Dick Wills

Dick Wills

Hiking Safety Issues & Equipment

Communication

Since I am in the field alone, I need a way to communicate with my family. My regular search areas are up to 60 miles from the nearest cell phone tower and there are many areas I visit that still have no service.  In early years, I found myself in areas far away from my car, and I realized that no one would ever know that I went this direction or hiked this far. It was a bit unnerving. I really felt isolated, cut off and alone. I didn’t like that, so I purchased a hand held messaging unit called Spot from “Find Me Spot”, and subscribed to their service for about $100 a year.

SPOT provides me with global satellite access 24/7, rain or shine. This is not a satellite phone, but with it I can send three pre-written messages to the email addresses of each member of my family. Each message includes a link to Google Maps, which shows exactly where I am standing at the time I send the message, with coordinates. 

  1. The first message states: “I’m okay and here’s where I’m at.”
  2. The second option sends a message “I’m okay but I’m in trouble.” The family knows this will refer to car trouble. 
  3. The third message is an SOS. This message is relayed by the SPOT service to the local county sheriffs office and rescue team with my exact location and indicates that I’m down.

In the field I always leave the first message when I leave my van and again when I have hiked some distance.  This shows my family what direction I was walking just in case something drastic happens and I cannot activate my SOS button. I tell my family that this way at least they can find the body.

I leave the family with a guide as to my expected daily locations as well as the number for the local sheriff’s office. My family does not need to track me through the day. The trail is there when ever they get to their emails. So far they have only received the “OK” messages. I realize that this SPOT is more for me than for them. I need the security of always being able to call for help no matter where I am.

Snake Guards

I never put my hands or feet where I cannot see them….never. If a path through brush means I cannot see my feet, then I choose another path around. In certain areas and seasons I wear knee high snake guards just in case.

My Snake Guards

Hydration

Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate, even if you are not thirsty. Even when fully hydrated I have began to feel faint or ill because I become too low in Potassium. Now, I also pack plenty of Gatorade or Powerade to replenish my electrolytes. Always listen to your body.

One day I was half way to completing a small excavation when my body told me to get out of the field and into some AC. It took two rest stops under skimpy shade to work my way back to my van. I stripped off my shirt and turned on the AC to high. I was over my limit that day, and was later told that it had be an extraordinary 106 degrees. My body knew it before my mind did. Just listen and be safe.

Vision Care

When you have been out in the windy and dusty desert or prairie you never want to just wipe a smudge from you glasses. The dust is comprised of either Bentonite clay or other shape edged particles. You can still see through the glasses but they attract a film of this dust. If you wipe it, the particles can permanently scratch your lenses. They will then look like they are frosted. I have ruined more than one pair until I figured this out. I now first wash the glasses in a baggy with soap and water. I then toss the wash water and rinse with clear water. Only then do I dare wipe with even the best lens wipes. And, with all that dust a saline eye rinse comes in handy.

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