Pilot story and photos by Bill Schlichting
GOLD BEACH Contrary to common thought, the most dangerous part of exploring the backwoods is not being attacked by a cougar or bitten by a rattlesnake it's tripping on a rock.
Since 1900, there have been 12 people killed by cougars in the United States, said Al Collinet, coordinator of Muscle Busters hikes, during a program titled "Safety and Response when Hiking" at Gold Beach Books Thursday night.
"Cougars are not interested in people," Collinet said, "although they do love dogs."
People are also reluctant to go on a backwoods hike for fear of rattlesnakes, but in the past 10 years, only 15 people have died from being bitten by poisonous snakes, Collinet said. Most of these snake bites have been along the southern tier of states from Arizona to Florida.
"The most dangerous animals to watch out for are deer, because you might run into one on the road," Collinet quipped.
The situation most hikers find themselves in is needing to be rescued because of an injury or being ill-prepared for the excursion.
Cathy Boden, who leads "Exploring Your Backyard" hikes in the Port Orford area, shared information on what hikers should carry with them to be prepared.
She stressed wearing the right clothes when going on a hike and, more importantly, wearing proper fitting shoes suitable for the terrain.
"The feet get the most abuse," Boden said, adding that socks are just as important as shoes.
Boden recommended bringing several pairs of socks on a hike. In the event a hiker's feet get wet, socks can be changed to keep the feet dry.
Wet or sweaty feet can become blistered, Boden said. Be aware of warning signs, such as a sore spot developing on a foot, and deal with it before it becomes a blister.
Bringing plenty of water is important, Boden said. She recommended starting to drink lots of water three days before the hike. When a person is well hydrated, their urine will be clear. Take plenty of water on the hike as well.
Hiking should not be a means of losing weight. Indulge in carbohydrates and protein, Boden said. In addition, bring all necessary medications.
Even when planning to be out for just the day, be prepared to spend the night.
"Bring essentials just in case you have to stay the night unexpectedly," Boden said. A tent isn't necessary, but a tarp is handy. Also, bring extra food and water.
People should never go out for an all-day hike unless physically and mentally ready.
"Exercise on a regular basis and work up," Boden said. If participating in the hikes led by local leaders, start with Sole Pursuits hikes, which offer two- to three-hour hikes. Muscle Buster hikes take all day and often traverse steep terrain.
When on a group hike, Boden said to "know your limits and share them with the group."
If a hiker is afraid of heights, they should let someone in the group know so if they encounter a portion of trail perched on a bluff, someone can help the person along it.
"Pay attention to subtle changes in a member of a group," Boden said. If a person appears to be "losing it" or is overly fatigued, complaining of pain, the group leader should be alerted.
She also said to watch for goal-oriented hikers. These people may want to guide a group to the top of the mountain even though the group leader may recognize something, such as weather conditions, that may cause a decision to turn around.
"It's best to take risks on your own time not when in a group," Boden said.
If there is a problem and someone in a group needs to be evacuated, self-evacuation is faster than going to get help, Boden said.
"But know when help is needed," she said. "Also, know where you are and what is needed. Expect a 12- to 24-hour turnaround time for rescuers."
Capt. Allen Boice of the Curry County Sheriff's Department said it is important not to "second guess yourself call search and rescue."
Boden said that it is important to get as much information as possible about the situation.
Once contact is made, rescuers will need the information to determine when to send a team, how many people, and what equipment is needed. Depending on the situation, action on a rescue call at 10 p.m. may not take place until morning, especially if a person is lost, said Fred Birum of Curry County Search and Rescue.
"We don't like to put our people at risk," Boice said.
If a person is on a trail in a known location, rescuers will be on their way regardless of what time it is. And if necessary, an ambulance will be as close as possible.
Boden said that if a hiker has taken a bad fall, always assume their may be a spinal injury. Don't move the patient unless their life is in danger.
When helping a victim while help is on the way, give other members in the group something to do, Boden said. Have them build a campfire. This will provide warmth and keeps them out of the way.
Also, if someone in the group hikes out to get help, make sure they don't get in a hurry. Being in a rush can cause a second injury, Boden said.
In addition to learning about hiking safety, those attending the program were given information about search and rescue equipment, shown pictures of search and rescue operations and training.