else. I rarely carried cash, and used a credit card to fill the gas tank. That was good enough for me.

    Now, you have to understand I'm a bit of an old school “survivalist” and always have been. Started out as a little boy running the woods of Kentucky and learning to track animals, hunt, fish and even once had to spend a few days in the woods because I was lost. I actually ate well during those three days because I knew how to cook myself some cattail stew, complete with some grub worms I'd dug out of an old dead tree. But, you know when you get older you forget things and even become complacent to a great degree.

    So, my wife was preparing food for me, enough for four meals usually – Monday night through Thursday night and generally I'd eat with the family when I got home on Friday evenings. I had a bit of stuff for breakfast, I think some oatmeal and perhaps some eggs or something. I ate pretty light in those days out of necessity, rather than choice.

    I had about twenty gallons of water, more than enough for a week. I didn't think much about the weather but after work I filled the propane tank, and headed to my little trailer in the woods. I didn't do anything else other than my normal job around the area before dinner – usually about a mile or two – and realized that at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level I was slowing down considerably at my grand old age of about 33 years old. I couldn't run six miles at that altitude now. So, two was good enough, and it was cold anyway. I made my way back to my little trailer in the woods and having seen no people today – like every day – I heated my pre-made dinner that my wife had graciously placed into tin pie plates, making it easy to cook and clean afterward. I ate my dinner, read a book and turned on the heat on low in the trailer.

    The next morning I awakened at my usual time of Oh Dark Thirty and turned on the oven and turned up the gas heater, boiled a pot of coffee and another of hot water in which to do my “spit bath” from. I shaved and cleaned up, ate some hot cereal and turned down the heaters, and went to the door of the trailer. I'd never looked out side.

    The door wouldn't budge. I looked out the both steamed, and now-frosted over window to see a blizzard in progress going on outside. The door, it turned out, was stuck fast by the four feet of snow outside piled up against the door. After nearly thirty minutes of slamming my shoulder against the door I was able to push a good portion of the snow away from the door giving me the ability to squeeze out. Unfortunately, my car was buried about forty yards away and the pathway up to my trailer – my “driveway” if you will – was completely buried under around four to five feet of snow and no way was my little front wheel drive station wagon going to get out of there even if I wanted it.

    I glanced around and saw the snow was more than waist deep on my five foot nine inch frame and wondered exactly where my shovels were. I had two of them, a spade for digging holes and a flat shovel I used to put out fires in the pit, or shovel rocks to make a walk way. I remembered the flat shovel was under the trailer somewhere so I attempted to find it by poking a walking stick in until I located a spot I could easily dig to get under the trailer. After a little searching I found the shovel and I started digging toward my car – not even thinking about why I was digging toward the car.

    Looking back I realize I wasted a lot of energy and time. I was not yet quite coming to grips with my situation. Here I was in the midst of a fantastic blizzard at 9875 feet above sea level, more than a mile from a main highway, no radio, no phone, no electricity, one small tank of propane and five feet of snow piling up around me. After a couple of hours of digging, and sweating I stopped to think, finally.

    It was cold, I was damp from the snow and I was shivering. I was sweating. If nothing I'd learned in the military had stuck it was that I was in a very dangerous situation. The only difference in me, and some lost hiker was that I had food, water and ready shelter. I decided to take advantage and go back inside, removed my wet clothing, dried off and heated the trailer to about forty-five degrees. Enough to conserve my fuel for a few days, but keep me from freezing. Then I put on dry layers of clothing to keep warm.

    At that point, reality had set in. Water? I had some, twenty or twenty five gallons in a tank, and another five in one gallon milk bottles. Or so I thought. Food? I had three good full evening meals frozen in my cooler that were made by my wife. I had a few other things, perhaps a couple of potatoes and onions left, some Spam or meat in a can and some flour, sugar, coffee. Plenty of stuff for over a week if I was careful. I had clothing to keep me warm, my good old Marlin .30-30 rifle and probably fifty rounds of ammo. I had several books, my school supplies and pens and pencils.

    What I didn't have was a ham radio, CB radio, telephone, electricity – and oh yeah, my solar panel was buried someplace out there with no way to get any light and therefore no battery charging until I could locate and dig it out. What I also didn't have in reality was water. Unknown to me at that particular moment in time was the fact that it was so cold out side and there was little insulation in the lower part of the trailer where the stainless steel tank sat, that most of the water inside had already started to freeze.

