Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Safety

The recent snow of eight inches plus has brought with it all the joys of winter sports. Along with those joys are the dangers. I received a message to pick a friends snowmobile up that would not start even though he had it recently tuned up.  After picking it up and heading home with my trailer, I was flagged down by a frantic woman and child on a snowmobile.

She had been lost since 10 am it was now 4 pm and the worst part was she had a four-year old riding with her.  I had a quick flashback to my first experience with a lost snowmobiler shortly after we moved here. He had left his wife and child in the middle of the forest, when her snowmobile wouldn't start. Then he drove completely around the forest without the knowledge of where he left them. Finding them involved getting the Fire Department and Forestry on sleds looking for them. They were found but not at all close to where he described and well after dark in the cold.

The lost woman of this recent event started to explain in lost person terms where she had been and where she needed to go.  "We started near a gas pipeline at the bottom of a steep hill." That narrowed it down to about six places I could think of off the top of my head.

"My husband and friends took off and I couldn't keep up. I lost them and couldn't figure out where I was." You could visibly see the frustration, exhaustion and fear in the woman's face as she wondered if she would ever find the rest of her family again. "Then my snowmobile stopped," she said. "My daughter and I walked for about four miles until we found someone who was able to start it for us. We have been driving around the mountain ever since." I couldn't imagine walking that far with a four year old in snowmobile clothes.

"Where is your camp?" I asked her.

"It is on the other side of highway 6," she replied.

"Well, you can't drive the snowmobile to it from here," I explained to her, "this is a plowed road from here to six. I can load you up and drive you there if you want."

She agreed and we loaded the snowmobile up and I turned around heading back towards Gaines on Elk Run Road.  Just as we got to Pine Creek Vista Campground she yelled, "That's my husband!" and reached over to my horn and pushed it. I slowed down and he stopped and backed up. She was practically crying and jumped out to greet him. He wasn't as happy and immediately yelled at her for getting lost. I just kept thinking everyone has there own way of dealing with fear and this person's way was obviously anger. Once they settled down he told me where they had started, which was up Elk Run just past the Lick Run intersection. So I turned around and drove the snowmobile to Lick Run where we unloaded it and they continued on their way. I am sure they spent most of the night exchanging blame for the event.

This whole thing reminded me how most people  who travel our forest are ill prepared. Remember if you are driving any vehicle it can stop working.  Cell phones don't work except on a few high ridges.  You can become separated from others in a group and there is a possibility you won't see anyone after that.  I really like my "Spot Messenger" for this reason. I can turn it on to live track and every 10 minutes it sends out a signal as to where I am. I can hit Check OK when I arrive and it sends a message either email or txt to a list of people I have as my safety net. And in extreme circumstances I can hit 911 and it will send my gps coordinates to the local 911 responders. I have found it works most places in the forest with the exception of a few bad valleys.

If you don't have this technology, you can still plan. Have a State Forest Map with you. Make a plan ahead of time for what you will do if separated. Keep track of where you are. Have warm clothes with you and even some water/food if you can. Make sure you have a full tank of gas.  Stay in one place if you want to be found. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. The best thing is to stay in a group, not everyone's machine will die at the same time and there is safety in numbers.

Not a winter goes by that someone isn't hurt or killed riding a snowmobile in the State Forest. It is a beautiful place, but it can become deadly with a few wrong decisions. Stay safe this winter. I have included a link to the left of the snowmobile trails in our forest and surrounding ones. Print it out and keep it in a plastic bag in your machine. Have a safe, happy and fun winter. Mountain girl, Paula, logging out.

No comments: