Predicament: You’re crawling into your tent when your hand brushes something small and furry. You recoil–but not before a bat bites your finger. Blood seeps from the wound as you wonder, “Was it rabid?”

Lifeline: First, stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean cloth, then begin cleansing. Immediate, vigorous washing can prevent the transmission of the rabies virus. Irrigate the bite with a high-pressure jet of clean water from a syringe or hydration bladder, then clean it with soap and water. Also apply antiseptic wipes soaked with benzalkonium chloride, alcohol, or povidone iodine, which minimize risk of transmission. Do not close the wound; keep it loosely covered and clean it daily to prevent general infections.

If you can kill the animal, do so. Otherwise, record the species, behavior, appearance, and location. Rabies is a rare but deadly disease (three Americans died from it in 2006), so immediately hike out to seek medical treatment. Vaccinations are most effective when started within 24 to 36 hours of infection. Once symptoms appear, which takes between a week and several months depending on the proximity of the bite to the brain, it’s too late.


Predicament: You’re two days into a weeklong trip when the mutiny in your bowels escalates to full-scale revolt. Now you can hardly walk–you’re doubled over with intense stomach cramps, and suffering from explosive diarrhea, a mild fever, and nausea. How does a tortured hiker find relief?

Lifeline: Your gut is a battlefield, and whatever the marauding invader–virus, bacteria, or parasite–the treatment is the same. Your biggest concern is dehydration. Most bouts of infectious diarrhea subside within 72 hours, so camp near a reliable water source and wait it out. Steadily sip water, along with a diluted energy drink to replace electrolytes. (A teaspoon of salt and 4 tablespoons sugar in a liter of water is also a good rehydration solution.) Avoid excessive sugar in snacks, which inhibits water absorption. Have your catholes dug ahead of time, and wash your hands after you use them. If you have a high fever and bloody stool, don’t take an antimotility agent like Imodium A-D, which can slow the purge of bad bacteria. You need an antibiotic. Reintroduce solid foods (the blander the better) as soon as symptoms start to ebb. Persistent fever, a swollen abdomen, and/or diarrhea for more than three days are signs of more serious trouble; evacuate and seek medical help.

Predicament: You’re crossing a steep talus field when a rock shifts, folding your ankle like flimsy tent stake. You hobble over to a boulder as your foot begins to throb.

Lifeline: Loosen your boot, but don’t remove it (swelling could make it hard to put back on). Test your ankle. If it can’t bear weight, you feel severe stabbing pains, and you heard a “pop” when it twisted, you have a fracture or severed ligaments. Improvise a splint with a rolled sleeping pad, clothing, and straps, then evacuate to the nearest road. If the pain is manageable, you’re probably facing a bad sprain (stretched or partially torn ligaments). Apply a water bladder or zip-top bag filled with cool water or snow as soon as possible to limit inflammation and speed healing. After 30 minutes, wrap your foot by threading an ACE bandage under your arch and around your ankle in a figure-8 pattern. Tie your boot as tight as you can stand it, and try walking. Offload gear to lighten your backpack, and make a crutch by wrapping a t-shirt over a pole. Your routine until you reach the nearest trailhead is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Stop every hour to elevate and cool your ankle. Take ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.

Predicament: You’re several miles into a solo dayhike when you pass a aggressive-looking man who seems out of place on the trail. You pick up your pace, but he follows and demands loudly that you turn around.

Lifeline: Keep walking. Look for other hikers and ask to join their group. If the stranger persists, give a slight wave and continue moving. If you have no choice but to engage him, keep your answers short, and your tone flat and neutral. Tell him you’re hiking with friends who are nearby. Be as calm as possible. Make eye contact and rest your hands by your side. Crossed arms can be interpreted as a defensive stance, and won’t allow you to react quickly. If he takes a step toward you, step back. He might want to scare you away from trailside criminal activity, such as a meth lab, marijuana cultivation, or illegal dumping.

