Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rough terrain

Sondra pointed to this story: Boy Scout got separated from his group and lost, but did some right things and is fine. Brought a couple of things to mind.

I've heard people express amazement that someone could actually get really lost in Oklahoma; for some reason they think it's all rolling hills. Well, depending on where you are we've got some actual sandy desert, dry rocky hills(worn down over ages from mountains), grassland and in the east/southeast some of the nastiest forested hill country you'll run into. Also some pretty swampy areas, and did you know we have alligators?

In 1977 three Girl Scouts were murdered at a camp in northeast OK; there was a suspect, but through a combination of terrain, him knowing how to live in the woods and a lot of Indians suspected of giving at least passive help("I haven't seen anything") trying to catch him was a first-class cast-iron bitch. At one point they found a little cave where he'd been hiding for a while, and a bunch of media weenies started demanding to see it and "Why didn't you find this before?" So they drove them to the nearest point a road came to it and led them through the hot, humid, stickery, mosquito/chigger/tick-infested woods(we'll ignore the snakes for now*) to the place. After which one reporter(who was from OK and should've know better, but apparently had never actually been in the woods or looked around) asked "How the hell can you find ANYTHING out here?"
Yes, they caught him. No, it wasn't a good ending. If you're interested, here's a book that covers it.

The other was back when the son was in Civil Air Patrol. A plane went down in southeast OK, and CAP was involved in the search. Which went on for something like two-three weeks. His unit was next in rotation to go and help out when they found it.
Take what I mentioned about northeast OK forest above; now add in hills and valleys and streams with lots of very steep slopes and dropoffs. Let me put it this way: as you drive along you'll see a sign indicating a curve and saying '25MPH' or something similar; you'd damn well better pay attention, because on the far side of that guard rail may well be 50, some places about 100 feet before you hit the rocks, and you may well be under trees that prevent your remains from being seen from the road. Someone reports a hole in a guard rail, the sheriff's office goes out to see just what hit the ground down there and call the proper people to pull it out if they can.

How'd they find it? One of the search planes caught a flash through some trees. He circled back and got ground observers to mark the spot as best they could, then the ground teams went in. This was a twin-engine plane, but between breaking up on impact and being covered by the trees, if he hadn't seen that flash there's no telling how long it would've taken to find it.

That's not Utah, that's just southeast OK. Roads all over, but people do get lost there, regularly. And with terrain like that, sometimes you don't know a storm's coming until it comes over the ridge and hits you(been there). Try making your way downhill when the slope is covered with loose rock, under leaves, and it's all wet from the fog that just kind of appeared when the cold front came through; it's downright nasty.

You don't have to get hurt, or dead, and you won't if you have some idea what to do and don't forget it. I guarantee that scoutmasters and others all over will be using every detail of this kids' story they can get to point this out to the kids.

*Ignore them because that crew was making enough noise to run them all off.
Just to add to the fun, the biggest copperhead I've ever seen (the scaly type, not the Democrat type) was right here in Oklahoma City, in a drainage ditch near some apartments.


Windy Wilson said...

"I guarantee that scoutmasters and others all over will be using every detail of this kids' story they can get to point this out to the kids."
This could be the topic of "Scoutmaster's Minutes" for the next year. When I joined the Boy Scouts in fall 1968, it was the Autumn after an Explorer Post got caught in some semi inclement weather in the Sierra Nevadas and several Scouts and possibly adult leaders died of hypothermia. That initiated about two years of Scoutmaster's Minutes on being prepared, and a LOT of first aid demonstrations and lectures on the signs and symptoms of hypothermia
and what to do about it.
It made a big impression on me, I can tell, you even today.

Keith said...

Here's one from a couple of weeks back in England that could have been very nasty - in August!

The photo at the head of the article looks like it was taken in winter, but the summer weather wasn't much better

This was one of the worst, on the Cairngorm plateau, Scotland in 1971

Firehand said...

God, that second one is awful!

One of the things taught the kids when they were small that hypothermia can get you even in moderate weather; I've read of cases of people dying of it with temps in the 50's, usually when they got wet and then got tired out before trying to do anything about shelter.

CatCube said...

I did some training at Fort Sill, and that'll quickly disabuse anybody of the notion that OK is flat as a platter. It doesn't have the biggest hills you'll see, but they're big enough, and the erosion creates some hellacious local terrain. We had one guy fall into a ravine during the night land navigation. Luckily, he was only bruised up, but it could have ended much worse.