Monday, April 30, 2012

Surviving The Unexpected — Again

Victoria Grover's plan was to take a short day hike in the southern Utah desert. It didn't work out that way.

Ironically, this incident took place not far from where Becky and I and our two young children spent a year living a survival lifestyle that included time in a couple different caves and a wikiup. And knowing what I do about that country, I can verify that what happened to Victoria could easily happen to anyone in this desert wilderness.

At the end of her day of hiking, she headed back along the trail toward her car. But it was farther than she anticipated, and her pace was slow enough that she didn't make it back to the car before night overtook her. She wisely decided to camp for the night and continue the journey in the morning.

Victoria is a veteran outdoor enthusiast, but this situation caught her off guard and unprepared to spend the night. The only equipment she had with her was a rain poncho, so she used that as a wrap to help stave off the cold and wind of the desert night.

In the morning, Victoria continued her trek toward her vehicle. But when she jumped down from a 4-foot ledge, she landed wrong, hit her leg on a rock and broke the bone.

Working against the pain of her broken leg, she used her walking stick to fashion a splint that allowed her to crawl to a nearby creek for water. Hiking was out of the question now, so he spent the next three nights wrapped in her poncho, curled up to conserve her body heat against the brutal cold night winds. "The worst thing is the cold," she said. "It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon."

Without anything to eat, her energy level waned, leaving her vulnerable to hypothermia. "The hunger is something that comes in waves," she said. "You get hungry and want to eat everything and then it goes away."

The hardest night for her was the last night before she was rescued. With her body core drained of warmth, and no ability to restoke the inner fire, hypothermia took its toll. "I certainly could have died out there because I had hypothermia and I stopped shivering." 

Fortunately, the guest ranch where she was staying alerted authorities when Victoria failed to return from her hike. That was on Thursday. Police tracked down her car, but it wasn't until Sunday morning that they found her and took her to a hospital for treatment of the broken leg and hypothermia.

It was a happy ending that could have gone much worse, but being the rugged individual that she is, Victoria Grover says she has no plans to give up hiking. However, I'll bet this experience will change her approach to preparation for even a short day hike.

The lessons for us should be clear.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Prepare to survive unexpected nights alone in the wilderness, perhaps nursing an injury or enduring a sudden storm. 
  • Carry emergency shelter and first aid supplies, extra food, clothing, fire starting equipment and water.
  • Leave a hike plan with trusted individuals who can initiate a search if you fail to return on schedule.
  • Stick to your hike plan.
  • Be prepared to signal for help, using multiple methods.


  1. When we lived in Utah Marie went for a drive one day and didn't tell me where she was going. When she didn't show up at home that night I called the Sheriff's department and they spent the night looking for her in places I thought she may have went.

    They found her the next day stuck on a beach at the lake, but at least she had stayed with the car and had warmth because I always stressed the importance of keeping the top half of the tank full.

  2. I'm glad that worked out and she was okay. Your wanting her to keep the tank full is great advice. And staying with the vehicle undoubtedly allowed the searchers to find her more quickly than if she had wandered away.

  3. We often went for drives in wilderness areas and at times got stuck, but without me there to get us unstuck she just didn't know the right things to do, like stop digging a hole with the damn tire. Start filling it in with anything you can find to fill it with and keep working back and forth a bit at a time and building it up.

  4. That man over by North Bend, I wouldn't call him a survivalist, I would call him insane. If you have a survival camp to go to because of chaos around you that's fine, but it's stupid to kill your wife and daughter before going there. That's a sure way to bring some good swat teams down on you and I doubt many survivalists can out shoot a swat team. Not that there was a shoot out, the idiot blew his own brains out, hows that for surviving?

    I think real survivalists aren't worried about swat teams, just protecting themselves from the chaos of general rebellion and chaos if things do go to heck.