How many close calls have you had outdoors?

When it comes to doing dumb adventurous stuff in the great outdoors, sometimes Mother Nature kicks your ass and nearly kills you.

Fortunately for me, I’ve only been in a few bad situations. The “best” example I can think of was when two of my buddies and I decided to canoe a raging, flooded river.

At one point, the canoe tipped, and the three of us were scattered in the river trying to collect gear. One buddy and I were able to grab the canoe, but flipping the thing in a swift current was impossible.

Eventually we were carried over a flooded island, where somehow the two of us got wedged underneath the canoe which was jammed between two trees.

I remember the water filling up what little space we had to breathe, and then looking over at my terrified friend and thinking “this might be the end.”

I have no idea how we both got out from underneath the canoe, because my foot was caught in something and we were pinned downed pretty good. But we did.

We were left standing waist deep in floodwater in complete shock when we realized we had no idea where our other buddy was. We also thought we lost the canoe. We were stranded. I’ve never felt so hopeless.

After a while we heard a small engine struggling up the current, and we knew we had to flag the boat down. Turns out the guy actually saw us getting in trouble from across the river and came to help. He also said our buddy was about a mile downstream. With the canoe.

I’ve had a few close calls since then, but nothing nearly as intense as that day.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about a time outdoors where you thought “this might be the end.”

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37 comments

  1. Mine was even stupider. When I was about 25 I went camping along a river that had a dam release each afternoon. One day (yeah, alcohol was involved in this decision) we decided to float the river on the air mattresses. Of course, we were out there just lazying along when the rush of water hit us…..I got pushed against a dock and thankfully some guys were there and could pull me up. We even managed to save the mattresses so sleeping was still comfortable. Maybe THAT was when I became a bit more cautious!

  2. I’ve got a few of these:
    Diving: Getting snagged on a pipe underwater, pipe between my tank valve and my neck, wedged in pretty good.
    After several seconds (years?) of panic, my training kicked in and I took off my vest (with tank), disentangled and swam away.
    Climbing: Using a guide who was an absolute dickhead who wasn;t paying attention at all and sliding down 20 – 30 feet of cliff face. I was just lucky I hadn’t leaned back for the lowering yet.
    Skiing: Being at the top of a Mogul Madness run when my blood sugar crashed. That wasn’t fun at all.

    Looking forward to seeing the other stories!

    1. Damn. All three examples are really insane! It kind of puts a lot of things in perspective when this stuff happens, doesn’t it? I can’t believe that climbing guide. What an asshole.

  3. Innertubing down a river in the Colorado Rockies,,,went over some rapids and got flipped and stuck in some rocks under water.

    We were deployed in Panama for Jungle Training and they were taking us from point to point on a boat and when the boat landed we would have to mingle in the jungle waiting for everyone to get together and hold hands..hee hee ok sorry…anyways this other guy and I were standing there and I looked down and saw this brown coiled bit of nastiness about 2 no 4 inches from my foot…Panama has some of the most poisonous and also territorial snakes EVER…meaning that when you wander into their area of perception they don;t slither away like most snakes….they WILL chase you… but this particular example was very similar to a …I;m not sure of the proper name…we lovingly referred to is as a two-stepper…it bites you you can take about two steps and you are done. I froze…I couldn;t even pee my pants..my heart literally skipped beats and I got dizzy…..Before I even had the chance to nudge the guy next to me he looked down and saw it too…. and took off for the boat yellng “Snake!” all the way… in about a 3 sec period of time I was thinking oh Crap..this ASSHOLE ..I;m Dead…and then also noticed he had kicked some brush that had disengaged the ……piece of mangled rope loose …. OK maybe that doesn;t quite work with the topic here but I was in nature… and threatened (perception..NOT just MINE EITHER!!!…) and between my heart and then fits of laughter….. I almost died. 🙂

    1. I’ll make an educated guess and say you ran into either a bushmaster or a fer-de-lance. And both snakes are badass!

      Our guide in the jungle in Peru has seen it all when it comes to animals, and he is absolutely terrified of bushmasters. He says they’re the meanest, nastiest snakes in the jungle. Super aggressive, and super poisonous.

