RN meets vicious banana slug on the trail

From interviewing folks who enjoy and have a passion for the outdoors, I am often amazed to find that there are many hikers just like me, that make simple outdoor mistakes which could result in disasters.  Of course, we learn from them and tell the story to help others avoid dangerous decisions.  Tami Yanutik, an RN […]

Written By Clayton Kessler

On October 22, 2009

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From interviewing folks who enjoy and have a passion for the outdoors, I am often amazed to find that there are many hikers just like me, that make simple outdoor mistakes which could result in disasters.  Of course, we learn from them and tell the story to help others avoid dangerous decisions.  Tami Yanutik, an RN from Oregon who loves the outdoors, is one of those adventurous folks.  One of the things that makes her unique is that she is the only hiker on planet Earth who evaded the unconscionable grip of death from a ….Banana Slug!

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I was one of those kids who always wished for the paved streets and manicured lawns of urban life.  Instead it was pot-holed, gravel roads with knee high burr-laden, brown weeds in the boonies.  I lamented this geographically rural upbringing early on, but as I grew older, I came to appreciate the the smells, sights, sounds and serenity of the outdoors.

Enjoying the serenity.

Enjoying the serenity.

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

I have been born and raised in Oregon and have ventured and explored most of this great state’s nooks and crannies.  If I had to choose one area as a favorite it would probably be on the banks, along the crystal clear waters of the Illinois River.

Quiet Clear Waters

Quiet Clear Waters

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

I was taught to swim in the clarion pools of the Illinois along with our black lab Brutus.  Brute was a hulk of a canine and you never saw a kid dog paddle so fast as when Brute’s un-manicured claws where closing in.  Those very same claws came in handy on one occasion.  My eight year old imagination had me fancying myself as an pioneer woman.  In the books I’d read, the women pounded excess water out of their clothing with rocks.  The tales did not go into detail about the shape and texture of these early clothes dryers.  I picked up a promising pounding stone, one with many jagged, knife like protuberances and proceeded to pepper a new summer t-shirt with a multitude of diminutive holes.  Always a quick thinker (or a quick excuse maker), I came up with a brilliant explanation for those tiny breaches in the fabric.  It was simple.  Brutus, with his paws as big as pie tins, had walked his hulk over my shirt as it lay on the riverbank.  This was the story that spilled from my mouth as my father asked what had happened to my shirt.  It was the same fable told to my mother once back at home.  I escaped freely from that potential penalty with a hearty self-patting on the back.  I look back now as an adult on that incident and wonder if my parents knew but found too much mirth in the situation to let on?  I like to think I pulled it off!!

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 am an RN and fortunately have never had to kick any of my nursing skills into action out on the trails.  That is not to say I have not had close calls.  Just recently I went on what was to be a leisurely 5 – 6 mile hike with my cousin, visiting Montana boyfriend and Lolo, my Irish fairy dog (one blue eye, one brown eye).

Montana Friend at home in the wilderness.

Montana Friend at home in the wilderness.

The three of us, fairly fit, set out on the Briggs Creek Trail around 11am, day packs sparsely loaded and a liter canteen of water.  The trail follows along Taylor Creek in the old growth forest of the Siskiyou Wilderness.  The route was magical, with prehistoric sized aquatic plants, ancient colossal trees and piles of moss covered stones that were the tailings of old mining claims.

About 5 miles into the hike, we saw no sign of the road the trail was supposed to meet up with.   It was this road we planned on following back to where our vehicle was parked and our bountiful lunches were packed.  We unanimously voted to forge on a wee bit farther, feeling fortified by the hand full of grapes and gulps of water.  Two more miles and an extremely steep incline later, we came to a three-pronged fork in the trail.

Exploring the trail.

Exploring the trail.

Hugely disappointed in not seeing a maintained road we plopped down and devoured the remainder of our grapes, or what I will forever refer to as manna.  We were cursing ourselves at that point for a number of reasons, the most of which was the lack of sustenance, why didn’t I throw in that granola bar?  We had a choice, go the 7 miles back the way we came, or take one of the paths, which appeared more like a road, and kiss the dice for luck.

We gambled and took the downhill road…..we lost big time on that roll of the dice!  So there we were, 8 miles from the car, sun getting low in the sky and nothing to fuel our long trek back.  It was one foot in front of the other for the three of us humbled day trekkers on the 8 miles back.  Every leg muscle protested, my feet were soaked from a slip in a creek crossing and I dared not think of my grumbling stomach for fear I might puke.  Eight and a half hours and 15+ miles later, a finer site I had never seen as my SUV parked under the pine trees.

The three of us discussed our “deviations from accuracy” on the drive home.  We agreed, even those who have spent most of their lives hiking, camping, rafting, etc, can find themselves in unexpected situations.  While we were never truly lost, we knew we could retrace our steps and go out the way we came in, there are a smattering of things we would have done differently.  Always throw in an extra power bar or two, they take up very little room but provide great fuel.  Make sure your day pack has a flashlight and a thermal blanket.  We did not need these but there was that “oh sh*%” moment, at the bottom of the last road-to-nowhere when I thought we might.  Always tell someone back home exactly where you are going.  My cousin had told her parents but they are 70 and 80 years old and we weren’t sure they would remember!  Take an extra pair of socks, my feet were prunes from my misstep.

There was good to come out of this hike too.  I found out Lolo is a fantastic trail dog, tireless and obedient and the calories burned on the hike made the gorging on salt -n- vinegar chips guiltless!

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

Beware - Vicious Banana Slug!

Beware - Vicious Banana Slug!

I once came across a vicious banana slug on the trail.  How often do you get to see a real banana slug?!

What is your favourite outdoor website?

Loooove Women’s Adventure, it’s a magazine and a website.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

I wouldn’t be a true Oregonian if I didn’t say Columbia, especially the deals at the outlet store!


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