Wilderness First Aid

NOTE: In this blog post I will not be giving specific details of how to administer First Aid as I am not a trainer. I will only be sharing my classroom and hiking experiences. 

 

NOTE: This post is in no way sponsored by NOLS. The thoughts and experiences of the author belong to her alone. 

 

A couple weekends in June I wanted to go hiking with a friend who lives in Cheyenne. We made plans to meet up at Vedawoo to do the Turtle Rock Trail. As both weekends approached, the National Weather Service said severe weather and possible flooding were to hit the area. One of the first rules of Wilderness First Aid is prevention, so we called our hike off. 

It ended up not raining much in Saratoga. I don’t know about Cheyenne. While I’m bummed we didn’t go hiking, I’m glad we both made the smart decision to not go hiking, because the weather could have been as predicted. And we could have put ourselves in a dangerous situation. 

 

 

67178394_470471200415592_4774074196403683328_n
I got to wear some fake blood during my training. The story was I was playing Frisbee with some friends and ran into a tree while going to fetch the disc.

On June 1st I took a course on Wilderness First Aid taught by NOLS, which is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks too help people “step forward boldly as a leader.” In addition to wilderness first aid, they offer courses on wilderness first responder, medicine and rescue, etc. 

 

I took Wilderness First Aid for a couple reasons. First, it is a requirement to be an ambassador for Women Who Hike. (Oh yes! I’m an ambassador for Wyoming now!) Second, I just felt like it would be good knowledge to have under my belt. 

Wilderness medicine has several differences from urban medicine. First time. Contact time with the patient is greater. Additionally, time from the onset of illness or injury to definitive care is greater, often more than one house. A patient’s condition and needs may change over the course of times. Finally, the patient’s injury may merit a different treatment approach than it would in an urban context to improve long-term outcomes. 

The environment may cause a primary problem or could exacerbate injuries or illnesses. Cold, heat, wind, rain or altitude can play a huge role. Other factors include long and rough distances for evacuation and increased stress on rescuers. 

In the wilderness, rescuers also need to improvise equipment needed for treatment and evacuated. They must also make independent decisions regarding patient treatment and evacuation, often without any outside communication.  

During the course, I learned about patient assessment, emergency and evacuation plans, spine, head, musculoskeletal and cold injuries. I also learned about shock, heat and altitude illness, chest and abdominal pain, and wilderness wound management. 

In emergency and evacuations plans, pre-planning can go a long way in supporting an efficient emergency response. You should always research local search and rescue, sheriff’s office or emergency services and know how to contact them. Tell someone trustworthy where you plan to go and when you plan to return. If I’m by myself I also leave a note on my car giving an approximate time I will return. I’m more concerned about someone knowing I’m out in the wilderness than somebody stealing something from my car. Besides, I don’t keep valuables in there. I also heard from another woman that she takes a picture of what she’s wearing on her hike and sends it to the person she told her travel plans too. I’m going to start implementing this as well. 

You should also pack a communication device and a signaling device. Also pack navigation tools and a first aid kit. With these items, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THEM! 

67146836_713897419062225_5374133281442758656_nI DID NOT learn about using plants to cure illnesses or symptoms. After I took my class I had a few people send me links of “medicinal plants.” I was not taught by an expert to use plants, so I will absolutely not do that. 

I’d say the summary of the class is to determine whether or not a person needs to be evacuated from the wilderness. If so, you evacuate them in the safest way possible. 

When first analyzing a person, those who are certified in Wilderness First Aid are to inform the individual and ask permission to assess their injuries or ailments. After a FULL analysis a certified person stops any bleeding, checks the usability of any injuries, splints any unusable injuries, etc. and evacuates, if needed. 

Thus far, I’ve only had to deal with blisters. I’m glad I have moleskin in the my first aid kit, because it is the thing I use the most. This material is for hot spots, to keep them from turning into blisters. As soon as I start feeling some pain in my feet I look for hot spots and address them with the moleskin. 

 

If you’re interested in talking a Wilderness First Aid course from NOLS, you can click here. 

 

67099790_817857828609878_2989170862898282496_nAre you looking to fill your first aid kit? Here are some suggestions for items to carry from NOLS. 

 

For Blisters
Moleskin
2nd Skin dressings
Tincture of benzoin swabs
Blister bandages 

For Small Wounds
Gloves
12cc irrigation syringe
Povidone-iodine solution
Tweezers
Antiseptic towelettes
Antibiotic ointments packets
1×3 fabric bandages
Knuckle and fingertip fabric bandages
3×4 non-stick gauze pads
3-inch conforming roll gauze
Wound closure strips
Transparent dressings 

Other useful items
Safety pins
SOAP forms
Oral thermometer
Rescue mask
Coban wrap
Athletic/medical tape
4-6 inch elastic wrap
Wire or SAM splint
Triangular bandages
Water disinfection device/chemicals 

Note: You should re-pack your first aid kit for each trip. Check for expiration dates on medications, for sterile items that have been torn open, damaged or dampened. KNOW HOW TO USE EVERYTHING IN YOUR FIRST AID KIT. 

