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Lessons Learned From a Long Walk Home

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posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 06:28 PM
I recently had a mini "SHTF training experience" that I'd like to share.

I live in a rural county in Texas. Most of our county roads are unpaved dirt/gravel (or, during this time of year - mud). There are many a long, lonely stretch of road. It's almost 5 miles from our farm to the nearest paved road.

This past Friday evening my boyfriend and I were returning home from a town about 60 miles from home. When it comes to travel my bf tends to stick to the same routes. I've shown him shorter ways from this town (and others) back to the farm but he tends to stay with what he knows. This evening, however, he decides to put his new GPS to the test and tells it to show the shortest route home.

We're driving along and I know where we're going, because I've taken these alternate routes many times, when the GPS sends us off down a county road with which I wasn't particularly familiar. Several turns and several miles later we are on a very dark stretch of road and soon find ourselves buried to the axle in huge muddy, water-filled ruts that look to have been made by monster-truck size tires (we learn later that this strip of road is virtually impassable for most vehicles from about December to March each year - something the GPS is not aware of, evidently!).

Cell phone coverage is spotty at best. Calls made to my daughter and son-in-law back on the farm never went through. We were on our own. So, We decide to walk.

It's about 11:30 at night. After getting enough reception to check Google Maps I realize where we are. I'd actually been on this road a year or so back with my daughter and s-i-l (when it was not a muddy mess) while geocaching. It's almost 13 miles from our farm but only 3 or so miles from a main FM road where we might be able to hitch a ride. As it turns out, during our entire walk we never encountered any vehicles. Didn't even get the chance to shake our fists at anyone passing by and not stopping!

The walk from the truck to the paved road included a detour due to a deep, wide ditch that even on foot was not passable (I tried -- after taking off my shoes and socks and rolling up my pants legs I stopped about a 1/3rd of the way when the (icy) water reached my knees). So, we backtracked a little ways, adding another mile to the journey.

Eventually we left the paved road and traveled a back road through a cattle ranch reaching our farm about 6 hours after we first set out.

Lessons learned... I won't dwell too much on supplies. Although it was below freezing (it had been sleeting earlier in the day) the weather proved to be no big problem. We were both dressed warmly and had on foot gear that wasn't wholly inadequate for a 14 mile trek (although mud boots would have greatly helped during the first few miles).

We had flashlights & extra batteries. I had an emergency blanket although we never needed it. A scarf or face mask would have been nice during those times when had to walk into the light but chilling wind. No, material "stuff" wasn't an issue. The issue was the "stuff between the ears."

The two things that proved to be most valuable on this 6 hour walk in the middle of the night are things you don't keep in a backpack or a pocket: Attitude and Knowledge (specifically, knowledge of the area you're traveling in).

ATTITUDE: I kept calm. Stayed positive. Focused on the task at hand (getting home). I kept a steady pace, interruped only when I had to stop to wait on my boyfriend. There were some uncomfortable moments (aching legs, a small blister) but all-in-all I chose to look on the bright side (hey, it wasn't raining or sleeting and we weren't 20 miles from home!). Can't say the same thing for my boyfriend. OMG.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, first, berating yourself for the first mile really doesn't help the situation. Sure, it was probably a dumb move to take that route in the first place and not back away at the first sign of trouble (there were a few muddy tracks he manuevered past before hitting the big mud pit). However, at this point what's done is done. Getting mad at the world, getting mad at the mud, getting mad about the distance, and complaining and yelling and whining... oh the whining... does not help. Sure, his legs were hurting and every time he had to take a break there was more complaining about the cold. That mud was not easy to walk through. But still, a lousy attitude makes lousy circumstances that much harder to deal with.

In order to hold onto my own sanity I found (and he later concurred) that getting him to talk about things other than the cold, the pain, the long walk, etc. really helped. We discussed "stuff" that would have been nice to have with us (such as an extra pair of socks or a more comfortable backpack). Toward the end of the walk I even got him to laughing and making jokes about our little trek. One particularly hilarious moment (well, to me anyway) was when he freaked out thinking some giant bee or something was buzzing his head... it was actually a cow mooing at us from out of the darkness. I seriously was laughing for the next mile and teasing him about that killer cow. It helped to lighten his mood for a little while.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances and dealing with someone with a less than positive or helpful attitude. Try to get them talking. Get the focus off all the bad aspects of your situation.