If the stranger shows or mentions a weapon and asks for money, don’t resist. But if he attacks, yell for help and fight back aggressively. Shout, bite, scratch, poke—and aim for vital areas like the eyes, groin, and throat. As soon as you can get away, drop your pack, run to the nearest trailhead, and alert authorities.


Posted: August 17, 2014 in Backpacking

You catch sight of a life-list bird and stop to take photos, telling the group you’ll catch up soon. Ten minutes later, you stow your camera and set off briskly, only to realize after a mile that the trail you’re following isn’t a trail at all.

Stop. “Lost hikers can make their situation much worse by moving in haste,” says John Race, owner and guide at Washington’s Northwest Mountain School. Instead of shouting, blow three short blasts on a whistle. In most cases, your friends will be looking (and listening) for you. If not, mark your present location with sticks and attempt to backtrack to the original trail. If you can’t find it, or get more disoriented, return to your original lost location, find a visible spot to wait, and signal for help. Bushwhack to regain the trail only if you can see your destination, have good navigation skills and a compass or GPS, and won’t encounter impassable terrain.

Once you regain the trail, attempt to follow your group. If you don’t know which direction to take at trail junctions, stop and signal with your whistle. Your friends will find you there.


This song is one of my beautiful wife’s favs.

Capo at 1st Fret


G G7
I was standing by the window

On one cold and cloudy day

And I saw the hearse come rolling

G7 D7 G
For to carry my mother away


G G7
Will the circle be unbroken

Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye

There’s a better home a-waiting

G D7 G
In the sky, Lord, in the sky


G G7
Lord I told the undertaker,

“Undertaker, please drive slow,

For this body you are haulin’

G7 D7 G
Lord, I hate to see her go.”


G G7
Will the circle be unbroken

Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye

There’s a better home a-waiting

G D7 G
In the sky, Lord, in the sky


G G7
I followed close behind her,

Tried to hold up and be brave,

But I could not hide my sorrow

G7 D7 G
When they laid her in the grave.


G G7
Will the circle be unbroken

Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye

There’s a better home a-waiting

G D7 G
In the sky, Lord, in the sky


G G7
Went back home lord – My home was lonesome;

Yes my mother she was gone.

All my brothers, sisters cryin’

G7 D7 G
What a home so sad and lone.


G G7
Will the circle be unbroken

Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye

There’s a better home a-waiting

G D7 G
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Questions AND answers for the “are you ready to go Backpacking” quiz

1. Heavy rains have been predicted for your outing. To keep water from flooding your tent you should:

A) Place a plastic ground cloth under the floor. Be sure it doesn’t extend beyond the floor.
B) Place a plastic ground cloth inside your tent. Make the ground cloth a foot larger than the tent, all around.
C) Dig a shallow trench around the tent perimeter. Slope the trench so it will drain water.
D) Equip every tent with a sponge so accumulated water can be quickly removed.

Answer: B. Flowing ground water enters a tent through ground-level seams, damaged seam tape or worn fabric. An interior plastic ground cloth will keep accumulated water away from your sleeping gear. Make your ground cloth a foot larger (all-round) than the floor of your tent so it “flows” up the sidewalls a bit. Water that enters your tent will be trapped between the plastic “bathtub” and tent floor — and you’ll stay dry. Four-millimeter thick plastic sheeting (available at hardware stores) makes a good ground cloth.

2. Which of these would not be a good fire starter?

A) Dead, pencil-thin sticks from the base of an evergreen tree
B) Splittings from a dead evergreen stump
C) Green cedar (cedar oil) foliage
D) Resin from the trunk of a balsam fir or spruce tree
E) Newspaper

Answer: C. Green cedar foliage burns poorly. However, E is also a correct answer if the newspaper is damp or if you’re camping in humid weather and using newspaper as a starter.