    Later that evening I would find out my water tank was frozen as the temperatures dropped to something like 25 or 30 below, and the wind chill made it that much worse. But before that happened, the survivalist in me was forgotten as panic set in. My wife would not hear from me today, and the prison wouldn't worry if I didn't show up one morning especially with the bad weather. They would assume I couldn't make it in, and knew I didn't have a telephone. What I failed to realize was they wouldn't even bother to look for me. I didn't call my wife every day, but I tried to call at least every other day. She wouldn't worry until Wednesday night. I thought I should at least try to let her know what happened.

    So, I put on my heavy boots, several layers of clothing, gloves and my hiking staff and headed out side. I had no snow shoes or any other method of getting through the snow and advanced slowly, watching as the trailer vanished in the blinding, flying snow. I was more than two hundred yards away and at the road when I realize the folly of my scheme to make it to the highway for help. I had no water, no food, was dressed for the weather but not prepared to move through four and five foot mounds of snow, some drifting to over my head in places. The wind was bitingly cold and the snow was sticking to my glasses, freezing on them making it impossible for me to see where I was. And I was sweating again.

    I had left my watch in the trailer but would estimate it took around two hours to make it to the road. It was at that point I suddenly realized the mile to the highway might as well have been like climbing Mount Everest without the snow storm. Impossible without the right equipment or proper frame of mind. Stupidity wasn't normally one of my downfalls, nor something that on a regular basis proved to be true. Normally, I am a thinking person and consider a lot more aspects of a situation than most, and many of my friends might say I over think things at times. I come up with both normal, as well as the most outlandish explanations for anything happening around me, in an attempt to make the normal seem more normal.

    Dying in a blizzard two hundred yards from my trailer hadn't occurred to me. Then I remembered reading a story as a young lad of a person who went from their house in a blizzard to help or feed some horses in a barn. They never made it back. They were lost only a few dozen yards from their home in the blizzard, unable to find their way back. I slowly, carefully turned around and did something you're not supposed to do, but I had little choice in my situation. I grabbed a handful of snow and ate it. I needed water and realized how thirsty I was, how sweaty I was becoming and decided not to lose my clothing but forced myself back along the path I'd made earlier.

    I don't know how long I was out side, but when I got back to the trailer it was nearly five PM and I was absolutely, totally exhausted. My hands were freezing, I was shivering and most likely I was in the beginning of hypothermia. For the third time that day I turned the heater up higher than I normally would have, lay down on my bed and under my sleeping bag and fell asleep. I slept through most of the evening and woke up around eight PM or so.

    I had no radio so I couldn't get the weather. Or rather I did have a radio, but it was in my car. I decided to head for the car once more. It was easier this time because I'd mostly dug to it in the morning and merely had to dig out the vehicle door to gain access. It was probably close to 10 PM when I tried to start the engine. It wouldn't start. I did turn on the radio and listend to the news, and caught the weather. Nothing for my area. The radio station was from Saladia, Colorado. Another from Pueblo, and finally one I could barely hear from Colorado Springs. Nothing for my precise neck of the woods to tell me when the snow would quit. And it was still falling. I tried the engine again, but the car simply wouldn't fire up. I'd eventually have to have it towed out to Johnson Village, about ten miles down the road, and find out that the cold had somehow caused the timing belt and timing system to get out of sync causing the vehicle to fire out of sequence and essentially the car refused to work.

    I went back to my trailer and the warmth inside and cooked my evening meal. I thought it would be good to eat a hot meal, and wasn't figuring on being there another day or so anyway. There was no conserving of food, or rationing going on in my mind. The work in the snow today had exhausted me physically as well as mentally. I went to get water from my sink and the pump didn't work. I could tell there was electricity flowing and it was trying to work, because it dimmed the lights. I realized this was bad, either the pump was broken or the water in the pipes had frozen. I checked, and sure enough, the water was frozen in the steel tank. Bad news. I had around thirty gallons of water this morning. I had four now, what was left in my milk jugs.

    No worries, I thought, I can melt snow. I DO have some propane left. And additionally I had nearly a chord of wood stashed under the pine trees near by to my fire pit. If worse came to worse, I could make a fire outside to cook or melt snow. I had enough wood to last a few weeks if necessary. Then I thought it time to actually inventory. Once I had eaten my meal it occurred I should actually take stock of my situation.

    Here I was more thana mile from a main road stranded in the woods with literally no way out but to walk in 5 – 6 feet of snow. I had little water and little food. I had a rifle, but you know rabbits and squirrels hunker down for the winter, or at the very least during snow storms like this. It was still snowing and I had no idea what to expect whether another foot or six more feet or snow. I had enough food to last me less than a week if I conserved it carefully, perhaps a few days longer with no way to get more. Water wasn't going to be a problem, nor would heat. I could stay warm if I conserved my energy and didn't have to eat much.

