A Woodsman’s Wisdom

Conlon Kane, Staff Writer

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In my short time on this planet, I have spent a rather significant amount of time in the wilderness.  I am an Eagle Scout who has gone on backpacking trips, spent the night on more than one mountain, backpacked for 96 miles through the New Mexican backcountry, and spent a week on a deserted island in the Florida Keys.

When taking a trip into the wilderness, it’s important to pack only what you need.  If you don’t follow this one simple rule, you may find yourself in a rather uncomfortable situation.  

In order to know what your bare essentials are, a few things need to be taken into account.  What are you doing while in the great outdoors? Where are you going? What time of year is it?  Is the local weather different from the general area you’re in?

That last one can be tricky, and has put me in a bind on more than one occasion.  Usually it winds up being a minor problem, but on one particular adventure it proved to be more of a 40 foot wall than a hurdle.  

While in New Mexico in July, it is natural to think that rain gear will not be essential.  However, if you are in the mountains near Cimarron, a small adorable little western town, this is not the case.  After about three days of steady hiking into the mountains, my crew hit our first rain storm; from there it didn’t stop.  Now, circling back to the rain gear situation, I had bought what I thought was a raincoat, though I never bothered to check.  I marched along in the pouring rain for about 5 miles before my crew reached camp.   After camp was set up, I proceeded to move about camp in wet clothes.  Anyone who knows anything about hiking knows that that is just a bad idea, especially when you have another 11 days of hiking to go.  I went to my tent to retrieve my raincoat, when I discovered something that was less than pleasant.  The raincoat I bought turned out to be a lovely pair of green rain pants.  Unsure of what to do, I went to my adult leader and told him my predicament.  His solution was, if nothing else, effective.  I took a rather large black trash bag, made a hole in the bottom, and turned it into my own personal rain poncho.  For about a week and a half I wore this trash bag, leading to my trail name, the Sack.  

On this trip there were many  complications, but none were as demoralizing as when I fell down in the middle of the trail.  I had cut a hole in my trash bag for my head, but not for my arms.  When I fell, I rolled down the trail for a good while before stopping; then I had to try and stand up.  Standing up with a 70 pound backpack on and only about six inches of reach for your arms really gives you an appreciation for what the T-Rex went through every day.

Dealing with this taught me three things: 1) never forget your rain gear, 2) always be prepared, and 3) if you find yourself wearing a trash bag for a rain coat, remember to cut holes in it for your arms, catching yourself when you fall is not fun when you can’t extend your arms more than six inches from your body.

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