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Code Red : Trail survival, the politics of surfing, and some hardware 

click to enlarge What would happen if you broke your leg out there?
  • What would happen if you broke your leg out there?
What would happen if you broke your leg out there?A SWEET SPOT

Laurie Fox decided to go for a run on Kent's Trail with her dog Lyle one December afternoon three and a half years ago. Unexpectedly, a few miles out, she slipped on some black ice and fell hard, cracking her ankle. Laurie is an experienced outdoorswoman; she attempted to fashion a splint from some sticks and she started crawling toward the trailhead, but she had no cell phone, night was falling and she was losing body heat quickly. Luckily, Laurie had a husband back home who knew where she had gone and that she was late returning. Also luckily for Laurie, a homeless man on his bike came across her and was able to build a fire and call 911. Laurie was rescued, but she has looked at her outings differently ever since. "I always have a pack with a whistle, some matches and a cell phone, at the very least."

Ironically, a similar accident happened to Karen Johnson, another experienced outdoorswoman, two Februarys ago. She headed out for her usual run with her dogs on Phil's Trail on a cold, foggy morning before work. She was aware of the ice on the trail and was running cautiously, but suddenly slammed to the ground. She remembers the loud cracking sound of the compound fracture of her tibia and fibula and the intense pain. "Jake is no Lassie," she said of her dog, but she did have her cell phone with her. She pulled it out, but could not get a signal. She could barely crawl, so she tried waving it over her head and luckily managed to get a call through to her partner Ken. "I'm above the chicken and below the rock and I broke my leg," is all she needed to say. Ken and Search and Rescue were able to save Karen, but she believes she would have died from hypothermia otherwise.

"No one was around and no one was coming." Karen, who hiked the Green Lakes Trail solo through the snow last week, carries a small survival pack whenever she heads out now that includes handwarmers, firestarter, and a plastic garbage bag for warmth...and pain pills.

Laurie and Karen were only going for a run close to home. I think of the dozens of times every winter I go skiing or snowshoeing into the woods at Wanoga with my dog Sprocket and no one even knows I went. Wanoga feels like my backyard, but I have little or no cell phone coverage there. What would happen if I fell and broke a bone like Laurie or Karen did? That's why I'm psyched about my new SPOT.

At the Gorge Games 24-hour adventure race last weekend, we received some really sweet schwag: a SPOT Satellite Messenger (, a 7.4 oz GPS transmitter. It runs via the private Globalstar satellite system and works in places cell phones will not, though there are certain geographic restrictions. The simple device transmits your GPS coordinates along with one of three types of messages. The OK button ("Wish you were here") sends a custom text message to pre-assigned cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses of friends and family. The HELP button sends an "I need assistance" message to the same group of family and friends. The 911 button transmits a distress signal to a private control center in Houston, which then alerts local search-and-rescue, the Coast Guard, or other organizations as needed. The SPOT costs around $170 plus a $100 annual service fee. It seems like a small price to pay to enhance the safety of your outdoor adventures.

I'll be testing the SPOT further next week, backpacking in the White Cloud Mountains of Idaho.


Three weeks ago, I discussed the significant surfing community here on the High Desert that makes regular pilgrimages to Pacific City. The following week, Bendite Cole Ortega was in the news after a tragic surfing accident there. He was struck by a dory boat and his arm was severed. Surgeons have reattached his arm, and I believe he will have an excellent recovery because he had several factors on his side: his youth, the cold water and immediate medical attention.

Unfortunately, the situation in Pacific City seemed like an accident waiting to happen. Surfing popularity has exploded and there are literally hundreds of surfers in the water at Pacific City now on a sunny summer weekend. The problem is that the Cove, which is somewhat sheltered, is where the dory boats want to land and also where many surfers want to be on big days. Fellow Bend surfer Scott Yount, who has a place in Pacific City, says that very few of the dory boat operators are experienced professionals. "Perhaps it's time for the dory boats to go," he said, while also acknowledging that the boats were there before the surfers. There is much debate about the incident on a blog at I think Cole's accident may help bring about some necessary changes affecting how we share the water.


Props to local dirt riders Adam Craig and Ryan Trebon who finished one and two, respectively at National Mountain Biking Championships last weekend in Vermont. Craig, who won the event last year and is headed to Beijing to represent the United States in the mountain bike event, finished two minutes clear of Trebon to take home the top spot.


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