    I couldn't walk out in the conditions outside, I'd already proven that to myself. I had little electricity in the trailer and had to get my solar panel dug out in the morning if I was going to charge my poor, nearly exhausted old battery sitting outside under the trailer. A 30 amphour battery doesn't last all that long in those frigid conditions when being used up at the rate of an amp or so per hour for lights. So I turned off everything and lit a candle. I was still tired from the work earlier and thought I should sleep now.
    I set the clock for 4 AM and fell into a fitful sleep.

    It took a couple of hours to get the solar panel dug from under the snow and seated atop some logs. The snow had stopped and a quick measurement told me that the snow was five feet and seven or eight inches deep most of the way around my trailer. It was less under the big pine trees, and more in the open areas. The temperature hovered at somewhere around 18 below zero and moving outside was dangerous and just plain cold. I spent most of the day mulling over how to get out of here, get a signal out for someone to find me, or to simply wait it all out. When it was all said and done I considered all my options more carefully than I had.

    I had enough food to last me until Saturday or Sunday. My wife would be concerned and looking for me. My work – the prison I thought, might send someone to look for me. They knew for instance I didn't have a phone or communications out there, electricity or even running water. They also knew how much snow had fallen in the community. My worst assumption was they would send the sheriff's office to locate me or ensure I was alive at least. My other assumption was my wife would be attempting to look for me somehow which worried me worse because she wasn't equipped to do so, not being an outdoors type, and certainly no liking cold weather much... but worse, she didn't have a second vehicle to use to come after me. She'd need assistance.

    Staying past Saturday wasn't much of an option for me. In fact, running out of food and not having enough energy to get out wasn't an option. So I made my plans to escape. I assumed someone would look for me. As it turns out, that didn't happen either.

    On Thursday morning I dug out some more around my trailer, got out a saw and began looking for some suitable branches on a pine tree near by. Digging around my trailer I found a couple of rolls of string, good, strong string, and some rope. Over the course of the day I used some branches from trees to form the frame of what would become snow shoes. The formed the frame from branches I was able to bend around and tie, then used the string and smaller limbs to form a kind of mesh that would allow me to move over the now-frozen over surface of the snow. I took them outside late that evening and tested them.

    Surprisingly, they worked, not perfectly, but they kept me moving above the snow and not through it. I was pretty proud of the work and hoped they'd hold up to get me to the road at least. I was wondering about the money I paid for the home owners association about that time that evening. In the contract they stated clearly that the kept the dirt road clear in such weather. Not only had I NOT seen another human being since Monday evening, I'd not heard the sound of vehicles, a plow or even a bird. Needless to say, I was just a little pissed about the home owners association and the money. I resolved not to pay them another penny and complain bitterly later on, in the warmth of the summer....

    That night I ate part of my Wednesday meal and put the rest away. Tomorrow before I left, I would eat all I could and take the rest with me in my back pack. I found two smaller bottles and filled them with water. I prepared my clothing for tomorrow, laying out several layers including some long johns and two pairs of pants. I wanted to be warm, but still be able to strip of layers of clothing as I got warmer.

    My pack had an extra sweater in it inside a plastic bag to keep it dry. Two more plastic bags were inside to keep wet clothing away from dry. My rifle was loaded, and a dozen extra rounds placed inside my pack. The rifle holds five rounds, six if I chamber one. I didn't see a need to do that. I wasn't going to shoot any meat, but I took the rifle in case something worse happened. I could always use it for signaling.

    I kept the pack as light as I could, except for the water. I warmed all the food up I had so it wouldn't be frozen in the morning and ate slowly tonight. Outside it had begun to snow again. I turned out the candle and went to bed as soon as it was pretty dark. The wind outside howled furiously and whipped the snow into drifts that I heard later were over twenty feet deep in places. One mile from a main road was a snow covered, iced over winter wonderland that could have been anywhere in Alaska or the Yukon. But here I was in Colorado, something like eight or night miles from civilization – and I might as well have been sitting in the Yukon Territory at forty below zero.

    The next morning after dawn I ate some hot breakfast, most of the rest of my food, and stuck a piece of chicken and a biscuit into my pack for later. I had about a half gallon of water with me in two small plastic bottles arranged in the pack to keep them insulated from freezing and balance the pack. I took my hiking staff, my rifle slung over my shoulder, and my backpack outside to the area I'd cleaned off. There was not a lot more snow, but it had drifted in oddly shaped patterns. The snow was piled at one end of my trailer so deep I could have simply walked up to the top of the trailer. In other areas below me on the hillside I could actually see grass sticking up. That was good. I could find shallow areas to move through and decided that I wasn't going to be worried about walking through someone else's property, or trying to stick to a road. The road, for what it was worth was impassable anyway. Somewhere down there was a ditch that ran along it that was about two feet deep and meant that there was easily eight feet of snow below me.

