Picture yourself on an off-road adventure in the middle of nowhere, cell coverage is non-existent, the stars are beginning to poke through the night sky and your group is settling in for an evening around the camp fire when across the way you hear one of your mates crashing down the hill… then nothing.
Off-road adventures are a great and allow us to get away from it all by exploring the road much less traveled. But with that isolation comes the very real danger that someone may get seriously injured in a place where dialing 911 is not an option (don’t think it could happen to you than read “Trouble Off-road In Moab“) . So how do you prepare for minor scrapes, cuts, and broken bones as well as life threatening injuries?
Andy, a paramedic and member of the Northwest Overland Society put together a three day trip, centered around teaching CPR and wilderness first aid so we could be better prepared to help out in an emergency on the trail.
If you have taken CPR or first aid, you know this material is dry at best and down right mind numbing in the hands of a monotone instructor… but Andy managed to make it entertaining, keeping the group engaged and ensuring we all walked away with the skills necessary just in case he is the one who takes a fall on the trail. The training started out in Tacoma, on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University. And although this portion involves CPR manikins, they are just not as much fun as you might imagine. But despite the Ken Doll Dummies, we did manage to learn 30 and 2, Check, Call, Care and enough key points to all pass our CPR test.
Along the way Andy slipped in some of the major issues we may have to deal with in the wilderness. He also discussed how to get comfortable in the role as leaders out on the trail. Leadership in a crisis is hard to prepare for and any time you can practice, the time is well spent.
After we said goodbye to the CPR dummies, some in the group having more trouble letting go than others, it was onto Blue Lake for the wilderness first aid portion of the training.
The drive to Eastern Washington took us over the Snoqualmie Pass and into the Yakima Valley. Even from the highway the view is amazing and foreshadowed what was to come on the trail. We made our last stop in Yakima to gas up and collect stranglers before heading to the trail.
This is the first run I’ve had the opportunity to take with the NW Overland Society. The crew included: Craig (leader of the NW Overland Society), Andy (our trip leader), Todd & Scott up from PDX, Dan, the other Scott, Dave, Joe & Daria as well as Isaac visiting from New York. Blue Lake is near the Rim Rock area, a high mountain desert around 6,700 ft. above sea-level where the days are hot, dry and windy followed by nights in which the mercury plummets, even in August.
Because of… lets just call it a lot of friendship renewal time, our start on the trail was a bit late. But that meant we had the opportunity to do a little nighttime driving which is one of my favorite activities. Even before the sunset, visibility was at a minimum from all the rigs kicking up a thick layer of fine Eastern Washington dust into the air. The trail in was easy enough even in the dark and before you knew it we were at the lake pitching camp.
By the time I tossed out my sleeping bag and bivy sack, many in the crew were putting the finishing touches on their roof top Shangri-Las. Plush, easy to pitch and high on cool factor, roof top tents represent the ultimate roughing it easy of over-landing. I got to look into getting me one.
Cold nights mean one thing to friends on the trail… fire side BS. Although I’d never run with this crew before, they have to be some of the best guys around… welcoming me into the group as if I’d been running with them for years. We were all up until way past late laughing, telling stories and having a great time by the fire trying to stay warm.
Of course the morning came crashing in hard as the sun hit my bivy sack… I guess those roof top tents come with blackout curtains since they didn’t pile out for another couple of hours. That day Andy showed us the proper techniques for dealing with cuts, bruises, dehydration, broken bones and bleeders. But more importantly Andy worked with us to understand the choices we would be making as leaders in these situations.
No one wants to stop a trip halfway because of an injury, have a person ride out the rest of the trip in pain or sit by their friend and hold his hand as they pass but accidents happen. As the group leader we may have to make the hard decisions. And while you can never be fully prepared, Andy provided us with the tools we may need to hopefully make the right choice when the time comes.
Discussing blood and guts all day can be a stop sign to a good time, but with the sun going down and another fireside session the crew was back to laughing until all the wood in camp was gone. This is definitely the way to remind yourself why you take the risks of going out to the middle of nowhere. The last day found the crew packing up after breakfast which came sometime around noon… did I mention those roof top tents fold up as fast as they pitch.
Ok, all first aid and no wheeling makes Jack a cranky boy. This crew was made up of folks of all different wheeling levels so we talked a little about the trails choices that would allow everyone to challenge themselves a bit without over doing it for anyone. We took a couple of 4×4 trails out to some amazing vistas.
The trail provided good practice helping some learn about their rig’s capability and the proper line choice as well as giving others the chance to choose the more difficult lines. At the top we were rewarded with panoramic views of the cascades and rim rock in all their glory. Up there… if you couldn’t hear God talking to you… you weren’t listening. Dan’s rig is the Land Rover Defender 90 series, outfitted for going just about anywhere.
Handing me the keys and letting drive was a chance of a life time. This is the rig that the English explored the world from, or as close as you’re going to get these days and driving it was everything you’d expect. It is British… Utilitarian and full of personality… Sure there are quirks about Land Rovers you need to accept, but if you want to experience the ultimate exploring rig, just climbing behind the wheel and driving the dusty fire roads will put you in the right state of mind… Many of us explore the remote trails looking to find places visited by only a few and to share a camaraderie with those who make the journey with us.
Although this adventure was primarily for training, I hope the bonds of friendship that were formed can remain in place until I have the chance to meet up with this crew again on the next run. One of the books Andy recommended that everyone carry is the “Mountaineering First Aid: A Guide to Accident Response and First Aid Care “. You may want to pick up a copy before your next adventure.
Bonus Pictures from the run on flicker… there are a lot… just click through to see them all in a slide show on our off-road adventure flickr account.