Have you ever smelled that …nasty smell. Your in the woods and you wonder if it is something rotten. hmm what is it? Read on to see how Dale, working his way (crawling) through a tough section of a Yellowstone hike, came across a bit of a surprise! Not only has Dale E Smith had close calls with grizzlies, fought with head and neck cancer and traveled spectacular back country in more than 48 states, but he has recently launched Expedition Paw Prints on www.pawprintsthemagazine.com!
It is nice to see what Dale is up to in the Expedition Paw Prints series but to also actually listen to Dale on his radio show Paw Prints Live online is very cool! Sit back grab a coffe and enjoy the tales of a man a tent and his dog Keegan…
How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?
I was raised camping every weekend at Lake Pomme de Terre in Hickory County, Missouri. My parents started us in a roomy canvas cabin tent from Sears, starting in about 1968. We graduated from the tent to a pop-up camper. When I was in high
school, we switched to a motor home. It seems I spent every weekend from the age of six through my high school years at the lake. I learned to water ski at the age of six. I was hunting as soon as I was big enough to walk a field. We spent a couple of two week vacations at the lake. Our home for that two week period was our tent and our recreation was water skiing and fishing. When we weren’t spending our vacations at the lake, we were off traveling cross country. I had relatives on both coasts of the US. If we weren’t camping our way west through Rocky Mountain National Park, The Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park to make it to our west coast destination in Oregon where we would stay for a week in Hermiston with my Great Aunts and Great Uncle, then we would head off to Mount Hood, and Crater Lake before swinging south and east to make our way back to Missouri. We were headed East traveling through the Smokey Mountains making our way to Connecticut and Rhode Island. I was fortunate as a child to have traveled through or camped in 47 states in the lower 48 plus Canada both east and west. The only state I missed growing up was Maine.
As I became a young adult I started downsizing my camping gear to what I could carry on my back. You must remember that this was the late Seventies, early Eighties. The gear we had wasn’t
What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?
I have always been a huge fan of our national parks and forests here in the US. My favorite is still, probably due to childhood memories, Yellowstone National Park. I still remember as a six year old child watching the idiot in the car in front of us feeding the black bear sow and her cubs from their passenger window. I also remember having to wait for hours in the car while a grizzly slept in the middle of the road. Finally the first car would slowly roll up and give the bear a nudge with the bumper. OH MY, if we new then what we know now.
Yellowstone followed by Glacier National Park, then Rocky Mountain National Park.
Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.
My last trip to Yellowstone was the spring of 1999. I was working selling advertising to hotels and
Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.
I have been a bit turned around once or twice but never lost. I have been fortunate that I have not ever had to deal with a medical emergency in the field. I will say for those who don’t venture out often, if you do go in the wilderness, be prepared. You are a visitor in an untamed environment and bad things can happen. Learn to use a map and a compass. That way even if your GPS is lost, broken, etc. you can still find your way. If you are going on a day hike in the wilderness, take supplies that will last you a couple of days just in case. I’m the type that doesn’t want to be that guy on the news that starved to death because I went for a day hike with my store bought bottle of water, got lost, fell off a cliff and was found a week later dead. That’s just me though.
Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?
The scariest happened in 1999 in Yellowstone. If anyone has been to Yellowstone since the fires in
1988 you know the forest is still trying to come back. Many of the trees that were burned are still lying on the ground like toothpicks. I was making my way up a fairly steep incline. Steep enough that I was on my hands and knees, I was crawling my way up the hill. One leg over the log, belly on it, crawling my way to the next. I came up to one down tree and the smell was so bad I thought I had crawled through a pile of bear scat. I sat up on the downed tree checking myself to see where the scat was on my person when I looked over the next log or two and noticed what I thought was a log ahead moved a little. I took a closer look and noticed that the log had an eye that opened. I quickly realized that the smell was bear scat and it was attached to a black bear that was about 20 feet from me. He had tucked himself underneath a downed tree for an afternoon nap. I slowly backed down the hill I had just spent the last hour and a half crawling up.
