Good article, full of sage advice that many of us know (or ought to know) and don't practice as faithfully as we should.

Suzanne was looking over my shoulder as I was reading and reminded me of the times we've been on hikes in heat, or cold or rain without hats, water, maps or food ("we're only going for a short walk" we'd say upon starting out). And the times we've started too late and had to make our way back in the dark.

The best outcome of what could have been a pretty bad situation was when we left on snowshoe hike at about 1pm thinking that our route was a relatively level couple of miles round trip (we were fully supplied on this excursion), only to find that the hill we had to climb back up (it seemed so easy going down) was exhausting! By the time we got to the top the sun was down, but the moon was coming up...full! We had a great walk the last half mile or so through the woods and snow-filled meadows by the light of the moon ( flashlight).

We've made similar transgressions on roadtrips. The most notable example was our visit to Canyonlands and the spur of the moment decision to drive the White Rim Trail. Again we started down the road at about 1pm on what we knew was a 100 mile loop. We figured "100 miles at an average of 20mph is 5 hours...we'll be back by 6pm and sunset is about problem"). Well, the average speed is closer to 9mph, and in the canyon the sun goes down closer to 5:30 or 6pm so we drove the last 6 hours in the dark. Yes, the 100 mile trip took 11 hours! But we were prepared...kind of. We were driving a Jeep Cherokee with a full tank of gas so the car could handle the "trail" (an apt description). We had water and some Powerbars. We always carry emergency tools, first aid kit and such, and there were 2 or 3 campgrounds along the way so we weren't completely alone, but we were pretty much alone most of the way.

After it got dark, we found that following the trail was difficult...all but impossible. We agreed that if we ever lost the trail completely we'd just stop there for the night. Several times I had to get out and take a flashlight to figure out where the trail went as it crossed over slick rock with nothing but a few cairns to mark the way. And once we got to the top of a steep hill and, with the headlights pointing almost straight up, couldn't see which way the road went as it decended the other side. Again, I had to get out and direct Suzanne which way to continue (she always drives on these kinds of roads because she can't stand to be a passenger).

It was a memorable trip, not just for the scenery we did get to see, but also for the experience of feeling your way in difficult, unfamiliar territory using little more than our wits.

Oh well, all's well that ends well, so they say. As long as it ends well.

Craig Sheumaker
co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years