Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Luxury versus Survival (Part 5)

(Click on the photo to enlarge) 

Above is a photo of a warning at the ranger station at Grand Canyon National Park. Here is an article about Margaret's death.  

While most modern tales of survival revolve around natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, earthquakes), that's a very narrow vision of adversity.  In fact, we probably bring on more adversity to ourselves and our human race with our risky behaviors than nature does. Recreational boating is a common weekend activity...yet we hear endless tales each summer about some search-and-rescue for those lost at sea.  The same stories surface about adventurers in the wild, such as mountain climbers, skiers, hikers, kayakers, and weekend backpackers. 

Ironically, the Grandview Trail that Margaret Bradley and her friend began down was the one Brain M, I, and friends took into the GC a few years ago.  I saw these same exact warning posters and thought to myself, "Are we the same fools who don't know what we're getting into?"  She left the rim with the same confidence we did....right? I'm sure she didn't take that first step down into the GC with any thoughts about not getting back out alive.  But we had compasses, topo maps, and an experienced hiker with us to hold our hands....but were we really any different? I'm not sure of the answer to that question even now. But, we are alive; she is not.

I'm a bit of an adventure-seeker myself, probably much like Margaret Bradley.  But what distinguishes foolishness from a challenge??  There is value in seeking an adventure and testing your limits, but at what cost?  Challenges must be tackled with planning and preparation, and after gathering information to make rational and safe decisions.  We went into the GC with ways to purify and filter water. We brought medical supplies, clothes for the uncertain weather, and backpacking stoves. We had physically prepared for the overnight trip by climbing stairs and hills here in Illinois. We carried extra food and supplies, and needed them after medical and weather issues!   We even discussed various options for helping one of our own who was dehydrated and vomiting, unsure if she was able to climb out on her own.

While I never had to gamble on our last ditch effort to get all of us out that trip, I neverthless emerged out of the big hole a changed person. After the GC experience, I know myself to be better prepared for life's obstacles.  The emotional turmoil, and the planning discussions about rescuing one of our own was a life lesson no one can take away from me. I am proud our group decided on several rescue options, all of which I still hold to be fundamentally solid...even with 20/20 vision of hindsight.  It was not only a survival mindset that allowed us to develop plans, but logical "if-then" thinking that weighed the probabilities, risks, and chances of success/failure.

Each week (or day) there is a tragedy of flooding, fire, storm, or earthquake. But even though we as a human race know of the possibility or probability of certain occurrences, why do we still not accept a survivalist's approach to preparation?  How does physical, emotional, or mental fitness factor into the answer?

Photo credit:  Bill Qualls www.billqualls.com 

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