What do you do when you’re lost in the woods ?

Recently, I helped out with a search and rescue of a fellow motorcycle rider in a remote area. The rider who had been lost, is a expert off road rider and outdoor enthusiast. He co-owns a cabin right next to the off road riding area in a national fores he rides in and is very familiar with the area, including many of the “off-trail” (unmarked) trails.

The rider went up to the cabin and went riding, met up with a friend, parted ways and was last seen returning to his cabin on the trail system. A few days later, friends and family were not able to get a hold of him and notified the authorities, who checked the cabin and found everything locked up, his truck (he used to drive up to the cabin) was still there, but the motorcycle he was riding still gone.

Unfortunately, the search didn’t start until almost a week after he was last seen in the area and the rider has a medical condition (diabetes). The area is very rugged and consists of many trails that are on the side of a ridge with steep drop offs and dense vegetation. There are also several “expert” level trails, which would be hard for many search and rescue (SAR) members to navigate. There are over 100 miles of marked trails in the area. In addition, the area has unknown trails and roads that are not marked on the trail maps or current USGS maps. Finally, there are illegal marijuana growing plots that are guarded by armed thugs who are known to shoot off warning shots if you come to close.

He usually carries a supply of insulin when he is outdoors, as well as water, and presumably some emergency supplies. His bike would have a range of 50 miles or so; it was unknown if he carried extra fuel. He was also carrying a smart phone, he uses to record his rides (both motorcycle and mountain bike) and he was in good physical condition.

The agencies SAR teams focused on trail systems near the last point he was seen, and included airborne search by helicopter and coast guard search and rescue assets. Volunteers, friends and family scoured the rest of the trail systems as best as possible, walking several of the high consequence trails.

At the time of writing (14 days since last seen), he has not been found and his chances are not very good at this point. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is not uncommon near where I live and many outdoor enthusiasts are lost.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, what can you do to protect yourself from getting yourself in this kind of predicament, other than abstinence ? Here are some things which will likely reduce the chances of becoming another statistic, when you’re hurt or lost by yourself.

  1. Take a buddy. If at all possible, always ride/hike with a buddy you can trust, who can get help if needed.
  2. Let people know of your plans. Be as precise as possible. E.g. “I will be riding trails x,y and z in this area and my goal for the day is to practice this particular technical obstacle. I plan to be back by this time.”. Also, let them know who to contact who is familiar with your abilities and the area you plan to be in, as well as agencies in that area (Sheriff, Ranger Station, etc…).
  3. Leave a note on your vehicle, including emergency contact information and where/when you will be hiking/riding. This will help the local authorities and rangers who patrol the staging/trail heads know who is out there. Check in with the ranger station, if that makes sense for your area/locale. Some areas require wilderness permits to access areas, which help the authorities keep track of who is out there.
  4. Carry a card on yourself with emergency contact information, and ID bracelets/dog tags which notify of any medical conditions. Mark all your gear/clothes with your name in permanent marker, etc… This way if you lose gear, it will be a clue for the searchers and search dogs. We found several items of clothing on and near the trails, and weren’t sure if they belonged to the lost rider or not.
  5. Stay on marked trails as best as you can. The reason is three fold. One, it’s better for the environment to only wear specific trails that can be properly maintained and checked. It reduces the impact to an area. Secondly, if you go off trail you may wander onto someone’s illegal pot field/meth lab and risk exposing yourself to the criminal element. Finally, if you’re off trail, it will make it that much harder to find you.
  6. Carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) or similar device in addition to your cell phone. Cell phone have limited battery life and do not work well in remote/rugged terrain. If you have a cell phone, your should text/SMS a message with your location. Even if the cell phone does not have a signal, it will queue the message until it gets  chance to send it. If you are mobile, try to move to a location that has cell phone reception, if it is safe to do so. Usually elevated areas have a better view of cell towers, especially if the area is facing a major highway/interstate. Text/SMS message can be sent with intermittent coverage. There are several flavors of beacons. In an emergency, they send a message with you GPS coordinates to a satellite which than forwards it to dispatch center, who then dispatches a local emergency response team. In order for the beacon to work, you need a clear sky view. Some models also have a check-in feature, which allow you to send non-emergency type messages. Some can be tracked on a website and will send a message if you haven’t moved for a while. I like the 406 MHz type PLBs. It also uses satellites to send the initial message, but transmits at higher power and will work even if it does not get a reliable GPS fix. Also, many emergency response agencies have radio direction finders that can be used to locate the beacon locally. It’s the same system used off-shore and in planes. 406 MHz PLBs  usually have a shelf live of 10 years, and will transmit for 24 or 48hrs. Any beacon is better than cell phone and a cell phone is better than nothing.
  7. If it is safe and especially if  you’re injured stay put. It is difficult to find people when they move around, especially if they are lost. If you can, find a clear spot which makes it easier to locate you from the air. Make some sort of marker on the ground which breaks the look of the natural terrain. Things like crosses, triangles, are unnatural and easier to locate from the air. You can use gear, clothing, rocks, etc… If there is no risk of setting a brush fire, you can make a signal fire when you hear planes in the area flying a search pattern. Also, stand up and wave your hands when you see an airplane searching. If you are near a road, stay by the road.
  8. Take a back country first-aid or first-responder class. Self administer first aid to life threatening injuries. If you are bleeding, stop the bleeding. If you think you have a spinal injury, try not to move. Hydrate and keep warm to prevent shock.
  9. Most of all Don’t panic ! Unless you have life threatening injuries or are in a dangerous location, you will be fine. A normal person can go for 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. The only possible concern might be shelter if the weather is cold or you’re wet. Hypothermia can set in quickly, especially if you are wet. Relax, rest, ration your water and food.

