Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Riverwalker's Pics - Following the Mountain Stream - Part Three

In my efforts to determine if following a mountain stream downhill is actually a good thing to do when you may become lost on a mountain, several actual truths became very evident in attempting this course of action. Surprisingly enough, a little common sense would have sufficed to realize the truth of the matter concerning this action in a survival situation.

First, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Small creeks and streams don't run in a straight line (see pic above) and they quite literally have more curves than a mountain road. So be prepared to do a lot more walking. This will also take extra time and effort on your part.

Second, not all streams and creeks empty into a river at their journey's end. Some disappear or just plain fizzle out and become little more than a trickle of water. Dave and Cody from the show Dual Survival found this out in the Valley of the Volcanoes when the stream they were following literally disappeared into the ground.

Third, streams don't always lead you back to civilization. In this case, the mountain stream led to a nice valley but no discernible signs of civilization (Duh! RW...why do you think they call it a wilderness area).

There were a couple of things gained in the effort. The temperatures were a lot more moderate at a lower elevation and the trees were sparser...which would make it easier for a rescue team to spot you and a lot easier to bear the more moderate temperatures with an improvised shelter. There was also a lot more open ground to build a signal fire without the risk of starting a major forest fire. In the pic below, you can see the nice valley that the stream eventually led to on its way down the mountain.

Following a mountain stream is a great way to enjoy nature but may not be your best course of action if you're lost. Use common sense survival techniques that will serve you a lot better if you become lost. These simply involve being prepared ahead of time.

First, make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you will be back. Second, have a set of good maps and a thorough knowledge of the area you will be traveling in before you set out. Third, have a means of communication (RW, Jr. had his hand-held radio on the trip and one back at the cabin so we could stay in touch with the others) that is effective for the type of terrain where you are traveling. Fourth, don't forget a good survival kit...just in case!

Staying above the water line!



Tim Noble said...

Some great tips. Very interesting.

riverwalker said...

To: TN

Thanks. You really have to go out of your way it seems to find some true wilderness areas in the states.


Anonymous said...

Also, keeping along the ridges give you better visibility on finding features that will lead you to civilization. Sounds carry much better than in valleys as well.

Walking in mountains is exhausting. When having to climb or descend, better to take slope at an angle if possible for less strain. Step on UPSIDE of plant life to give your feet better purchase.

Thanks for your post Riverwalker.

Chris said...

I am (unfortunately) not aware of "your" mountain conditions, as I am comming from Europe but in the Alps, mountain streams have the tendency to incorporate one or more falls which might be difficult to navigate without a parachute or wings.

Or running through a canyon which will very seldomly be passable.

I think it mostly depends on the kind of mountains you navigate...

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 12:21

There is a big difference between the gently rolling terrain of South Central Texas and the mountains of Northeastern New Mexico.

There is one basic precept about mountain hiking...the two major directions are up and down! LOL

Thanks anon.


riverwalker said...

To: Chris

There were some smaller falls on the stream but these were fairly easy to traverse but you had to go downstream a pretty good ways to find a safe place to cross. RW, Jr. did go upstream a short ways to get to the other side of the stream. There were a few spots that you could wade across but we mostly relied on natural bridges (fallen trees or rocks) to make our crossings.

I think you deal with a lot higher elevations in the Alps also. The elevations where I was hiking ran in a range from 9100 feet to 12,600 feet. The valley in the picture was at about 7500 feet. Considering that where I normally live (about 300 feet above sea level on the Gulf coastal plains) this was a big change for me.



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