    I hefted my pack, made sure I had my keys in my pocket, secured the trailer, slug my rifle, put on my gloves and took my stick and took a few steps out into the deep snow to see how my snow shoes held up. It was Friday morning at about 0900 when I surveyed the hill above, and the desolate snowscape below me. I made the decision to remain high on the hill and move across private property rather than to go lower down the mountain to the road. The snow was a mere three to four feet deep up here and easily much, much deeper down below. Above me the sky was bleak and gray, clouds roiling in anger above. The wind was bitterly cold and I covered my face with an old brown knitted scarf my wife had made for me many years before in a lean Christmas time where every present we gave to each other, and each of the children was hand made by ourselves.

    I remember thinking of my children and my wife and the worry my wife would have. I had to do this, and I had to get out of here for them, more than for myself. I set out ever so slowly getting the hang of the snow shoes. It was slow going. I'd designed them to point forward and they were tied to my boots tightly forward, but loosely in the back allowing me to move rather effectively through the snow. I'd never used snow shoes before, but knew the theory. Nothing more. They lasted until I reached the road several hours later.

    That was the longest mile I ever walked. I never glanced once at my watch and since I have a pretty decent built in biological clock, I knew it was probably four or five hours before I reached the highway. When I could hear vehicles moving I was surprised. I assumed that the roads were closed and no one was traveling there. But, wouldn't you know it in Colorado that much snow means awesome skiing.

    Passing me as I approached the road was a constant parade of cars on a cleaned road, each of them containing skis and people on their way to the ski areas to the west. I hit the road and one of my snowshoes decided to come apart on me. I sat on my pack and unlaced the useless thing and dropped it in the snow, and then removed the second one. A car stopped and a man rolled down his window.

    “You ok?” he asked. Thankful to actually hear a voice I stood and said.

    “Mostly. I need help getting to a phone. I've been stranded in the woods for a few days,” I said.

    “Get in....” he motioned. I picked up my pack, my stick and my rifle and started toward the car. Suddenly, he drove off. Looking back, it was probably because he saw my rifle. Some people are just scared of guns. Especially the Liberals in Colorado who see them as an evil thing. In fact, I couldn't even flag down a vehicle. I headed east on the highway hoping to make it the six or so miles to Hartsel, Colorado where I knew there was a pay phone, a small general store and cars stopping constantly for gas and snacks and drinks. After about an hour of walking I'd shed a jacket and put some things in my pack and heard a truck pull up behind me.

    “Are you Rick?” said an unfamiliar voice.

    “Yes? You?” I said. He gave me his name and introduced himself as the caretaker for the Western Union Ranch area. I didn't recognize him, but the pickup was familiar. He waved me in.

    “Folks are looking for you. You wife called everyone in creation especially the Sheriff. I guess they didn't know who you were, where you were, or anything. They made a cursory search but didn't know where your trailer was. Obviously I couldn't get in there. The plows won't go in. Get in, I'll take you to a phone....”

    I thanked the man and he took me to his log cabin that was at the main area of the Ranch a few miles from my place. He gave me use of his phone and I made two calls. One was home to my worried wife who had my friend Mike ready to go on a moment's notice to save me and to my job. I asked to speak to the Warden since he was my on site authority. He was cold and didn't really care one way or the other I'd called. I explained what happened.
    “Is that all?” he asked.

    “What do you mean is that all?” I asked back.

    “Well, you didn't come to work, and your 'students' were without anything to do for the whole week,” he remarked harshly.

    “They are inmates in a prision, I didn't think they would go anywhere without me being there,” I said half laughing.

    “This is a very serious situation, and I am considering cancelling this contract with your college because of your negligence....”

    “Umm... Excuse me? Negligence? I don't control the weather sir. You do what ever you think it right. Let my school know as soon as possible on Monday. I'll be out there one way or the other.

    A couple of hours later my friend showed up. I got the news they would be plowing out the road to my trailer and other roads up in the mountain over the weekend. I made arrangements with a towing company in Johnson City to get my car out and fix it and my friend to bring me back up to get the car. The gentleman that helped me out was polite and wouldn't take any money for the phone calls I ended up making on his phone and said he was happy to help me out. He was sorry about the plow issue, but the Home Owner's Association hadn't paid this year for the plows. That pissed me off even worse, and I wondered where the money myself and others paid them was going. A few months later they had 'elections' and the people running were a bunch of communist sympathizers from their demeanor and activities. I sold the property a couple of years later, along with the trailer to some other guy whom I hope never found himself in my position.