Here is a review of some PLBs.

What do you do when you’re unemployed/free ranging ?

I have recently found myself in a situation where I have a lot of time on my hands because I was terminated from work. Here are some tips to keep your sanity while your are free ranging.

Losing a job is one of the top stressful “life changing events”, along with death in the family and a divorce. At first you might feel a sense of relief, but the danger lies after that feeling subsides and you start feeling sorry for yourself.

I have been through one divorce, both of my parents dying and having been through three job loses in the last decade or so and have developed some coping skills for this.

Here are some things you can do to help.

File for unemployment

The first thing you should do is file for unemployment. The rules and how to’s vary from state to state. Go to your state’s unemployment service’s website and find out how to file. By now, I think, most if not all states will have a way to do this online.

This will get the bureaucracy machine started. While you are there, get registered for the state run job board and find out if there are funded training opportunities that are available for you.

Renew any documents that are going to expire soon

Again, this will get the bureaucracy machine started. Get out you wallet. Does your drivers license expire soon ? How about your passport, licenses, etc… Make a list and note when the document expires, and when you can file for renewal. Set aside the money for doing this now in an envelope, along with the list.

If you haven’t made a cloud type service account, like Google, open one now. Use the calendar function, setup a private mail account that you can use for your job search (most companies will not communicate with you through your Twitter or Facebook). Put  all of your expiring documents on the calendar. While there, put everyone’s birthday, anniversary you know on the calendar and put all your contacts there as well. This will insure you can access them from anywhere, in case something happens to you computer, cellphone, or other device that you might be storing this information on.

Other things to store there, a copy of your resume, cover letters, etc… If you are using an Android phone, you can sync it with your Google account, you can setup similar service with you Apple based phones/devices.

Exercise

Most people, like me, probably worked a desk job and have not had that much time to really get in shape. If you are lucky, you may had done some exercise at lunch or during breaks, like going on a walk or riding your bike to lunch. Don’t stop ! Keep doing that, but now that you have some extra time, don’t feel like you’re limited.

If you belong to a gym, take advantage of your membershop, maybe hire a trainer. Explain what your objectives are, i.e. do you want to lose some weight, gain some muscle mass, increase your stamina. Not only is it healthy, but exercising releases endorphins, which are necessary to help battle depression especially when dealing with a job loss. This is a good opportunity to kick any bad health habits, like smoking/vaping, etc…

So, go out for a walk right now, ride a bike, do some Yoga; just do it.

Eat right

Eat less carbs, more protein and fruits/vegetables get a “how to” book on nutrition. Learn what a healthy diet is. Many of us have fallen into a junk food habit at work. We go to fast food restaurants, raid the snack machine. Instead, keep a fruit bowl with apples, bananas, etc… If you belong to a gym, many offer classes on nutrition and have trainers that are experienced.

This is one of my weaknesses, I’m a grazer and it’s difficult for me not to grab a snack every time I go in the kitchen. Of all the things, this is the most difficult things for me to curb. Having only healthy snacks in the house, helps. I.e. I’ll graze on carrot sticks just as well as chocolate. Avoid soft drinks. Drink water instead.

