Friday, June 10, 2016

Technology Is Great, Until It Isn't

  I happened to read across a story in the newspaper last week about Geraldine Largay, a 66 year old hiker who found herself in worst of circumstances a few years ago. She disappeared while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine back in July of 2013. She had been hiking with a friend when unexpectedly an emergency at home called her friend away. Rather than go back with her, Geraldine decided to continue alone on the trail. Unfortunately this decision proved to be a fatal one. Her body would not be found for over two years and roughly 3.000 feet from the trail that eluded her. It's bad enough that this story has a sad ending but it's even more depressing after you learn that she survived for at least 26 days and left behind a journal documenting her struggles.
   We can criticize, ask countless questions about the decisions she made, and scoff at her plight but of course in the end we'll sympathize with her and her loved ones. As someone that has been lost in the wilderness I know some of the things that run through your mind when you're in a situation like this and many of you can relate but what I really want to focus on here it how technology failed Geraldine.
  Technology is great. We use it every day whether we're binge watching old TV shows, sending work related emails, or posting funny cat videos to YouTube we can't escape it. It's just part of our lives these days. We're so integrated with technology that we sometimes forget that it can fail us, for one and there are still places on this planet that it doesn't work. Geraldine tried to send multiple texts to her family asking for help from police. The test never sent. She couldn't get a signal even after trying to get higher in elevation. Yes, in the end the technology that makes communication so simple had betrayed her in the end.
 I'm not interested in getting into the what if's and why didn'ts. It doesn't matter but the lesson we need to take away from this story is that we should be prepared for as much as possible when we take on a back country adventure. Cell phones may not work deep in the woods. GPS has limited signal in thick trees and definitely in canyons. CB and HAM radios are limited to line of site and a compass is only good if you learn how to use it before trying it in the real world. A road trip can end abruptly even if you are religious about changing the oil and rotating your tires. Ahhh! There are just too many variables. All I'm trying to say is please, please plan ahead. Tell others where you're going and how long you plan to be gone. Whenever possible travel with companions and study maps of the areas you're going into. Take a little extra food and water with you and make sure you know how to build shelter and can start a fire. If you you don't know how to do some of these things you can always find a course locally or online that can teach you some of these things. There's no shame in admitting you don't know something and there are plenty of wilderness and preparedness courses available to teach you things that could save your life someday.
  One of the last entries in Geraldine's journal was the following:

"When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry.  It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me - no matter how many years from now.  Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them."

 I'm sure this was one of the hardest things Geraldine Largay ever had to write and to be honest it's creepy in a way. She had been alone long enough, without food or water that she knew no one was coming to find her. Accepting her fate, she wrote down her final wishes in a small notebook in a place that in any other circumstance would probably be a very beautiful spot to be sitting. Please take her story to heart before venturing into the wild. Learn from it but don't fear the great outdoors. Instead, take an opportunity to brush up on some skills and teach others to be a little more cautious. Now let's go find something cool to do this weekend! Safe adventures to you all and we'll see you next week.


R.I.P. Geraldine Largay

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