    My car cost me several hundred dollars to get towed, repaired and back home. My kids and my wife enjoyed the trailer in the summer time a few more times before we sold it. The money we made paid off bills.

    Me? I didn't die. I didn't suffer from starvation, dehydration, hypothermia, frost bite or lose any limbs. I learned a few things though.

    Panic is a bad thing. Never panic. Ever.

    Preparation is a good thing.

    Education is a good thing.

    Using your head, thinking and common sense are more important than equipment, tools, guns, camping gear, or the best items you can buy on any market anywhere.

    Panic will kill you. I panicked and tried to kill myself the first day by trying to get to a road in several feet of snow without preparation, food, water, or anything else. I wasn't in danger until I tried to do that. People have been known to drown because they panic. People have run back into burning buildings out of panic, or died inside because they didn't know to get low to get out.

    Preparation is knowing about things, even if you don't do them. For instance, stepping out into the woods in very bad weather, not knowing how to get through the snow, without food, without water and without thinking was bad. But thinking it through, preparing for keeping oneself alive throughout the ordeal will at least put you in a survival state of mind. Having studied over the years prior to this situation told me that deep snow is bad, moving in a blizzard is stupid, not checking and preparing for the cold will freeze your water tank, not having your tools where you can reach them (under a trailer in five feet of snow) will make it hard for you to use those tools and the cold can cause your vehicle to stop running. I was prepared for many things, but not those contingencies because, frankly they didn't occur to me at the time.

    Education can help you out of bad situations. Snowshoes were something I'd seen on TV, and had actually held in my hands in stores, read about in stories but had never used, much less designed and built with my own two hands. And yet I knew the theory behind them and was able to produce using a saw (I happened to have in the trailer) a knife, some string, rope and a little ingenuity a perfectly functional set of snowshoes that got me out of my bad situation. I knew from reading people died in blizzards because they weren't prepared and they did stupid things.

    Common sense and thinking eventually won out over my panic. But still, I still panicked to some degree and probably would have died out there had I tried to go on. Instead I turned around and went back to safety. I had very few tools there at that old trailer. A couple of shovels, a knife or two, an axe and a hatchet, a rifle and perhaps some relatively useless wrenches that wouldn't have come in handy for anything in my situation. I had a little food. I had a little water.

    Overall – I came out well on this potentially deadly situation. But it would have been worse had I not stopped to think. Had I blindly went on like some people do in dangerous situations I would have likely died in the snow and they'd have found my body sometime in the spring – or at least the bones that were scattered by the coyotes out there.

    So this little story is not the story of someone who over came daunting odds at survival, or had to gnaw off their left food to survive. Rather this was a story of a potentially deadly situation that did not turn bad. All in all there are many things I know now I would do differently today and one of them would not be to live in a trailer on the side of a mountain where snow comes down in avalanches from the sky. Common Sense... its not too common unless one has faced a situation that requires one use their intelligence, book knowledge and previous experiences.

    Over the years since those days I have read much more about survival situations. One thing that comes to mind in nearly every single one is that people enter into their situations with very little thinking about the “what might happen” aspect of the future. People want to hike and hit a trail, grab a small day pack, no extra clothing, no knife, no extra water and expect to be back long before dark. They get lost, off the trail some where, take a wrong turn, do not have a map or worse, can't read the map, twist an ankle or some other critical, life threatening situation occurs and they find themselves stuck on the side of a forested mountain, as the temperatures drop for the night.

    Here in Colorado as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains the temperatures will plumet and you can find yourself in a life threatening situation in minutes. Trying to hike out in the dark exacerbates the situation, the temperatures get colder and you don't have enough layers of clothing to keep you warm. You panic and try to get out quicker, in the dark and simply get more lost. Instead of stopping and taking stock of the situation, you run, perhaps knocking yourself out in a low branch or worse, blinding yourself even temporarily from getting hit in the eyes by pine needles.

    If nothing else can be learned from this mediocre survival story it is to simply STOP and look around. Survey your condition, circumstances, supplies and ability to remain safe and as secure as you can be under the conditions. Finding shelter is usually the first thing to do. Water can usually wait until the next morning if you're not in a desert. Staying out of the rain is important (and provides water) to prevent hypothermia and keeping your general well being.

    Knowing approximately where you are when you got into the situation you're in will help immensely. You might not know exactly, but you can be sure if you weren't abducted by aliens and dropped somewhere or doing an escape and evasion routine from some evil enemy you likely know what state, what county and even where the closest point of civilization happens to be. All you have to do is remain calm and think it through. In the day light you can probably find your way out. If not, and you're so lost you can't, your best bet is to stay put – because you did tell someone where you were going, right?

