News and notes from the outdoors…
Guns and national parks
Got a lot of good comments on the post concerning guns in national parks. The post concerned a law written by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn that would allow people to carry firearms into national parks that are in states with right-to-carry laws. The overwhelming majority was in favor of allowing it, and you can read those on the post. I also got some reaction via Facebook. Here’s a sampling:
“If I ever want to ‘carry,’ it will be to protect me against drunk car-campers and vicious dogs whose inconsiderate day-hiker owners don’t keep on leashes. A handgun wound will just be enough to make a bear angrier! In the mean time, I do not justify the extra weight.”
“Well, protection from a dog, coyote, cougar, and human thugs is the idea. I’m not a fan of Tom (Coburn) but the police are quite a distance from you out there, and it’s not fair to miss out just because you fear of what could happen in a worst case scenario…”
Food for thought. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.
Bill Becquart from the OKC Outdoor Network noted that for all the people who go into wild areas, he’s surprised at how few take the time to learn what to do in an emergency situation.
The OKC Outdoor network is hosting a wilderness first-aid course March 6 and 7 in Edmond. There’s still time to sign up.
My take: I agree. Too many people look at national and state parks as being safer than they really are. Or perhaps more “controlled” than they really are.
We expect theme parks, resorts, golf courses, schools, shopping centers and other man-made public spaces to be safe. Laws are in place to enforce that.
Because most of us live, work and play in those environments – and consequently, so few of us do the same in wild environments – we have become comfortable with the thought that we’re safe wherever we go. But that’s simply not true.
Man-made areas can be rather sterile. That’s why people like to go outdoors and enjoy nature. But nature has its own rules. Weather, terrain, wildlife and other factors have existed forever, and how these things work weren’t designed with lawyers in mind, if you get my meaning.
Turn an ankle because of a poorly designed walkway and someone will pay, something will get fixed, etc. Do that on the trail and you’re out of luck.
So that means you should be ready to prevent emergencies from happening before you hit the trail and know what to do (and be properly equipped) to handle mishaps in places where help may be hours away.
Anthony from Mannsville read a post I wrote about “roughing it,” or basically going beyond your comfort zone to explore more of the natural and international world.
He asked about places in Oklahoma where he could do more tent camping.
I’m sure a lot of you would have suggestions. Mine included the Wichita Mountains, Robbers Cave State Park, Beavers Bend and just about anywhere in the Kiamichis.
Got any more ideas? Send them my way.
Big snows in the central and southern Rockies a few days ago. So things should be shaping up nicely for the Spring Break crowd. Without further delay, here’s the Rocky Mountain ski reports:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
A reminder: The OKC Outdoor Network is hosting a wilderness first-aid course March 6 and 7 in Edmond. Cost is $70 per person.
The course will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Participants who finish the course will receive Red Cross certification.
The exact location of the course is to be announced, and will be told to those who pay in advance. To take the course, make checks payable to High Plains Outdoor Institute and mail them to the OKC Outdoor Network, PO Box 12763, Oklahoma City, OK 73157-2763.
Space is limited. Checks will be held and not cashed until the week of the course.
If you own your own ski gear, there are a few things you should do to keep your boots dry for their next use (nothing worse than cold, wet feet) and to avoid the stench of wet, sour fabrics. Courtesy of The Adventure Life Web site, here’s a video with some tips on getting those boots dry after a hard day on the slopes.
Monday may bring a change in how you feel when you enter a national park or wildlife refuge. That’s the day a new law goes into effect that will allow people to carry firearms into national parks and refuges in states where right-to-carry laws exist. Oklahoma is one of those states.
(Read about it here: http://www.newsok.com/new-law-on-firearms-to-take-effect-in-oklahoma-parks/article/3441105?custom_click=pod_headline_politics)
I think there’s going to be two camps on this.
First, you’ll have people who will feel safer knowing they can be armed in these places, just in case they run into troublesome people or dangerous wildlife.
The second group will feel more unsafe. You’ll never know who is armed, and anytime there is a confrontation, firearms bring a whole new sense of alarm into the equation. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no taking it back.
There are stories of crime in National Park System, though they are pretty rare. Rarer still are animal encounters where predators or other large animals attack people. Neither has been a problem for me.
I’ve also hiked with people who brought a sidearm and didn’t feel uncomfortable with them, though in a backpacking scenario it just seemed like needless added weight.
But I know others will feel differently.
