Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mountain lions, rattlesnakes, hiking, mapping, and a new way home

Today I had to go out into the foothills for a work project.  In the area I was working in I was not allowed to carry any kind of weapon.  No handgun, no knife, nothing that can be construed as a weapon.  Normally I wouldn't mind but today I wasn't too happy about it.  You see, the area is known to have mountain lions and the weather was perfect for running across rattlesnakes.  I was working by myself, which I prefer.  I could have had an armed person with me but that would have been too much of a hassle.  Instead I had to figure out how to keep myself safe. 

First thing I did was put on my boots with the 10" tops.  I prefer 8" but the extra two inches will help if a snake tries to bite.  As soon as I got into the wildlands I picked up a big stick to carry as a walking stick, and also to make me look larger.  Fortunately I didn't come across any mountain lions.  I did come across a snake but it made noise before I got too close. 

I didn't have the GPS running to track where I was going.  I started in a valley in the middle of my project area.  I hiked up the hill to the ridge and hiked south on the ridge, got to the end of the project and turned around and hiked north on the ridge.  I was able to map the spot I was looking for on a regular quad map by looking at the topography of where I was at and then looking across the valley to the opposite ridgeline.  After I mapped it I turned on the GPS and took a waypoint and also wrote down the UTM.  At the end of the day I plotted it on the computer and I was right on with what I plotted on the map.  That was a great feeling. 

On the way home I found a road I've never been on.  That's unusual since I was less than 100 miles from home.  I've pretty much been on every road in this area.  It was a good road to learn because if the road that I was on today got closed for any reason I'd be able to go on this round about way to get back to town.  One really needs to know how to get from point A to point B using not only the main road or the most likely road but out of the way roads to get away from the masses of people, if there are any.  I was listening to the radio today and heard that there was a fatal accident on the freeway and two of the three lanes were closed.  I wasn't anywhere near there but if I was I could have gotten around the congestion without having to look at a map. 

Can you do that within 50 miles of your home?  What about within 100 miles?  Often if someone has to get off the main road that they are familiar with, their heart rate increases just because of the change out of the ordinary.  You need to stop your normal driving routine and take other routes.  An emergency situation is not the time to have to come up with a new way home. 


  1. That is great advice. I know escape from home and can get some round about stuff to avoid the city if needed but not really parallel to the city. Might be worth knowing those as well. Thanks for giving me some things to think about. Of course also have to avoid trouble spots on those side detours which is why I chose my long way around but a safe but quicker route is worth knowing.

  2. Always fun to find a new way. I use a ski pole when I walk in snake country. I used to ski, so I have a few around, but I found them to be light, easy to lash to a pack if not needed and usable for things like a fly or tent pole for shade.