>I just wrapped up reading Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. Wow. What a thought-provoking read it was. In a nutshell, it tells stories of various horrible accidents in the wild, and why in most cases they really aren’t “accidents.” Very interesting stuff, especially if you have any interest at all in how the brain works in stressful situations.

I guess what strikes me, as someone who likes to get outdoors a lot and make forays, however brief, into the wild, is how close we are at all times to something really bad going down. I tend to be almost anal about being careful; I’m the guy chiding a companion for wanting to try and jump over a deadfall rather than walk around it, that kind of thing. Maybe it’s because the bulk of the injuries I’ve sustained, generally sports-related, have been when my guard was down. Like stepping wrong when walking back onsides after a big run on the soccer pitch and rolling my ankle; it never happens during the run, never in the heat of action. That kind of thing. Why take an unnecessary chance has always been my opinion.

I don’t worry about myself so much because I am pretty careful, but I worry about people I care about. I used to have nightmares about my son and nephew falling off of Hungry Horse Dam, or falling off a cliff on a hike I used to take in the Missions. The week between Christmas and New Years we were in Tucson; one afternoon we bought some sandwiches (from Greasy Tony’s on Speedway, mmmm. . . . ) and drove out to the desert to have a picnic. We picked our way through the cactus and climbed up on this big rock to have our feast. While Sid was standing up and walking around on this thing it totally made me paranoid. Once he sat down I was fine, but I was extremely nervous again when he and Julia made their way back down off the rock.

Nothing happened, but one night after reading Deep Survival at bedtime I was laying awake running all these scenarios about what would have happened if Sid fell off the rock; broken leg, landing in cholla, all that. It was terrible. I finally fell asleep, but it was a restless night.

The book was great, though, despite triggering my own weird little fears and obsessions. Very enlightening, and helpful. It may add a pound or two to my backpack for even the “safest” of trips, but it will be worth it when it comes to peace of mind.


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