3. Which knots/hitches are best used to rig a tent, rain tarp or clothesline?

A) Square knot, sheet bend and timber hitch
B) Trucker’s hitch, half hitches and sheet bend
C) Bowline, overhand knot, Prusik knot
D) Clove hitch, taut-line hitch, bowline

Answer: B.The trucker’s hitch (power cinch) is faster to tie and more powerful than the taut-line hitch. It is also easier to secure around a tree or pole, and unlike the taut-line, it won’t slip under load. The Prusik knot (loop) is sometimes useful when pitching tarps.

4. Knots used to rig tents and tarps should always be completed with:

A) An S knot
B) Two half hitches
C) A stopper knot
D) A slippery (quick release) loop

Answer: D. Knots used for rigging tents and tarps should end with a slippery (quick release) loop so you can get them out quickly, with a single pull.

5. Boots should be sized so you can wear two pairs of socks — one thick pair and one thin pair. Socks should be wool or synthetic, but not cotton. You should:

A) Wear the thin pair inside out next to your skin. Then put on the thick pair.
B) Same as above but wear both socks right side out.
C) Put on the heavy socks first, inside out. Then put on the lighter socks.
D) It doesn’t matter how you wear your socks.

Answer: A. Blisters are less likely if you wear the liner socks inside out. This will keep abrasive seams away from your skin. Heavy socks should always be worn over lighter socks.

6. Your campsite is on a slight incline. You’ll have to level your bed with spare clothes to sleep comfortably. The best way to pitch your tent is:

A) With the head end facing uphill
B) With the foot end facing uphill
C) Sideways to the hill
D) It doesn’t matter as long as you have a nice thick sleeping mat.

Answer: C. Pitch your tent across the incline and level your bed by placing spare clothes under the downhill side of your sleeping pad. You’ll sleep in a slight trough, on the level. If you pitch your tent head-high and stack spare clothes under your legs (so you won’t slide downhill), you’ll create a “hammock” position that may cause back pain.

7. It is a beautiful sunny day. High in the sky you see wispy cirrus clouds (horse tails). This indicates:

A) The nice weather will continue for several days.
B) A long, slow rain will probably begin within 24 hours.
C) A short, heavy rain will begin in a day or two.
D) You will soon experience high winds but no rain.

Answer: B. High cirrus clouds are composed of ice crystals thrown skyward by an approaching warm front. Rain is likely to begin within a day or two, and it could last for several days.

8. It’s early morning and the mosquitoes are biting more than usual. Around noon, they stop biting. What gives?

A) It will rain soon.
B) High winds are approaching (mosquitoes don’t fly well in wind) but no rain.
C) A new hatch of mosquitoes has just become mature.
D) They are simply done feeding.

Answer: A. The low pressure of an advancing storm encourages insects to stock up on food before it rains.

9. You are going backpacking on a well-maintained trail. You should arrange things in your pack so:

A) Heavier items are at the bottom of your pack
B) Lighter items are at the bottom of your pack
C) It makes no difference as long as your pack has an internal or external frame.
D) It’s best to distribute the weight uniformly throughout the pack.

Answer: B. Place heavier items on top when hiking groomed trails. Put them low in the pack when bushwhacking.

10. You have observed a black bear near your camp. Fortunately, you have a can of cayenne pepper spray. What should you do?

A) Spray the door of your tent and your food packs to keep the bear away.
B) Spray the bear if he comes into camp.
C) If the bear chases you, climb a tree and spray the bear from up in the tree.
D) Throw rocks at any bear that comes into your camp.

Answer: B. NEVER spray tents and equipment! Bears don’t like to be sprayed with pepper, but they do like the taste of it. Pepper-sprayed items will attract bears, not repel them! Black bears climb trees better than most humans; it is best to stand your ground and spray the bear from behind a tree. Throw rocks at a bear ONLY if human life is in danger. The bear you hit may respond by attacking you.

11. You are planning to backpack along a river that has very silty water. You can carry your drinking water (one gallon per person per day), or you can draw water from the river and purify it — that is, if you can prevent the silt from clogging your filter. What should you do?