 

What’s next for That Solo Hiker Chick? 

I’m looking into getting CPR certified. This will enhance my abilities if I am to ever come across an unconscious patient. 

Over the 4th of July weekend I went to the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area. I’m working on putting together a blog post and video on my adventure. This landscape is in jeopardy of oil and gas development, and I want to shine a light on the beautiful area. 

Later this month I’ll be taking part in Wyoming Moose Day where I will hike a trail and log signs of moose.

Hiking with strangers (who later become friends)

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Mountain Chicks or Women Who Hike. All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

Meeting up with people you’ve never met before may sound intimidating. I’d be lying if I said the first time I did it, I wasn’t nervous. But I was also super excited.
 
I started meeting up with strangers to go hiking about a year after moving to Wyoming. My first summer I spent a lot of time hiking with my boyfriend. However, he’s more into fishing than hitting the trails and is often busy on weekends. I have a few friends I like to hike with as well, but they’re not always available when I am. I needed to find others with the same interest to join me when I didn’t want to go alone.
 
My first meet up
med bow peak gretchen
 
The first time I met up with a stranger, it was through the Mountain Chicks Wyoming chapter. The ambassador at the time, Gretchen, was hosting a group hike at Medicine Bow Peak. She and I were the only ones who showed up for the hike. We met at the pay station at the Sugarloaf access. As I was paying she rolled down her window and asked if I was Emma. Sure enough, I was!
 
We drove to the trailhead, parked and waited a couple minutes to see if anybody else was going to show up. Nobody did and we started our hike.
 
It was fun to meet somebody else who was passionate about the outdoors and looking to explore Wyoming. We were both Midwest transplants who had been in the state for about a year and a half. Not only did I learn a lot about Gretchen, but I learned some valuable skills.
 
One is be prepared. (I learn this one through many experiences.) Somehow I forgot to bring snacks for the hike. Luckily, Gretchen had enough snacks to save the day.
 
The second thing I learned is to know when to speak up for your well-being. We started hiking at a brisk pace. As we got higher up the mountain, I couldn’t keep up the speed. At first I thought I needed to keep up. When I mentioned I was getting winded, Gretchen was more than willing to slow the pace to one that was more comfortable for both of us.
 
Cirque of the Towers
The next time I met up with strangers to go hiking, I drove about four hours to go backpacking with 13 other women. This was through Women Who Hike Wyoming. I hadn’t met any of the women besides having Facebook communication with Ambassador Ali.
 
cirque of the towers
After introductions and reminders on the Leave No Trace principles, we began the hike. I enjoyed getting to know the other women as we trekked the 12 miles to our campsite. Again I learned how important it is for me to prepare for the type of trip I’m taking. I wasn’t wearing the right shoes. I also didn’t have the right tools to heat my meals well.
 
The most important thing I learned about was community. Other women on the trip noted that I was having issues heating up my meal and offered their Jetboils.
 
Community was also found on the trail. A group of us had to hold up as one woman was fighting her blood sugar and other was getting used to the elevation. The rest of us needed to catch our breaths. The women who were doing fine checked to make sure we could continue on the trail, so that no one fell behind.
 
The communal experience at the campfire was also great. We shared stories while passing around the whiskey, gin and whatever else was on hand.
 
That strong community followed the next day when we hiked to the Cirque of the Towers. Some moments of the hike were grueling, but with the support of each other and a sharing of groans, we made it to the beautiful view.
 
Curt Gowdy State Park
curt gowdy
Women Who Hike brought me to my next hike with strangers, as well. On the Wyoming Facebook group, one of the women asked for people familiar with the Medicine Bow National Forest area. With my great love for the forest I chimed in. Four of us (plus one dog) made a plan to hike at Curt Gowdy State Park, which isn’t exactly in the forest but borders it.
 
I enjoyed that hike as well and made three more new friends. While we haven’t pinned anything down yet, we agreed we’d like to hike together again soon.
 
Spearfish Canyon
spearfish canyon
Photo credit: Elisabeth Brentano
My last meet-up was with the South Dakota Women Who Hike group. I drove five hours to Spearfish Canyon for this experience. I met the South Dakota ambassador, Stephanie and Women Who Hike Founder Nicole Brown.
 
I met several other awesome women who took part in the hike. There were 40+ of us!
 
We hiked two miles in on the Iron Creek trail into the Spearfish Canyon’s winter wonderland. When we returned we hike another half miles to Spearfish Falls.
 
A Merrell representative was also there. She provided boots for people to try out on the trail. Everyone also got a free mug at the end of the event and two people won a free pair of boots.
 
