The Contingency Plan

“I guess when you turn off the main road, you have to be prepared to see some funny houses.”
– Stephen King

I am a subscriber to several magazines that revolve around outdoors, kayaking, or just adventuring in general.  (And strangely some magazine called “Outdoors” that just started showing up without me paying for it.)  They each seem to find their way into my mailbox at different times; just far enough apart that I can finish reading one as another arrives.  It’s almost as if I planned it that way.  In any case, for the past few issues all of these magazines have been featuring articles on “what to do if…” scenarios.  That said, let’s shelve that topic for a second and talk about Mr. Ralston (portrayed above by James Franco in 127 Hours).

I had first heard about Ralston long before the movie or his book were published. I remember seeing the stories on major news networks just shortly after his traumatic event.  When his book was published, I picked it up and read it cover to cover, and when the movie was released, naturally I watched it too. Where am I going with all this you ask?  Well, I’m building the back story you see.  All of these magazines, the book, and now the recent movie, all keep reinforcing this unnerving feeling of “what if something happens?

I’m a firm believer that you can’t go through life asking that question.  That sort of fear mongering represses the human spirit.  It leads to standing there looking at something you really want to do only to turn back and living with regret.  While all of these articles, books, and media seem to be holding up some sort of neon sign saying “OMG, you could die“, I’ve taken away from them, a different outlook.  Ralston’s event, for example, gave a great account of what he should have done differently.  Detailed itineraries, vehicle information, credit card information, driver’s license, recent photos of me and my vehicle, approximate routes, all of which Ralston failed to create and share with, well, anyone.  I’ve learned not to repeat that mistake and all of my information will be shared with family.  The magazine articles, while they often paint a gruesome picture, have taught me to think about different scenarios and the precautions I should get in the habit of doing – like checking clothes and shoes in particular for things like scorpions when camping.  And tarantulas.  And rattlesnakes.  And mountain lions.  Oh, and the highly toxic coral snake, which has venom twice as strong as a rattlesnake.  Wait, why am I camping out there again?

While most of my trip is within the safety of well-traveled trails and parks, I do intend to wander off a bit for a few days.  The ironic part is I won’t be that far away from where Ralston’s accident occurred and part of me, after having read his book and watched the movie, wants to visit it.  It’s almost as if it is a symbol of a place where the most powerful force on earth – the will to live, triumphed over certain death.  While that’s all very Hollywood, common sense tells me that the only thing I can do is plan to have a great time but be mindful of my surroundings and take nothing for granted.  Do what I can to avert trouble and should trouble find me, have a plan in place to allow others to find me as well.

Just over 4 weeks to go.


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