      In other words, you are pretty damn lucky to not get bit by a bushmaster or fer-de-lance, Lizzie!. Helluva story!

      Oh yeah, congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! That’s a great post! I was cracking up reading it.

      1. Fer-de-lance yup that was it! We had a small one in our house when I was stationed down there – our house backed right up to the jungle – cool ass sitting watching the monkeys in the morning but a little weird on the things that come to visit – ..My cat killed it.. I swear he was some mix of jungle cat –

        This particular trip was after i left Panama and then was redeployed there with the infantry unit I was assigned to.so I kinda knew what I was getting into although my first real jungle experience because every other time I had been to the field it was usually an abandoned school that we converted to a base….I have LOTS of spider stories lol….one of the other companies on this jungle training had a guy get bit by a bushmaster and from what I heard it did just what I always heard it would..chased him..the normal steps of avoiding snakes that we learn as kids – when it comes to these …forget it right?
        he made it ok tho..being training they were on it for the back up medical help. He should be the one here telling his story huh?

        thanks for the congrats – it’s been fun 🙂

      2. I’m curious which branch of the military you were in. Beside the jungle, where else did they have you stationed?

      3. What kind of clearance do you have? Cause I could tell you but I don;t want to have to kill you….. 🙂

        I was in the Army, Ft Dix NJ, Panama, Ft Lewis WA and Germany…. I was with an MP unit in Panama and and Infantry Unit the rest.

  4. I had a run in with a rabid Marshmallow stealing racoon on a camp ground. He took the whole bag-it was horrifying and makes all the rest of the stories above seem pitiful in comparison.

    Just sayin.

    You haven’t lived until you chase down a racoon for a bag of marshmallows.

    1. Never, ever trust a rabid marshmallow eating raccoon. It can ruin your life faster than you can say “give me my damn marshmallow back!” Consider yourself lucky to be alive.

      1. I know right? Possums are pretty nasty too… I called the MP;s one night cause one was dying in the road outside my house… they shot it.. thought I was too soft… oh a story for when you do a post on…. uh… um……

  5. When I originally requested this post, I was thinking of sharing the story of my first solo backpacking trip. I feel like I should preface this story by saying that I am a girl. For some reason, it’s dangerous for girls to go backpacking alone! I’m pretty experienced, but at the time my bravery probably took up more room on my resume than my experience did.

    I set out on a super hot summer day in New Hampshire. I had just taken my first white water kayak lesson and my sinuses were already packed full of water so the hike began with a stubborn headache.

    It was supposed to be 90 degrees “down below” and the higher up the mountain I hiked, the cooler it got. I had chosen a trail that followed a source of water with a camp down trail from a “very reliable year-round source of water”.

    The 2 Nalgene bottles I packed were gone within the first few hours, but it was OK because I had my Pur water pump packed with me. Where was that stream?

    Eventually, exhausted, I found the tent site and set up camp. I crashed out hard and woke up drooling, a little more rested, a pounding headache and beyond parched. I set out to find water. Call me crazy but I remember yelling at the mosquitoes to shut up so I could hear the running water. Nothing. I eventually went back to my tent and tried to call it a night.

    Then I heard banging noises and my immediate worry was that there was a bear that was going to have me for dinner. And then, a zipper. Phew. I went out and sat out on a rock cliff, overlooking the view and life below. As it darkened, I couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the earth started. I felt like I was on top of the world!

    Because I didn’t have any water, I couldn’t prepare my dinner (cous cous). My new pot-banging, zipper-using friend Miles gave me a swig of his Gatorade so I could swallow down a couple ibuprofen and get rid of the headache. I called it a night.