I’ve written about this topic before, and I’ve received a good number of responses from folks. Here in Oklahoma most people I’ve talked to think the right to carry a firearm is guaranteed by the law and is simply a precaution for those rare instances where deadly force might be needed for self-defense. A few others disagreed.
So how do you feel? Will you feel safer? Or do you think the law will make national parks less safe? Comment here or send me an e-mail. I’d like to know.
Spring break is on its way, and I’m sure there’s more than a few of you out there who want to try snowboarding. Here’s another instructional video, courtesy of snowboardingzone.org:
Courtesy of The Adventure Life Web site, here’s a video on powder skiing and “the Alta start.” Watch, learn, and enjoy!
So let me pose a question. How rough is too rough when it comes to travel? Is roughing it a tarp and a bedroll? Or is it a Holiday Inn Express?
I’ve had this conversation with a few people and have learned not to judge people who may not enjoy backcountry accommodations as much as I do. But there are a couple points on this topic that are worth making. So I’ll tackle this in two parts: backcountry adventures and international travel.
I’ve told the story many times, my first experience camping in Oklahoma. It was at an improved campsite on Tenkiller Lake, a place that had restrooms, concrete pads for RVs, electrical outlets and even showers. Growing up in Colorado, I can assure you such campsites are largely absent there.
I could poke fun. But really, that’s pretty pointless. If the facilities are there, it just lets that many more people enjoy state parks, lakes and other sites. Tenkiller is beautiful, its fishing is good and is just one of many places where people can get outside but still have a few modern conveniences.
But if that is the bottom end of what you’ll tolerate, there are so many other places that become out of reach. It eliminates all of the backcountry, simply because the backcountry, by definition, has no infrastructure and is largely inaccessible except on foot or horseback. Even places accessible by car but not having modern amenities become undesirable.
Much of the Appalachian Trail, for example, wouldn’t be much fun unless you’re ready to camp by tent. The bulk of the Rockies is the same way. Want to explore the San Juans? Better get used to tents, sleeping bags and doing your “business” behind a bush.
The bottom line for me is that the backcountry is beautiful. Camping in northern New Mexico, I had bighorn sheep stroll through my campsite. You can’t buy that kind of experience. Or the solitude, for that matter. For some of us, that’s pretty important.
If you can get used to really roughing it, so much more of the outdoors is open for you to explore.
About 18 months ago, I was walking the streets of Phuket, Thailand. This tourist city was really just a stopover during a 10-day trip to southern Thailand. So it allowed me to make comparisons.
Phuket is designed to cater to Europeans, Australians and Americans. It’s modern and heavily westernized. Hotels and resorts are clean and have western-style restaurants, restrooms and amenities. In my opinion, too much of what Thailand is was scrubbed from the city.
I’d spent most of my time in Phang Nga at the Phang Nga Guest House. It was more Spartan, but was still clean and comfortable. The city itself was completely Thai and non-Western (with the exception of the nearly ubiquitous 7-Eleven stores). Restaurants were all Thai. Fresh food came not from a grocery store, but an open air market.
Other places in the developing world lack toilets (just do a Google search for “squatty potty” and you’ll see what much of the rest of the world uses). Some hotels and hostels might not pass most Americans’ standards in terms of heating/cooling, reliable power or posh bedding. And most of the world’s tap water is stuff you don’t want to drink. Even in a modern city like Shanghai, you only drink water from bottles or from hot water spigots that heat (and thus purify) water with near boiling temperatures to make it potable.
If such inconveniences bother you, be prepared to mark off a number of amazing destinations you’ll never get to see. China. India. Vietnam. Anywhere in Africa and some places in Europe. And a whole swath of incredible places in Latin America. That will pretty much limit your world travel to western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea. Great places, but just a fraction of the globe.
And forget much of the world if your fear of germs leaves you constantly reaching for the antibacterial gel.
But if you can learn to adapt to conditions the locals live in, so much more of the world opens up to you. You can trek the Himalayas or hike the Andes. Explore Peruvian food markets or dive into the Chinese countryside. See the wild places of sub-Saharan Africa or experience the teeming streets of Mumbai. Enjoy cheap but tasty street food expertly prepared by a Hong Kong street vendor.
Priceless memories you can’t get from the safety of the sanitized West and the places that try to imitate it.
So the question becomes this: Can you accept less in order to experience more?
Looks like Colorado got some new snow over the past few days. Not much new in terms of snow in New Mexico, but all the resorts are reporting a good base. Without further delay…
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
I’m posting this for no other reason than I think it’s funny. Enjoy.