A) Don’t mess around; just carry fresh water.
B) Pre-treat the water with alum and then run it through your purifier.
C) Place the river water in buckets. The silt will settle in about an hour, and then you can purify the water.
D) Silty water cannot be safely purified.

Answer: B. Here’s the procedure: Add one heaping tablespoon of alum to two gallons of water. Stir slowly, in the same direction, for about three minutes or until you see a snowy precipitate forming. Stop stirring. Allow the precipitate to settle (about 15 minutes). The clear water on top can then be purified.

12. The best way to clean a synthetic-fill sleeping bag is to:

A) Hand or machine wash it.
B) Dry-clean it.
C) Synthetic bags can be dry-cleaned or washed.

Answer: A. Synthetic-fill sleeping bags should be hand or machine washed, never dry-cleaned.

13. What is the most effective way to purify drinking water, besides boiling the water?

A) Use a water filter.
B) Use a water filter/purifier.
C) Treat the water with halazone tablets, which release chlorine.

Answer: B. Filters (A) trap most microorganisms (but not viruses). Filter/purifiers (B) kill all bacteria and some viruses. Purifiers are more effective than filters, but they flow more slowly. Halazone (C) doesn’t work well in cold or cloudy water.

14. You are buying new rain gear and know that mosquitoes and black flies are attracted to certain colors. Which color should you avoid?

A) Bright yellow
B) Light green
C) Red
D) Navy blue

Answer: D. Navy blue is the worst color you can wear in bug country. Dark colors tend to attract more insects than light colors.

15. You are buying a new summer tent. Which feature is least important?

A) A waterproof fly that covers every seam and zipper
B) Good ventilation
C) Fast setup
D) No-see-um bug netting

Answer: D. Wide-mesh mosquito netting provides better ventilation and is easier to see through than fine-mesh no-see-um netting. If you spray netting with permethrin or repellents, no-see-ums won’t fly through. Fast setup and good ventilation are a blessing in any tent. And a waterproof fly that covers every seam and zipper ensures the tent won’t leak in heavy rains.

16. You arise early in the morning to discover your tent fly is wet from dew. The smoke from your campfire is going straight up. This suggests:

A) Today will be a beautiful sunny day.
B) There will be no wind today.
C) The temperature will slowly drop during the day.
D) It will rain today.

Answer: A. Dew indicates the temperature has already reached the dew point and there was insufficient moisture for rain. Rising smoke indicates high pressure and a nice day.

17. There is a lightning storm in progress. You count 10 seconds between the lightning flash and the boom of thunder. Roughly how far away is the lightning strike?

A) 1 mile
B) 2 miles
C) 5 miles
D) 10 miles

Answer: B. Divide the time interval by five. Your answer in miles is based upon the speed of sound, which is roughly 1,126 feet per second, or about 1 mile in five seconds.

18. You are cooking on a gasoline trail stove. Which of these is a bad practice?

A) Placing an appropriate-sized pot on the burner
B) Using unleaded automotive gasoline in your stove
C) Refueling a cold stove

Answer: B. Always use a pot that’s not oversized for the size stove you’re using. Automotive gas (B) is dirtier and possibly more volatile than refined naphtha (Coleman and Blazo fuels). Refueling a hot stove can cause an explosion, so always refuel a cold stove (C).

19. You are toasting some bread in a skillet. How can you best prevent the bread slice from sticking and burning?

A) Generously oil the skillet.
B) Make sure the skillet is completely free of oil.
C) Shake a little salt into the dry skillet then set the bread slice on top of the salt.
D) Set the bread slice in the skillet, and then prop the skillet at a 45-degree angle to face the fire.

Answer: C. An old woodsman’s trick. Salt will keep the bread from sticking to the pan. If you oil the pan, you’ll have “fry bread,” not toast.

20. Which of the following should Scouts not wear on a hiking trip?

A) Blue jeans
B) Nylon trousers
C) Cotton-polyester (60/40) trousers
D) Wool trousers

Answer: A. Many cases of hypothermia have been traced to wearing cotton blue jeans.