    That's another aspect of survival preparation. When we go sailing, even if on the lake we file a “Float Plan”. We let two or more of our children know we're going to the lake, taking our sailboat and when we should be home – and most importantly, if they don't hear from us by a certain day or time to call authorities to look for our bodies before the fish eat us up. In all seriousness, let someone know where you're going, why you're going, what you're doing, when you expect to be back and a basic idea of how prepared you are. If you're back packing for a week in the Rockies everyone would expect you to be completely prepared with food, water, hiking boots and experience, a pack, a knife and other useful items like a compass and a map and the know how to use them.

    A day hike, you might have enough water for a day, plus some food, a hiking stick, a compass and map of the area – as well as clothing to match your possible conditions. You'd be amazed at how little you need to stay alive, if you keep your head clear and think things through. On the other hand, being prepared for most contingencies will ensure not only your safety, but that of others in your group.

    In my case I had one thing on my mind. To get to work, do my job and get out of there each day. Working in a prison is stressful enough as it is. Living 100 miles from home for a week at a time and only seeing your family occasionally is stressful on top of that. Waking up and finding that your world just changed drastically and can in no way, shape nor form be “normal” because of a blizzard, broken car and lack of food is enough to put many people over the top and into panic mode – including a veteran of 20+ years of military service. Because I didn't think it through.

    This one last piece of advice is meant to help you understand that survival isn't a job that just anyone can do. It's not. People die all the time, and not survive for a good reason. They don't think it through. Let me explain.

    Each of us has a particular view of the world that is probably considerably different from that of our brothers, sisters, moms, dads, neighbors and political parties. If you ask anyone around you, randomly you will discover that a good portion of the population will tell you that you don't need Celestial Navigation to get someplace if you have a GPS unit. You don't need to be “in shape” if you don't jog, and own a car. The same people will tell you that they go grocery shopping once a week or in some cases even daily to meet their own personal (or family) needs for food.

    Those same people will tell you in some cases, they don't believe there will be terrorist attacks, China and Russian will never attack the United States, that the illegal immigration situation isn't affection THEM and it's stupid to worry about it. Those same people will likely tell you they don't have a month's supply of food, don't have spare water in the house, don't keep a gun and wouldn't do so because frankly guns are dangerous. They will think that “survivalists” are “Kooks” because they think the world is going to end. Those same people will say, with a defeatist attitude when you mention nuclear war, “I hope I am standing close to the explosion so I am vaporized immediately because you can't survive nuclear war.”

    For each and every one person out there who thinks about the future and preparing for the unknown, there are thousands of others who have no inkling of the ability of thinking through a situation has on a person's ability to survive.

    All of the aforementioned people will in almost all cases, panic.
    You however are an intelligent person and one who has studied and examined many possible scenarios, right? IF not you should be. You should think through things that COULD happen. Not only possible things, but think through even the impossible. Not because you believe it could happen or will happen, but “What IF” it happened? What if nuclear war came? What if China or Russia did a land invasion? What if a terrorist attacked your local mall with you in it? What if aliens from another planet came down with superior weaponry? Ok, the last one is way out there right? But, really, what IF the unthinkable happened? What if you suddenly found yourself caught up in a town about to be washed away by a tsunami?

    While most of these things will likely never occur with you in a position to observe or be involved, there is certainly a tiny chance any of them, yes, even the Aliens From Space situation could occur. Unlikely, but who's to say there are no evil aliens out there? Certainly not me. On the other hand this is merely a thinking exercise and that's what it is supposed to be.

    The human mind is not unlike the muscles in the human body. If you are an athlete you know that proper repetition of movements in a sport will help you to develop the fast and slow twitch muscles that eventually help you to do your skills better and more efficiently. No matter how bad you are at something if you practice it properly you will get better at it. The human brain works in a similar manner.

    Studying something will help you understand it. Practicing math over and over makes it easier as time goes on. Why? Well, not being an expert on the brain, I can only say that neurons build connections that simply make you smarter over time.

    A thinking exercise is similar. You think something through and you come up with ways to mitigate problems. Eventually you think through many different iterations of the problem, possible solutions and you can perhaps even put a few things into practice – such as how to start a fire without a lighter or matches for example. Granted not really understanding how an alien death ray works might put a crimp in your style when trying to survive an alien invasion, but certainly you can use that same information to survive a terrorist attack.

