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.

Outdoor creativity

The outdoors is my creative space. I’m not sure if it’s because of nature inspiring me or because hiking stimulates my mind. It’s likely a combination of both.

Writing

Ever since I started walking outside on my own as kind in my parents’ cow pastures, I found the experience enlightening. A lot of times I think out story ideas and put them to paper. I haven’t published any of these, but you might see something in the near future.

I have also written a poem inspired by nature and how it offers peace. I layered with the scariness of cancer and compared it to a dirty city.

Where the Prarie Meets the Sky

Cankered walls of urban blight,

Doors of other’s lives closed and boarded.

Trapped in my own barred cell,

My dreams and future disregarded.

Dreams, where the prairie meets the sky,

Rolling mountains, benign tumors

kept safe by the Snake River,

Winding around in health and humor.

Sitting in the dark and damp,

my heart longs more

for gentle Ticklegrasses that caress

my cheek while swaying in warm air

Running barefoot through the plains

straight to water’s edge,

Looking for a pale mutated face,

Instead a smiling, friendly sketch

And a sudden splash from salmon,

The river thrives and provides

healthy growth seen in the tallest conifers and aspens,

Bringing life to my insides.

Mule deer and rabbits graze,

Growth where it is supposed to be,

encouraged by the compassionate sun,

Never scourged by acute disease.

Pulled away from the harmless world

I relapse into the state I’m in,

The reality of my evil plague,

There is no remission.

Photography

I’ve also thought of art ideas. One of the more obvious ways to express art in the outdoors is through photography. I love to have a camera when I’m hiking. Since I graduated high school I’ve used a Nikon D3000.

Since moving to Wyoming one of my favorite photography subjects has been the Indian Paintbrush. I’m fascinated how it grows in both desert and alpine climates and how it looks different in those two environments.

53517200_2405207083026295_6704893108145881088_n

I also love the landscape of Wyoming and have taken many pictures. It’s been fun to use my camera in manual mode and learn different techniques, like depth of field and shutter speeds as well as adjusting ISO.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Painting

This summer I tried a new experience, painting outside. In the past my paintings have consisted of acrylic and replicas of animal pictures I found on the internet. Last winter I picked up watercolors for the first time since high school and found my love for the medium. I love how the water reacts with the paints, and you’re never one hundred percent how it’ll turn out.

Once I find a medium I also start following several Instagram accounts of artists to learn skills and techniques. One watercolor artist is Nikki Frumkin, who operates the drawntohighplaces account. Nikki lives in Seattle and often paints Mt. Rainier as well as many other mountain landscapes. One of my favorite things about Nikki is that she paints her landscapes while she’s actually there. She’s so dedicated to her art, she even goes out in the cold winter months. I recommend everybody follow her on Instagram to see how the paints freezes on the pages. Check out her website too and you’ll see her prints, calendar and stickers.

Being inspired by her method, I decided that I was going to start painting outside too. It’s a unique experience that gave me a new appreciation for the wild places I visit. I searched the landscape and enjoyed every piece of it instead of focusing on my trail and what was ahead of me. The experience helped me realize details I was oblivious too months before. It also gave me new purpose in protecting the lands I love because I noticed every beetle killed tree spotting the landscape.

Tips and tools for getting started:

53287794_486006698884826_3313731186290851840_n– For my birthday my boyfriend got me water brush pens. These allow you to bring your brushes anywhere. You don’t have to worry about using your drinking water supply for carrying an extra water container. The water sits in the brush handle and is ready at the squeeze of the handle.

– My boyfriend also got me a travel mixing palette that I filled with greens, blues and browns. Mine has ten wells and a slot for a pen or pencil.

– You’ll also want a small watercolor notebook. I got mine from Mossery. Mossery is a Malaysian company. It sells planners, sketchbooks, notebooks and other stationary supplies. My sketchbook has a cardboard type outside that I had personalized with my name with 28 sheets of watercolor paper.

– You can also pack a paper towel or some other material to soak up excess water. It’s also nice to have so you can switch colors without changing brushes or ending up with muddied paints.

– One of my first tips for getting started is to not get discouraged. I wasn’t thrilled with my first painting as you’ll see further down, but I’m proud of my second one. Painting what you see in real time is difficult and takes practice.

– Use nature as a tool. I don’t mean as your subject, but explore how the elements can influence your art. As I mentioned earlier, the Drawn To High Places art has cool examples of how watercolor reacts to freezing temperatures. Let dust react with your work. See how the breeze at the top of the mountain affects your work.

– The next is actually a tip from Nikki Frumkin. If you paint in freezing temperatures, use vodka with your paints instead of water.

My experience:

53752183_503744573364966_978161690514292736_nMy first venture with the watercolor journal was on Kennaday Peak in the Medicine Bow National Forest on August 11th. I am a part of the Platte Valley Jaycees, and we were hosting our annual Snowy Range Duathlon. It’s a biking and hiking/running race that starts near the Lincoln Park Campground, summits Kennaday Peak and ends back at the starting point.

I volunteered to station the summit with the intent to try watercolor painting outside for the first time. Once I got to the summit I picked out a rock that would allow me to get a view of the landscape and keep an eye on the racers.

The sky was smoky that day from the Badger Creek Fire that was burning about 60 miles away. This resulted in a hazy mountain background that I attempted to capture in my painting.

I’m not a huge fan of the painting that came from this excursion, but I didn’t let it discourage me.

 

The next time I brought my watercolor painting outside was a little more than a month later. In Carbon County there is a famous grove of aspen trees called Aspen Alley. Fall enthusiasts can find this treasure traveling west of Encampment on Highway 70. Travel about 25 miles to Deep Creek Road, which is Forest Road 801. From there, travel north for .8 miles.

I went on September 29th. The trees are often in full color by this time, but this past fall many still had green leaves.

I picked a spot off the size of the road to do my painting. To keep the paper from buckling, I used painters tape to hold about five sheets together.

54515283_2265064727087867_7801139993841238016_n

First I sketched in the trees with a pen. Then I moved to the paints starting with the road and then filling in the trees. The sky and background mountain were last. I’ll admit I took creative liberties, but I liked the outcome. The cool part about this painting is that many cars were driving past me, stirring up dirt from the gravel road. I can still feel the dirt when I run my hand over the page.

With these two paintings under my belt, I’m excited to get back outside with my watercolors. Sitting outside in the cold freezing my hands off isn’t my idea fun, so I’ll leave the winter outdoor art to @Drawntohighplaces. My outdoor art will have to wait until the spring. I learned a new technique to paint deciduous trees, so I’ll return to aspen alley or travel someplace in the Midwest.

 

Here are two paintings inspired by the outdoors but were completed inside.

53337715_1157793447761305_190590183077314560_n53836742_2216587508428501_8160624813736460288_n