Sleep well

This is also difficult for me. Follow some of the common recommendations, establish a bedtime pattern, go to bed at a regular time, ban TV/Electronic devices from the bedroom, keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Avoid caffeine in the latter half of the day.

I find that when I exercise properly and eat well, I find it easier to sleep well. Avoid sleeping pills, if you can help it, they are addictive. Drink a glass of wine before bed, it can help calm nerves. Get evaluated for sleeping disorders, like sleep apnea. Try neural/bio feedback techniques.

Look for new opportunities

Sign up for Linkedin, and job search engines. Check on a daily basis, scan the local job ads, Craigslist and develop contacts with companies and organizations in the  fields you are interested. Make sure you let people know you’re are looking for a job or opportunities, don’t assume everyone knows you’re looking. Refresh your contacts on your status, but not too often.

In many search engines you can setup a notification service where it will email or text you a job listings for things you’re are interested in.

Take some small jobs that friends/neighbors/family might have to offer. E.g. some home improvement task, fix a motorcycle, baby sitting, running  errands. Make sure it’s for some return. Don’t be too proud to accept money or a free dinner, etc… Yes, it maybe charity, but they are trying to help you, you would do the same for them if the table is turned.

You can try some fundraising on sites like gofundme.com, etc… It usually helps if you have a large social network on Facebook or Twitter. Explain your situation and what you need money for, etc… Be specific, E.g. you need some money to fix your car, pay of a class, get a certification, etc…

Offer something in return, be creative. I asked for some support to help fund going to a motorcycle race, I offered some customized sticker (common in the motorcycle community) and that some contributors would be listed as sponsor on my race entry. You can offer to mow a lawn, or send them cookies. You’d be surprised by the generosity of you friends. Share you dreams and aspirations. Warning, it may make your heart melt.  Anyway, be honest, don’t overuse or abuse this venue, etc…

Use Craiglist to look for gigs. People often need help with things around their house, or if you have a truck, perhaps move some stuff. Of course, use good judgement to avoid scams, etc…

 

Some of these ideas aren’t really a good source of steady income, however, it helps you network and shows that you are of good character, etc… Try not to accept stuff for free. Offer something in return, even if it’s just a note expressing your gratitude.

Ever thought about starting your own business ? This is a good time to develop your service or product. You can use crowd sourcing websites like Kickstarter to help fund your product idea. You have time to design something, write business plans, write marketing literature, like white papers. You can use Craigslist to test offering your service and/or products, and Facebook to sell products. For artsy stuff you can also try Etsy.

Volunteer

Volunteer work is a great way to network. Volunteer at a animal shelter, a charity, at church, at school, local youth groups, senior centers.  For us techies, find out if there is a maker/hacker space nearby. Volunteer your expertise, mentoring skills, offer to fix stuff, or even just chaperone etc…

If you’re the outdoor enthusiast; volunteer to lead a hike. Do some trail work. Check with the local ranger or park service. You can even get free training, sometimes, like chain saw certification.

Enjoy a hobby

Hobbies are activities you have a passion for. For some it’s the thing they would rather be doing instead of working. Now is your chance. Find a hobby you can be passionate about and take the time to do your hobby. Hobbies come in many different flavors.

Some hobbies are expensive, but you can make it work anyway; you don’t always have to get top of the line gear/supplies. For example, I’m a motorcycle enthusiast. I have had people give me motorcycles (even when I wasn’t unemployed) they no longer wanted. All they needed is some minor work/repairs. Gear can sometimes be found on boards, like Craigslist, when people get out of a hobby they thought they like, or their gear doesn’t fit anymore.

Offer to coach people in your hobby. This can be rewarding and still connects you to your hobby. I have taught three people in the last couple of years to ride motorcycles.

Some hobbies are free. I enjoy hiking, many areas have no fee areas where you can go hiking. Like I mentioned before, offer to lead a hike. There are protocols on sharing costs of gas/toll/parking if you offer rides. This is a good time to plan and execute your next back packing trip that you never had time for. E.g. hike sections of the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail.

Go see a movie

Many movie theaters offer reduced tickets prices on certain days of the week during the slow times (e.g. matinee, dollar tuesday, etc..). Also, there summer series, where they show older movies and second run theaters that show movie at a cheaper rate. Since you are free during the day, you can take advantagce of these specials. Also, check to see if you qualify for senior discounts.