I will do more of these meet-up hikes in the future. It’s my goal to get to Texas and hang out with Ambassador Mallory on one of her ventures.
If you want to meet up with strangers to go hiking, get involved in a group. It’s a safe way to make new friends and bust out the hiking boots. I also recommend meeting up with more than one other person. With another set of eyes it’s harder for anybody to try to do anything fishy.
I also like to check out the person I’m going to be hiking with on Facebook. You can usually tell from a brief review of their profile how serious they are about hiking and their skill level. It also makes the meet-up less awkward because you can bring up something you saw on their profile and start a conversation.

My Goals for 2019

I don’t typically take part in New Year’s Resolutions because you shouldn’t limit yourself to a new year to make changes in your life. If you discover an area where you need to grow on December 23rd, you should start on December 23rd. There’s no reason to wait.

Having goals, is different. Year-long goals are a good measure of what you want to do in 365 days. You can also have shorter or longer term goals, like three month goals or 10 year goals.

 

I’m using the SMART Goals guideline to outline the things I want to do this year.

Specific – What exactly will you do?

Measurable – How will you know if you meet your goal?

Achievable – What steps are you going to take to reach your goal?

Relevant – What about your goal makes it important to you?

Timely – When do you want to complete your goal?

 

I’ve decided to share my goals with you, so you can all hold me accountable. I plan to provide you with updates with my accomplishments. My hope is also that these goals will inspire you to develop some plans for 2019 as well.

 

Goal 1: Go on my first solo backpacking trip

I plan to go to Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area in Sweetwater County to complete this goal. I went there with my best friend for my birthday last year. I loved the landscape and saw some even cooler looking landscape off in the distance. We were car camping, so the far off land wasn’t accessible. I plan to park my vehicle at the end of the dirt road. From there I’ll hike south and backpack in Monument Valley.

adobe town

I plan to get a one person backpacking tent to make traveling easier. About a month before my trip I’ll take my backpack out on the trail,  getting to the weight I’ll need for the trip. I will complete my goal this spring or summer.

 

Goal 2: Take a Wilderness First Aid course

Because I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, it’s important that I take the NOLS wilderness first aid course. Plus, I’m planning on getting involved in a program that requires this course (can’t reveal what it is yet). I plan to take the course in April.

 

Goal 3: Catch a fish on a fly rod

I got a fly rod last summer, but never caught a fish. It’s hard! I’ll try to get out to one of the many lakes around me or to the North Platte or Encampment River at least once a week. I’ll also let my boyfriend teach me more techniques that may help me. I want to complete this goal by July.

fly fishing

 

Goal 4: Updating this blog twice a week

I plan to update this blog with a weekly update on what’s happening to lands and conservation in Wyoming and US. I also want to publish posts that are a little more fun, like this one, on a weekly basis. Doing this helps me to connect and share what’s happening in Wyoming. I’m also invested in the lands in this state and want Wyoming’s quietness to have a louder voice when it needs protection. I’ve already planned and written five other blog posts to get me started. As the year progresses I’ll continue writing and paying attention to the news around me.

 

Goal 5: Backpack the Encampment River Trail

I love this trail. It is my absolute favorite! But I’ve never hiked the whole 15 miles. I plan to change that this summer. I’ll do this with a group. I’ll prepare myself for this hike the same way I’ll prepare for backpacking in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area.

encampment river

 

Goal 6: Hike a new trail in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Two summers ago I worked hard to hike as many trails as possible in the Medicine Bow National Forest. While I knocked a few off my list and discovered some new favorites, I have several trails left to wander. I have a few trails in mind that I’d like to tackle. One is the trail to Medicine Bow Peak from Dipper Lake. It’s the least common route to the top, and the only one I haven’t done. I’m also interested in the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

mbnf

I have a guide book that is specific to the Medicine Bow National Forest, so I’ll use it to plan my adventures. These trips will take place sometime between July and September.

 

Longer term goals

One of my lifetime goals is to travel to every National Park in the United States. So far I’ve visited Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Badlands National Parks. I have a long ways to go. I’m hoping to be able to visit Voyageurs National Park in August, but I’m not sure I’ll make it there this year. I don’t currently have a timeline of when I’d like to do this, but I would like to complete it by the age of 50.

Another lifetime goal is to hike to the highest point in every state. This one will be a bit harder because to do so, you have to figure out how to get through private property. To date I’ve only made it to the highest point in South Dakota, which is Black Elk Peak.

I have another highest peak goal, which is to get to the highest point in every county in Wyoming. Wyoming has a total of 23 counties, and I believe I’ve made it to the highest point in one. There’s some debate over what is the highest peak in Albany County. I’ve heard it’s either Medicine Bow Peak or Laramie Peak. The guidebook I have says Medicine Bow Peak has about mile of elevation on Laramie Peak. If anybody knows which is higher for sure, let me know! Medicine Bow Peak is 12,013 feet in elevation, for reference. I might make it to Bridger Peak this summer, which is the highest point in Carbon County at 10,950 feet.

 

What are your goals, short or long term?