    My little story wasn't much. I wasn't ever truly in serious danger until I went outside and tried to walk out in 3-4 feet of snow. Any other idiot probably would have said “Screw it, I'll wait until it melts” - but not me. I was young, strong, smart and had never thought it through. Ever. Now I have. If I ever find myself in such a situation again I'll take stock of my surroundings, and know what I have to do to survive. I won't walk out into the deep snow without preparation. I won't place myself in such circumstances deliberately again – but if I suddenly find myself stuck, well, I have the experience now to stay alive.

    Maybe... just maybe, you will not either now.
    Libertatem Prius!


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  2. #2
    Super Moderator Malsua's Avatar
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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    I'm reading this and thinking, wow, I agree with this guy.

    When I'm done, I go back to the top and realize Rick wrote it. heh.

    Got an address for that location? These kinds of things always make me want to google Earth the spot so I can wrap my head around it better.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    See mountains with Google is not the same as see them live!
    actually, it's the top down view that I'm more interested in for Rick's particular story.

    The picture below is taken about 500 meters behind my house. My house is at about the level of the water. Google earth mountains are somewhat lame in comparison.


    From the bottom, looking up that way...

    Last edited by Malsua; January 15th, 2011 at 15:18.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Super Moderator Malsua's Avatar
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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Oh and I want to Visit Venice...maybe this year.

    You can keep the snow.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Super Moderator Malsua's Avatar
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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    If I do get to Venice, I'll let you know and buy you lunch and a cup of coffee.

    I realize it's expensive...when I am on Vacation with the wife I plan on 200 Euro a day for food and Souvenirs/trains/cab/etc. 25 Euro for Breakfast, 25 Euro for afternoon snack(Fast food/Baguette/etc), 100 Euro for dinner and 50 euro for everything else. I usually don't spend that much and I've been all over Europe.

    As to your exact location...well, I not going to suggest you post it publicly. You never know who's reading this. Of course, if someone unwanted arrives at my house, they're going to get a 380 meter per second surprise.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    At least half of the cars around here are high end luxury cars. All that car would earn you would be "Oh, what is that, it's not a BMW or Mercedes".

    There's a Lamborghini dealership just down the street from my office. http://goo.gl/maps/tUjL

    There's a BMW dealer, an Acura / Lotus dealer. Mercedes, Audi, you name it. Luxury cars are more common than anything else round these parts.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Super Moderator Malsua's Avatar
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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    There are Mustangs and Corvettes and Hyundais and Toyota Corollas, it's just that expensive cars around this part of the country are not uncommon at all.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    To get back to Rick's post that we've horribly drawn astray..


    I want to know what you do in this situation.

    You're James Kim. A cnet editor, on your way home from Oregon. What do you do?

    This is a true story that happened a few years ago.:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim
    After spending the 2006 Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington, the Kims (James, Kati, and their two daughters, Penelope and Sabine) set out for their home in San Francisco, California. On Saturday, November 25, 2006, having left Portland, Oregon on their way to Tu Tu Tun Lodge, a resort located near Gold Beach, Oregon, the Kims missed a turnoff from Interstate 5 to Oregon Route 42, a main route to the Oregon Coast. Instead of returning to the exit, they consulted a highway map and picked a secondary route that skirted the Wild Rogue Wilderness, a remote area of southwestern Oregon.
    After encountering heavy snow at high elevation on Bear Camp Road, they turned, by mistake, onto one of hundreds of unpaved logging roads loosely supervised by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A road gate which was supposed to prevent such mistakes was open in spite of BLM rules requiring that it be closed. Media outlets reported that vandals had cut a lock on the gate, but a subsequent investigation showed that BLM employees had left it open to avoid trapping local hunters and others who might have ventured past it.[5]
    Early on the morning of November 26, the family stopped due to fatigue and bad weather. As more snow fell around their immobilized Saab 9-2X station wagon, the Kims kept warm by running its engine.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Super Moderator Malsua's Avatar
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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Well, it was to be an intellectual discussion. What do you do in his situation? I believe he made a few mistakes. How would YOU have survived in that situation.

    You have what he has. You're Mr Alpine trooper, but you are with him and his wife and children. How do you survive that one?

    I don't know that it's survivable other than to have stayed with the car.

    I think his biggest mistake was to have gone off road. Surely even with a bunch of snow he could have figured out where the road was?

    They had the right idea by burning the tires.

    I always have a GPS, I've had one since 2003 and I would have known where I was at but suppose you didn't? It might have been best just to stay with the car.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Quote Originally Posted by Malsua View Post
    I'm reading this and thinking, wow, I agree with this guy.

    When I'm done, I go back to the top and realize Rick wrote it. heh.

    Got an address for that location? These kinds of things always make me want to google Earth the spot so I can wrap my head around it better.
    No, no real address I can remember. I can tell how to "get there" though....