    In the morning, I packed up and headed out. I hiked about 8 miles without water before I came across a roaring, babbling stream. I immediately unloaded, cooked my dinner and devoured it and hit the trail again. When I got back to my car, I had hiked a total of 11 miles that morning. The clock read 10:28 AM.

    Dehydration kills. I read a statistic that 98% of people who die from dehydration in the wilderness still have water in their bottles; they were saving it for later. Dehydration can also cause a hiker to become distressed, hallucinate, become lost.. In hindsight, there was nothing I would have done differently because the guide book did say there was a reliable source of water the entire length of the trail. And I am happy that this is my first solo backpacking memory. I did just fine.

    1. Dehydration is no joke! I too have been in a few situations where water was reportedly reliable, but was nowhere to be found. Hiking in the Southwest can be really challenging sometimes.

      And you’re right, advanced dehydration makes people do crazy things! Glad to hear you made it out OK. Something tells me you wouldn’t hit the trail solo again had it been any worse.

      1. I’m not sure having someone with me would have made it any better! We both would have been without water and sometimes there’s that false sense of safety with numbers – you tend to do things you wouldn’t normally do alone because you’re putting up a brave front or a “daring” nature. One thing I did to keep my mind off my worry was count and name toads. I counted over 45 toads – and I named them all. It was a mental challenge coming up with 45 unique names.

      2. I tend to think safety comes in numbers. Personally, I’d much rather be in a bad situation with a qualified partner than go at it alone. That’s just me, though. While I do enjoy solo trips, your safety factor significantly increases when you have company.

        My buddies and I push each other, but honestly our approach has changed significantly since we were a bunch of young hooligans. That’s not to say we won’t still go big. We’re just not going to challenge each other to do overly stupid stuff in an effort to put up a brave front. Man, we’re getting old.

  6. Wow, I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate compared to some of the stories posted here. I travel alone often, hike alone often..never ran into anything major. Met up with plenty of snakes, but they didn’t mess with me, so no problem. Once in Australia I slipped while climbing some rocks, my plan for the day was a 10k bike ride out to a secluded beach I enjoyed, then a swim, followed by a short 6k hike hoping to spot some wallabies and dingoes along the way. When I got to the beach, I decided to take some pics…and thought I’d get some better shots up on top of the rocks. I slipped about half-way up, and hit the rocks pretty damn hard because I was trying to protect the camera. I landed on my right shin and it started swelling quickly, my left knee was also busted and bleeding. I realized it could have been much worse, so I did what I thought was best….I opened my pack and had breakfast….and thought about it. Still bleeding and my right leg still swelling up, after I ate I said…fuck it, I want to hike! I went in the water to wash the blood and yes, this was in the Coral Sea, and yep I thought about Tiger Sharks…so I didn’t stay in long. Playing it safe, I texted a buddy to let him know my location, what happened and that I was continuing with the hike. The hike up was great but the way back down kinda sucked as I was really starting to hurt and I was dreading the bike ride back home. I woke the next morning to find my left foot had turned completely black…like eggplant color. I couldn’t walk on it for 11 days….11 miserable days.

    1. Getting pretty banged up is never any fun. In your case, it could’ve been much, much worse. Smart move texting your buddy with the details!

  7. When I climbed Mt. Marami (http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/amid-the-rains-and-darkness-at-mount-marami/) where it was raining hard for like hours from the start of the ascent up to the time we descended. There was this moment while we were descending, I slipped and fell from the ravine which I though has no grasses or small trees to grip my hands. The thing is, since it was raining and we are still at the highest part of the mountain, all I could see visible on the ravine is fog. So crawled my way back instead. Thanks to the Aura up there because the part where I slipped and fell is full of strong shrubs.

    1. When I climbed Mt. Marami (http://yobynos.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/amid-the-rains-and-darkness-at-mount-marami/) where it was raining hard for like hours from the start of the ascent up to the time we descended. There was this moment while we were descending, I slipped and fell on the ravine which I thought has no grasses or small trees to grip at. The thing is, since it was raining and we are still at the highest part of the mountain, all I could see visible on the ravine is fog. So I just had to crawl my way back. Thanks to the Aura up there because the part where I slipped and fell is full of strong shrubs.

