I recently came across Deb Lauman’s Search and Rescue website where she writes about her experiences as a SAR member in Flagstaff Arizona. I soon learned that this unique and wonderful individual has another major project on the go that will affect the lives of many.
She will be spending three months in Nepal from May through July, 2010, to learn about the only SAR team in that country and the many lives they’ve touched. She will then return home and write a book about them. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the book will go to the Nepalese rescue team.
This is a project Deb is very excited about. Here, let her tell you more about it.… or continue to read her compelling interview below and find out why she is passionate about the outdoors.
How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?
Well, my parents were not the outdoorsy type (never camped, didn’t do much walking in the woods that would qualify as hiking), but they did send me to summer camp beginning at the age of eight. It was there that I went on my first “real” hike and slept in a tent for the first time and did so many more times over the 8 summers that followed. But it was in college, when I joined the New Hampshire Outdoors Club, that hiking, backpacking, and camping really got under my skin. It was during one of those club trips to the White Mountains that I learned about the Appalachian Trail, and the idea of a thru-hike set in.
What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?
Wow, that’s tough to answer. Obviously, I love the Appalachian Trail (if you can call that an area), and I’ve really gotten hooked on canoe-camping in northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but I’m partial to northern Arizona, which is now my home. There’s such diversity here, from the alpine environment on the San Francisco Peaks (up to 12,633 feet) to the bottom of Grand Canyon.
Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.
We’d just completed (bushwhacked) the Kekekabic Trail portion of our journey. Now, sixty more miles of overgrown, barely marked wilderness trail lay ahead of us to the junction with Minnesota’s well-maintained Superior Trail. We were carrying ten days of food, our packs heavy. We were using an inadequate trail guide that talked more about picking berries than crucial turns or clearly identifiable landmarks. The Border Route trail (BRT) would take us far from exit points should we have lost the tread. These things were on our minds as we set out to re-enter the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildnerness.
But we didn’t get far before confusion set in. Ski and snowmobile trails diverged from the BRT, then looped back around. Then the barely discernible BRT would make an abrupt turn. The guide would state something to the effect, “Turn left at the clump of raspberries.” There were raspberries all over!
Within a mile, we came to a jumble of blowdowns and, after picking our way over and under, we saw no sign of treadway on the other side. Retracing our steps, we noticed a passable area to our left, a ninety-degree turn, which looked more like a large animal had recently passed through the thick brush than part of a designated trail. We also pushed through, maybe fifty feet, and found ourselves on another snowmobile trail. No mention in the chatty guidebook about such a turn. Were we even on the BRT? We decided not to find out. Border Route Trail hike aborted.
Actually, what I said to Allen was, “Isn’t there another way to do this? What about canoeing?”
Within seconds, our MacKenzie maps were laid on the ground, end-to-end, and we studied the possible water routes, determining if we could get close to the northeastern terminus of the Superior Trail by boat. Sure enough, it was doable. We sat there in the middle of the ski trail, being devoured by mosquitoes, and discussed the canoe trip. It was either that or get a shuttle to the Superior Trail, which I didn’t want to do. So we decided to hike back to Gunflint Outfitters and talk to the manager about what we wanted to do and find out if we could even get a permit. (The hiking permit we’d already purchased was not transferable to a canoe permit.)
To our delight, we were outfitted with a 40-pound Kevlar Epoxy canoe, paddles, PFDs and a new permit, and then paddled and portaged our way to the boat launch on McFarland Lake five days later. From there, it was an eight-mile dirt road walk to the SHT trailhead, where continued on foot for another 200 some-odd miles. Since there is no phone at the take-out, we prearranged with Gunflint Lodge to have the canoe picked up.
As it turned out, what we’d chosen to do for that middle leg of our northern Minnesota journey was part of the historic Voyageurs’ Route, which I hope to do in its entirety someday. An unexpected but exciting change of plans. I was so happy we still covered the distance under our own power.
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’ve never been a “victim” of a wilderness medical emergency and thankfully have yet to get lost (just temporarily misplaced a time or two), but as a Search and Rescue volunteer, I’ve encountered many of these situations. And those experiences have really driven home the need to be prepared. By being prepared, I mean not only having certain equipment but knowledge as well, such as navigation know-how, knowing the weather forecast and the limits of one’s abilities, and being aware of the terrain and degree of difficulty before setting out on a backcountry trip. Having a 24-hour pack filled with ten essentials is important, even on what’s intended to be a short day hike, not only to help avoid problems but to be ready to remain in the backcountry for an extended period should the unexpected happen.
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 thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2000 (I can’t believe it’s been 10 years!), and, since then, I’ve done a number of other extended backpacking trips in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and here in Arizona. And I have many more on my ever-growing bucket list of “great long-distance walks.”
I guess one of the biggest things I’ve learned from all of that hiking is that the best laid plans really do often go astray. Planning is great, but also plan to be spontaneous, to be flexible, and to be faced with the unexpected, especially on long-distance hikes.
What is your favourite outdoor website?
There are several I visit frequently, including Trail Journals (journals by long-distance backpackers on trails all over the world), AllTrails (where you can read and write trail reviews, keep track of trails you’ve hiked and want to hike, etc.) and BackpackerTV (which has great outdoor videos).
If you are a website administrator please add your url here.
With two Search and Rescue blogs, an online store, a Search & Rescue stories website, a “hiking writer” website, and more than 100 articles out there, I’m definitely all over the web, but I’d love for people to take a look at my Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal book project. I was invited to spend three months in Nepal starting in May, 2010, where I’ll get to know the only SAR team in the country, their stories, and the many lives they’ve touched, then return to Arizona to write a book about them. If people are interested in the project and would like to make a pledge, there are a number of backer rewards being offered, including a brand new Osprey Kestrel 38 backpack, signed copies of the book, and more. I’ll be blogging about the experience on Deb’s Search and Rescue Stories. http://debssarstories.blogspot.com