It is amazing the situation that we find ourselves in and the steps we do to remove ourselves from these situation. Looking back on our lives gives us a great opportunity to learn and become a better person. Whether it is the best or worse situation in our lives, we can always learn something. We would be fools not to. The situation that I found myself yesterday night and this morning has taught me a few great survival lessons on what to do and what not to do.
Living in Idaho I have a great many opportunities to be on streams, rivers and lakes. Last year I went down the Banks run on the Payette River at midnight with no lights or moon… and it was amazing. Growing up in Boy Scouts I was costumed to expanding my comfort zone in the wild and going above and beyond what I would normally do. With this ever expanding adventure attitude I have prepared myself or so I thought, to survive in the wild if needs be.
On August 6, 2013 our family friends, their friends from out of town and my family decided to go tubing the Main Payette River in Emmett Idaho. The estimate time to tube the Main Payette River is anywhere between one and half to three hours. Sunset for that day was 9:00 pm; we launched our tubes and raft around 7:30 giving us only exactly an hour and half for tubing the river. This would work perfectly if there were no incidents, accidents or lollygagging around but a strait shot down the river. Although I am not afraid of being on a river after dark it is not the best idea because of water hazards.
Experience is a great, but when your experience of tubing is going about one or two miles per hour down a river with what would be consider a class zero rapid, you don’t have much compare too. Add the elements of dark night, a river you’re not familiar with, rapids that you consider dangerous and you have a perfect equation for fear. Fear stops people from acting and puts them at danger. We encountered fear on our rafting trip and this lead us to spending four hours on a beach, stranded and waiting for relief.
9:00pm. “We’re done.” This statement stopped three adults and a child from finishing our tubing trip. After wading up to the beach through a rough current I informed the other two that our common friend would be back to get us. Instantaneously I had thoughts cascading through my brain on survival such as: how long would that be? How much would the temperature drop that night? Are there any poisonous snakes, bugs or plants on this beach? How are we to get protection? Can I build a fire? Are there any animals that can harm us out here? Are the other children ok? Did everyone else make it out ok? Can I walk back to civilization?
Despite my fear of being laughed at I started trying to make a fire by the Bow Drill and Fire Plow methods, neither worked despite my constant struggle and prayers. Realizing that was getting colder and the mother and child would only be in their swimming suits for who knows how long; we tore a hole in a floatation tube and dried it by rubbing dirt, sand and grass all over until it became dry and warm. Placing the mother and child parallel to each other for warmth and against a dirt wall for reflecting body heat, we placed the deflated tube on top of them and started breaking off branches with leaves to place on top of the tube, mother, child and wall to create a natural enclosure. Once they were covered to their shoulders we packed dirt, sand and grass underneath the tube to fill in the gaps. This natural enclosure helped capture their body heat and trap it. We also eventually took the remaining inflatable tubes and build a “wall” between them and the river stopping the cold breeze from the rapids hitting them. The child eventually said that he was warm and had stopped shivering.
After I started shivering I rubbed dirt onto by body to help trap in body heat. We saw flash lights (same ones in the My Survival in a Bottle) shortly afterwards across the river looking around and trying to see across to the other side. The flash lights were bright enough that we were able to see the light a couple hundred yards away. We got up and started waving and yelling to get their attention. We knew they had seen us because they pointed their lights at us and flashed them multiple times.
Staying next to the rapids the entire time while we waited was a good and bad decision. The good part was that is where we got out of the river and didn't move. Allowing our friend to know where we were to entire time. The bad part about staying by the rapids was that it is loud and we couldn't hear very well.
An hour later a rescue party came up behind us following our friend’s flashlights from across the river. They had followed our friend’s flashlight from the across the valley where they started to get to us. Using signals flashlights signals our friend and rescue party were able to communicate to where we were.
After walking through a couple fields, bogs and ditches we were sore footed, blistered, scratched and poked from trees, barbwire, goat heads, thicker plants and rocks. We arrived at a dirt road that led us through a thicket of tree, over another part of the river and up a hill. If we had walked without the rescue party we would never have made it. Between the plants, bogs and rocks there were also water wells, sticks, barbwire along the ground, cow manure, logs, pipes and other obstacle that could have caused us to fall and injure ourselves.
2:30am. “Are you ready?” The statement said between my wife and I that stated I was done with our tubing, camping and hiking trip with the other family and ready to get home after we had arrived at the cars the rescue party had brought.
The total time out in the elements was seven hours. This may not seem like a lot of time and it really isn’t if you are used to Idaho and all that comes with this beautiful state. Having been studying wilderness survival, boy scouts and starting My Survival prepared me immensely for this trip in the way of knowledge and know how. Although we were only a couple miles from civilization on a river that is well traveled we were not prepared and not safe. The worse issues that could have happened would have been hypothermia, poisonous plants and animals, broken body parts, slept all night on a beach, and dehydration. Do you know how to combat these?
I would like to consider the negative things we did to lead us to this situation:
· Not enough daylight if anything happened along the way
· Did not stay together as a group
· No plan on “what if”
· Expectations for what was ahead not clearly stated
· People did not stay calm
· Ego got in the way of safety with being warm
· Improper gear for traveling over ground
· No survival kit
I would like to touch upon the things done correctly:
· Knew how to create a shelter to trap body heat & barrier against cold front
· Rescuers had flashlight codes for signaling
· Rescuers had a rescue plan
How My Survival in a Bottle would have help:
· Build a fire quickly with matches and fire starters
· Build a shelter out of blanket and trash bag
· Been able to use a flashlight to signal and/or walk to civilization
· Use a whistle to sound location
· Use water powder to make water drinkable
· There are more ideas but there were the most important things My Survival in a Bottle could have helped accomplish
I will never leave home, go on a trip or do anything again without My Survival in a Bottle.