Thoughts on safety

In light of recent events, (and, more appropriately, the reaction to it) words from Colin Fletcher as written in The Complete Walker seem appropriate:

But if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone, either – or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. Wear wool next to the skin. Ensure every good and chattel you possess against every conceivable contingency the future might bring, even if the premiums half-cripple the present. Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see all roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom, you will probably live to be a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.



9 Replies to “Thoughts on safety”

  1. And…”Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 [dead]

  2. Ok I agree with Mr Fletcher. I’m a fan of r.f.scott’s final words, ‘we take risks, so it’s on us’. But it’s about more than us, what about family & others back home? How do they get news, even in the digital age? There needs to be a less confusing way to decrease home panic. Look at the big 3 trails & nps websites. Look at all the clutter, which is not useful in a crisis, & increases stress while looking for news. At the top of all web sites should be an easy to see & find button to click for news, safety news, violent crime reports. Yes, I know law enforcement can’t reveal all facts, their job is difficult enough without frantic family calling. BTW, I was out on the at in 1990 when Molly & Geoff were killed. Thanks for listening.

    1. I’m not sure what you are saying? Only go out if there is a good user interface on a trail website? Plus there’s more to the outdoors than thruhiking trails.
      So, it is on us.

      1. Come on. I didn’t say don’t go out. I tried to say, what would my mother do? Where would she go to get news? when the 24/7 media rumblings start. Out in the middle of nowhere a digital device may not work. You may not be able to phone home. You may not even know there’s an incident. You may be in an information black hole. But the roar surrounding an event could grow & scare my mother. I was thinking of all the people back home stressing out. And the phone calls my mom did get in 1990. And the phone calls alot of mother’s received just recently.

        1. I’m not saying you said anything, I’m just not sure of your point.

          People get stressed? How to not stress people out? That websites need better UI and webmasters? Do we need better communication methods? That’s a different discussion. And I am still not entirely sure what you are getting at.

          However, if you’d like to clarify your thoughts, I invite you to write about it and post on your website or other social media channel in a separate article and link over here.

  3. The AT is a bit more unique in long trails in that it has numerous points where it is very close to towns that increase the likelihood of encountering nuts vs something like the CDT. Having said that, I have wondered whether having something like Bear spray or Pepper Spray make sense to carry on a pack shoulder strap or hip belt not just for Bears but bad encounters with aggressive people?

    1. Bear and pepper spray are much like a firearm in the sense that

      A) Different jurisdictions have different rules and regulations (esp. in populated AT-like areas. Mass requires a firearm permit, for example)

      And while bear spray is (mainly) legal to carry in most areas, it’s effectiveness on humans may not work for aggressive attackers:

      And the legality of pepper spray on Federal lands is murky. Technically, the AT (and some other National Scenic Trails) are under NPS administration:

      Go a place like Arches NP or Yellowstone on other trails, routes, and just a general backpacking trip, and you might not be able to carry pepper spray.

      B) Requires some knowledge and practice to use effectively

      C) If not careful, you could cause more harm than good. Pepper spray on a windy day could backfire, for example.

      Having said all that, because people are now more concerned about perceived safety issues on the AT in particular (with its high user base), I think it is only a matter of time before there are accidental bear macings…or worse.

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