  8. Let’s see…there have been to many, so let’s go with the canoe theme. We were canoeing across a good size lake when up popped a pretty good size thunderstorm. We figured we could make it across, but it was moving pretty good. We had to stop in the middle of the lake, hook up a little 1.5 horse motor and tow the other canoe (there were 2 canoes0 and then keep our fingers crossed. We got to the other side just as it hit. Hail and high winds are not conducive to safe canoeing. I’ll leave the bear story for another time.

    1. What I find interesting is that some of us outdoorsy folks have been fortunate when it comes to close calls, while others (like you) can say there have been too many close calls. What’s up with that? Luck?

      Oh man, I’ve almost been in a few similar situations. Canoe. Fast moving storm. Not good. Good thing you guys had that 1.5 horse to tow with. You might be telling a different story if not!

      1. We were in a position of no choice. We had to go or spend a cold night in the middle of nowhere, and wet as well. We did have fire-starter with us (gas), but sleeping would have been a tad difficult. Things like this happen when there is no other way would be my excuse. And location. This happened near Missinipe, Saskatchewan, very remote.

  9. Thanks for checking out my blog today!
    Love this topic! I could probably go on with this one all day. The biggest and most recent that stands out is a mountain biking trip to a ski resort this last fall (take the lifts up and its all downhill). I have been mountain biking for 15 years so I am not new to this, but I made a rookie mistake, lost my bike out from under me and the next thing you know I was flat on my back after getting about 6 or 7 feet of air.

    I laid there gasping for air, after what seemed like 20 minutes (really about 60 seconds or so) I was finally able to take a breath. I laid on my back calling myself an idiot until I felt like I could at least try to stand up. This was a slow going process but I brought myself to my feet. The other riders in my group had no idea I just ate it so they were long gone. I managed to pick my bike up and start walking down the trail. After meeting up with my buddies at the bottom I decided I should rest for a little while because it was still hard to breathe. This later turned into a visit to ski patrol as it was not getting better, and than the ER.

    After walking down the mountain, walking to ski patrol, walking into the ER, I was strapped down to a backboard as soon as I told the triage nurse the story. In my years of doing “adventures” things as you so eloquently put it, being placed on that board was the worst pain I have ever felt. The drugs however, were the best!

    As the Doctor came in and said “You have a broken back” I was not thinking the normal things you would guess (will I walk, am I paralyzed, etc). The only thing I could think about was how pissed off I was that all this happened on my FIRST RUN! I mean really….at least let me get some killer runs in before you stick me in a wheel chair the rest of my life. I was “lucky” said the Dr, that phrase really irritates me….no I wasn’t. Sure less than a 16th on an inch more and I would be paralyzed or dead, but if I was “lucky” than I would not be laying here strapped to a board drugged out of my mind!

    It was a stable compression fracture of my T7, I spent 3 months in a back brace and it has been 6 months now and for the most part I am feeling good. 75 days from now I will be backpacking Yosemite and I cant wait to see what more dumb things I get myself into.

    Maybe some of your readers would like my blog as well.
    http://thebackpackingjournal.wordpress.com

    1. Wow! What a story! Thanks for sharing. As a fellow mountain biker, I cringed a few times reading it. Like any mountain biker, I’ve been pretty banged up along the way, having almost broke my arm once during a random, brutal fall (that hurt). But nothing like what you experienced! Glad to hear your OK! Think you’ll get back out there on a bike? And out of curiosity, which resort were you riding?

      I thought I was paralyzed with a broken back once. I was hitting this sweet tabletop at Breckenridge, and I got a little too comfortable. Hit it hard and fast, and totally lost control at the lip. I launched the whole thing, landed flat bottom right on my back, and couldn’t move or breathe for a minute or so (that’s not a good place to be chilling, too). I still have problems with my back.

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