Read a book

Go to the library (yes, they still exist), get a library card and check out some books.If you don’t like to actually read, you can get books on tape/CD as well. Some libraries even offer online books for rental.

Reread some of the books you liked in the past. See if your favorite author has published any new work. Expand your comfort zone; talk to a librarian and tell them what you liked and see what they recommend. Many librarians are not in their job because of the money and thrive when you ask them for advice/recommendation.

Spend time with friends and family

That’s a tough one for many who may not have much family they are close too. If you do, visit, hang out. Spend time with you kids, do projects, go fly a kite with them. Just hang out. Invite a friend for lunch. Reconnect with a family member, etc…

Travel

While gas prices and airlines tickets are not at a all time low, we are currently enjoying a period of slightly lower gas prices. Take advantage and go somewhere, sleep in the car, bring a tent so you don’t have to stay at a high priced hotel. You can usually find cheap hotels or campgrounds within reasonable distance to attractions, were you can make day trips.

Check for deals on museums, parks, etc… many banks or travel services (like AAA) offer reduced rate tickets. You can get season/membership passes to state, national parks and museums for reasonable prices. Since if you have a lot of time to visit many of them, it will be worth the money.

Go somewhere you haven’t been, or just drive. Plan your cross the country, continent, etc… trip.  Go off the beaten path, take secondary roads, whenever possible, talk to people you meet. Ask them about their city/area, etc… Immerse yourself. Go outside your comfort zone.

Check for bargain airline tickets to various destinations. Southwest has a list of special deals on their front page. Pick a city you have not been to, find out what the history is, see if there are long lost friends who live near there. You can also check the job listing for that area and offer that you can stop by, since you will be in the area anyway.

Around the Home

Many of us have neglected things at home or in the yard. This is your chance to catch up. Maybe you have some boxes that have not been un-boxed since your last move. Go through your stuff, lighten your load, organize, prioritize. You can sell stuff you no longer need on Ebay, Craiglist, maybe have a yard sales, or take it to GoodWill or the local recycling center.

Do some yard work, weed you flower beds, mow/trim you grass, etc… wash your house. Little things go a long way.

Repaint or remodel part of you house. Many recycling centers have a section where construction supplies can be had. Some are takeouts, but sometimes over stock items end up there as well. Find a sink, or vanity, or… Be creative.

Some recycling centers have a hazmat area where you can get old paint. Sure, most likely there is not enough to the whole house, but most often there is enough to do a wall or even a room. Again, be creative.

Camp in the backyard. This is a favorite if you have kids (or not), just pitch a tent, tarp whatever in the backyard and sleep there. It gives a new perspective about your neighborhood.

Write

Keep a journal, contribute to a newsletter, post to a blog, write a letter to the editor, comment on blogs you like or write a short story. So, maybe you’re not the next Michael Crichton, but it’s a great way to be creative and have an outlet.

There are still print magazines. Some accept contributed content. Check the web site for the author’s guide.

Just be yourself and you never know, maybe someone will like your style, personality and there might be an opportunity.

Take some classes or obtain some certificates

Check your community college, local tech schools. Take a class in something new. What about a welding class ? Photography ? Learn a new skill, get a Microsoft Certificate. Most outfitters offer classes in outdoor stuff, like climbing. Take a first aid course, learn CPR, etc… How about a new language ?

How about a art or writing class ? There classes on variety of writing types; novels,  short stories, journaling and media.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas. In the past, I have found that I’m often times busier when I’m between opportunities than when I’m employed.

Dad, were you born back in the day ? Did they have colors or Legos back then ?

Why, yes son, I was born a long time before you were born. We did have coloring books, colored pencils and markers and water colors when we grew up, but it was special to get some of these and we took good care of them. I also had Legos, but they were mostly basic blocks and didn’t have special pieces. I did have a Lego train set with a battery powered locomotive.

We also had kits to build cars and trucks with wheels.

Welcome to Ask Ingo (almost) Anything

All my life I have been known to be the guy that people to go to for answers. So I have decided to collect answers to questions people tend to ask me. Questions range from topics in my profession, hobbies, opinions and just general stuff. However, I have been told by my significant other that I’m NOT to answer any relationship question under any circumstances…Ever. Otherwise, Enjoy !