    Do a google Earth search for Hartsel, Colorado then follow Highway 24 westward until you come to a place called "Antero Junction". Intersection of Higway 24 and 285. Follow that road around and to the south now.

    You will come to RD 311 and follow that SW onto "Windmill Drive". There is an intersection at "Pitchfork" and Windmill. Stop there/

    Now zoom in carefully at that intersection and look back WNW into that area.

    If you're VERY careful, you can see a path coming from Windmill and going back to the west and slightly north, it's very hard to see... and I tiny white round looking object there.

    That's my old trailer it appears - looks like it is still there to this day.

    When I was there Only Windmill was cut in. None of those houses were there then. The loop for "Campfire" road was there, but no houses, and that's just about a mile from the road. Maybe a few dozen yards more. ALL of that was full of trees then too. It's very difficult to see it on there, but it was UPHILL from the road to the main road and UPHILL to my trailer.

    The climb up was close to 50' up from the road to where my old trailer sits.


    IF you can see the path there, closes to the road by the path there is a HUGE pine tree that has a tire swing on it (can't see that from the sat photo though).

    The houses directly south of where my trailer sits weren't there in those days either. The patch across the road from my property was owned by a deputy sheriff (who was and is a complete fucking asshole moron with less brains than badge too btw) and appears he has had thousands of trees removed. That whole lot was full of ancient old pine trees. Now it's a big empty fucking lot.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Looking now.
    Last edited by Malsua; January 18th, 2011 at 16:52.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    This it?

    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Quote Originally Posted by Malsua View Post
    To get back to Rick's post that we've horribly drawn astray..


    I want to know what you do in this situation.

    You're James Kim. A cnet editor, on your way home from Oregon. What do you do?

    This is a true story that happened a few years ago.:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim
    I know this story. This was covered extensively by Les Stroud on two different programs, one "Survivorman" and the other show an hour long "What if" kind of survival show.

    First of all - I wouldn't have made the wrong turn. I usually have a map, or several, and know where I am going. My wife too is aware of our location and keeps track of navigation when I am driving.

    While I have missed an exit from a freeway a few times, it's as simple, usually as doing a u turn and getting back on the right road immediately.

    I don't usually turn off on to dirt roads covered in snow in a vehicle that can't handle the road. I wouldn't have made that trip in my jeep even. The snow was deep, two or more feet.

    However, having gotten myself INTO that predicament - and my wife and baby I would immediately try to make sure of our situation - food and so forth. Usually we carry a lot of food with us on trips too, so we'd have had a few days worth of stuff. Water, easy, there was snow. I'd also have proper clothing to wear.

    If I recall, they had NONE of the following:

    Food
    Water
    cold weather clothing (they were wearing sneakers)
    They had no back packs or any easy way to carry things.

    What they didn't do was use their vehicle and parts of it to their advantage once they were stranded.

    They waited until their food ran out.

    They didn't tell anyone where they were going so no one knew they were missing for quite awhile.

    The police weren't looking for them.

    What I recall of the story was they both lost toes from frostbite, the baby survived (the poor thing went into a kind of hibernation) due to the cold and actually shut down a good portion of it's body.

    Preparation though, is always the key. Never set out on a long trip without knowing the situations you can be caught in. Sure people get surprised (even me) but knowing ahead of time what to expect is good. Panic is bad.

    In my case, I wasn't completely prepared, I didn't expect a blizzard or I'd have had more food in the place and I'd have had snow shoes there, as well as a better battery system, and I'd have had a radio (CB at the very LEAST!). I wasn't a ham yet, so I didn't have a ham rig, but I carry one now.

    Even when I go on the boat now, on the lake, I carry a ham rig with repeaters as well as marine frequencies programmed in (channel 16 on Marine is emergency).

    I carry water, food and warm clothing, and each of crew is required to bring a warm jacket, windbreaker, extra pants, shirt and socks, as well as any medical supplies they require if they go out even for a couple of hours with me.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Simply Survival

    Very good! You found it!

    If you look very carefully you can see the path we made with our car going up and down that.

    But, yes, thats it. I'm GUESSING that is the old trailer. That's precisely where it used to be sitting. I sold the trailer with the property and the new owner was going to put a house up there, but that was several years ago now - perhaps 8 or 9 now. I guess he never did.

    Also, the commie home owner's association there was telling me I had to MOVE the trailer or "be fined" but it turned out that I was "grandfathered" by the state on some things - including being told (in writing) that I could "use the property as an unimproved camp ground or hunting camp" - and the county later changed it's mind and the HOA changed their rules in flight (without approval from most of the people on the site).

    I sold the property to get out from under the HOA mostly. I hate those people.
    Libertatem Prius!


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