Thursday, July 4, 2013

Widow Makers

They call these things widowmakers for a reason — they can be deadly, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Unfortunately, 21-year-old Annais Rittenberg happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a widow maker did it's deadly work. In this case, it was a large branch of an old oak tree that broke free and fell 32 feet to the exact spot where Rittenberg was eating breakfast in camp at Yosemite National Park.

While they are relatively rare, when widow makers fall they are equal opportunity killers that don't discriminate. Anyone who happens to be in the path will become a victim.

In fact, widow makers lead the list of my Top Twelve things to watch for when selecting a campsite. Here's the list:

• Before establishing your camp, look up to check for widow makers — dead limbs in the trees overhead that might fall on your camp, causing injury or damage.

• Look for level ground without rocks, roots or stumps protruding from the earth.

• Find a spot with some ground cover, so the dust from just walking around doesn’t create a problem.

• If you are depending upon a local source of water that you will filter, or otherwise purify for use in camp, locate your campsite within convenient reach of the water.

• Likewise, if you are collecting deadfall for firewood, position your camp near enough to the wood supply that it won’t be too difficult to haul the wood to your camp.

• To keep the wind from whistling through your camp, use the lay of the land or natural resources (boulders, downed trees, etc.) to serve as windbreaks.

• For natural climate control, position your camp to take advantage of the early morning sun and afternoon shade.

• Avoid noxious weeds. Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, stinging nettle, thistles, briars and such can make life around camp miserable.

• Make sure the site is not in a natural drainage that will funnel rainwater toward your camp. Also, make sure you are not camping in a place that can be suddenly inundated by a flashflood caused by a storm miles away.

• Avoid spots where there are standing puddles of water, because that will promote mosquitoes, a foul smell, and a messy campsite.

• Check the area for evidence of obnoxious insects. Look for wasp nests, anthills, etc. Some wasps nest in the ground, some in trees or other structures. Observe the area for a few minutes to see if there is insect activity.

• Inspect the area for signs of burrowing animals. The dens of these animals can be dangerous foot traps, causing injury to anyone who steps into one.

1 comment:

  1. I don't trust the maples in this area and chose my camping sites carefully, especially in the winter when they tend to break up. When a wind storm hit the Lyle River campground about four or five years ago it's lucky a lot of people wasn't camping there at the time, it was a real mess.