The same trip, about 4 hours later I was gingerly trekking along through a long narrow valley. I looked up at the tree line on the hill in front of me and thought I had spotted movement. I stopped and got my binoculars so I could take a closer look. When I focused in, I saw a Bison carcass lying
in the snow. The next thing I saw was a Grizzly that stood on his hind legs and I just knew he was looking straight into my eyes through the binocular lenses. The big old Grizz started to pace back and forth behind the carcass, then in the blink of an eye he flipped that bison over with one swipe of his paw. I took the signal that I was an unwelcomed guest at dinner. Step by step I walked backwards out of the valley, never taking my eye off of the bear. I must have walked backwards for a half mile, seemed a lot further than that. Needless to say I decided to take the long way around to my campsite. I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every sound I heard made me think I was in danger. Very seldom do you run in to a bear but two in the same day gave me the jitters.
If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?
I have had several multi day adventures over the years. The best wisdom I could give you is always be prepared. The wilderness is a forbidding foe if you aren’t ready for it. Even if you are ready for it nature will test us in every way possible. Nature can battle your endurance, strength, mental toughness and plain intestinal fortitude. The difference between us and nature is that nature NEVER quits, EVER. You have to be ready for that.
What is your favourite outdoor website?
I usually spend most of my time on nps.gov, the National Park Service, fs.fed.us, the US Forest Service or any of the state park websites here in the US.
What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?
I am pretty much a gear nerd. I love reading about new equipment. I also know that I am not a professional climber, etc so I tend to favor stores that carry decent equipment at a decent price
point. Depending on the adventure, I will frequent different stores. For basic outdoors and car camping, I shop Cabela’s. They have a location not far from my house and an enormous selection. For more technical gear I like to shop at two places here in the Kansas City metro. One is Dynamic Earth, you can find them at dynamicearth.net and the other is Backwoods, they are at backwoods.com
Now that I am 48 years old, (January 25th), my adventures and outlook have changed a little. I guess I should say a lot. I spent much of the last 15 years not getting out as much as I would have
liked. In 2004 my wife and I started our own business. It keeps us busy almost every moment of every day. I will say however since we are in the media and we cover the pet industry and animal community that it is fun and doesn’t seem like work. In 2007 I was diagnosed with late stage 4 cancer of the head and neck. I received the diagnosis on my 45th birthday. What a birthday present that was. We battled through it and for 18 months my wife was my nurse. I spent my days with zero energy, sleeping and nauseous. I noticed during that time that my Border Collie, Keegan was at my bedside day and night. I was now cancer free and in October of 2008 my wife begged me
to get away for a weekend and go camping. She isn’t much of a camper. So I started calling friends to see if they wanted to go on a fly fishing trip with me, they said yes until it was a few days before we were to leave. For various reasons they started bailing out on me. My wife, seeing that I was a bit upset with my friends said, she had contacted a company that made outdoor gear for dogs and they were going to send it to us if I did a product review. She asked me to take my Border Collie with me, go have fun and do a review on this companies dog gear. I, for the first time went not only camping, but fly fishing with my dog. We had such a great time it spawned a new adventure series we are doing called Expedition Paw Prints; me camping with my dog as my only helper. Since the fly fishing adventure we have been car camping a few times, done several gear reviews and to make sure and keep my wife happy, we are also going
and staying at pet friendly cabins, hotels, and resorts doing reviews on those properties. My dog and I are gearing up for a three day winter backpacking trip to Mark Twain National Forest. I guess the challenge cancer presented made me realize that life is short so do what you love. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say “if I only had done this”. Live every day as if it were your last. Leave everyone you come in contact with the impression that you want to be remembered by.
If you would like to follow my adventures and Expedition Paw Prints go to our website www.pawprintsthemagazine.com and click on the Departments tab and go to our Travel Tails section. In the mean while, get out there and enjoy the outdoors and blaze a trail that you will be proud of.