Thursday, December 2, 2010

Out in the Woods

Today I got a call that I had to go out into the woods to look at something.  Normally when I go out I spend the time in the woods by myself.  Today I was with four other people including one very well armed peace officer.  While the other three walked off, peace officer and I hung out together. 

We needed the peace officer not because of the violation that we were looking at but because in many places out in the woods violent criminals are hanging out.  They are either growing pot or working in drug labs.  In either case, they are often seen fully armed walking through hilly treed areas near water.  They set booby traps.  They intimidate the locals and are stealth enough that understaffed law enforcement isn’t able to catch them. 

It was a good day out in the woods.  I got to spend time discussing and practicing situational awareness in a possibly dangerous situation.  As we went through the woods higher in elevation than the three others that were with us, we were looking for evidence of footprints, broken branches, and bent over grasses.  There were many rock outcroppings and I searched for hidden shelters or evidence of any human occupation. Fortunately we didn’t come across any. 

One of the things that was done very wrong was the parking.  I left my 4X4 truck at our meeting place around 10 miles away.  The five of us went out in two vehicles.  Both four wheel drive.  We were on dirt roads for about five miles.  The roads for the most part were good enough that only two wheel drive was needed.  This was only because they’ve only had a few inches of rain so far.  Once the rain and snow starts the road would be a muddy slimy mess that even the 4X4 wouldn’t have gotten through.  The vehicle I was riding in had lousy tires, which I commented on.  The driver said that he’s not going to ask for new tires until next year.  I wouldn’t go out in the woods with those tires if the road weren’t good.  He’s going to get stuck somewhere this winter, I can guarantee that.  Anyway, about 1/8 mile before the locked gate the road started to get really slimy.  He put the truck into four wheel drive and turned it around.  The driver said that he didn’t think the other vehicle should come that far and possibly get stuck.  In my opinion the road was slimy but still could have been used by the other vehicle to turn around.

Instead, since the driver thought it would be a bad idea, he had the other vehicle park before getting to the slimy area.  The road was so narrow, with hill slope going up on one side and steeply dropping off on the other side, that the big trucks couldn’t turn around.  There were very few turnouts on that road. 

We got out of the vehicles and walked into the dangerous property leaving the trucks parked in the middle of the road.  The dumb part was that ours was facing going out but the other truck was facing coming in.  If we had to make a quick escape we couldn’t as our route was being blocked by our other vehicle.  I spoke to our peace office about this and he said that he’s able to drive backwards quickly.  I thought that was very arrogant.

We didn’t have any incidents while we were out collecting evidence, but what if we did?  What if we needed to make a quick escape?  The person driving the other truck had to back down a narrow road for almost two miles before he came to a spot wide enough to turn around.  He certainly didn’t go fast and the vehicle I was in was stuck behind it. 

We are taught about safety zones and escape routes but today we were complete failures on following through with what has been taught.   I think I was the only one who even thought about it.  This I think makes it worse because I did think about it and still allowed it to happen.  I was the highest ranking person there but I let those who requested me make the decisions as to not step on their toes.  So today, rather than say we were failures, I need to put the blame solely on me.  I knew better, I pointed it out, but did not insist on doing it right.  Fortunately for us, harvest season is over; the bad guys are gone for a couple of months. 

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