KNOWLEDGE: Out of everyone who lives at our farm I'm the only one who knows more than one way to get in and out of our area. We live on a dead end county road and there are 1 or 2 main routes we take in and out. But I know at least five ways to go and I'm the only one here that can get to the nearest towns and the nearest city without ever getting on a paved road. We've had fallen trees block the way. Bad weather, a wreck, even slow moving tractors can block the way. It just makes sense to know alternate routes.

Right from the beginning of our trek my bf repeatedly asks "Are you sure you know where we are?" or "Are you sure this is the way to go?" Yes. Yes. YES!!!! Initially when we left the paved road to take the "back way" to the farm he was resistant. He wanted to stay on the main road until we reached the roads we normally drove. It was only because I insisted that it would add another 3 or 4 miles to our walk that I was able to convince him to take the route we did take.

Maps (paper or online) are great and all. Google Maps helped me get oriented quickly when we first started our trek. But actual experience driving (or biking or hiking) your area is even more valuable. How many ways do you know to get back home if the SHTF while you're at work or at the grocery store? Having a bag full of "stuff" can make the journey a little less arduous but a good attitude and not having to worry about getting lost are even more important.

Well, that's my story folks.

Also: Be careful making assumptions about who will or won't be an asset or a hindrance in an emergency situation. My big strong 41 year old boyfriend was the one with the attitude problem & terrible sense of direction. I'm a slightly overweight 56 year old grandmother with a cranky hip. I must brag that if this had been a graded test I would be the one passing with flying colors. (Although, we both collapsed when we got home, barely moving for a full 24 hours!) After this I'm never going to be able to get him to take the backroads.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 07:03 PM
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

I've gotten in similar situations so many times that I never go, "you know what I'm in a car and when I get there it will be warm in that house too, so I don't need a jacket."

One night at the beach I walked 32 miles. I've gotten used to walking long distances even before my Army time. If the SHTF most people don't even realize how much 2 miles is, let alone 10 or 20.. You won't make it unless you are ready for pain. If it's dark you better not be relying on site cues unless you know the area well.

Nowadays I have water on me at all times.. Can't tell you how many times I got lost and ended up drinking from peoples sprinklers or fountains or just standing water.. You're also going to want flashlights and something like granola bars..

I'm glad you guys made it back..

People can't even begin to imagine not having gasoline for their cars, or not having gas or electricity to heat their homes..

I was in a 2 week power outage ice storm with crazy low temperatures.. We only made it by having a fireplace to make some warm food/hot chocolate/coffee.. We also piled up in the living room all on top of each other because we were all too cold too sleep. After 2 days our freezer was warmer than outside so we had to put our food outside to keep it cold..

The best thing we had in this case was a camper stove with gas to power it. A real life saver.

If you aren't ready for the worst you can easily die even in this modern world. You may not be able to find or contact other humans.. You may be on your own. I'd keep some food and water wherever you are, be it on foot, in a car, or at your house.

and yes, a calm clear state of mind was the main thing the Army teaches. If you don't have that you are dead.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 07:04 PM
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

Someone once told me (withint the exception of 2 states...) that from any point anywhere you are at worst 20 miles from a road in any direction. So if you just stuck to one direction for at most 20 miles youd hit a road which could lead to something. After I learned that info I always felt much more calm about everything.

Great story and thx for sharing...I always keep food and water in the car for things like that.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 07:09 PM
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

A former female acquaintance of mine, with whom I no longer associate for reasons having nothing to do with the topic at hand, and I shared an enjoyment of walking. We would set off from her house, and walk right out of town. We would have backpacks with some water, and some cereal bars, perhaps a couple of sandwiches, and just march off into the more rural areas. On one particular hike, we covered twenty miles between six in the morning, and half past five in the evening. We forded streams, mended a bridge, slid down embankments, clambered through woodland, picked mushrooms, took photographs of many interesting wild birds, and pounded pavement during our escapades.

I can safely say, that no matter how thorny things have become with her, I shall always miss that. I doubt I shall ever have a companion to match her for outright stamina, and affinity with the natural world. Needless to say, I still like a walk, but I much prefer to have someone I know well at my side when about such a business. Ramblers, however, in their gaggles of matching rain macs, and rattling with the sound of mass produce compasses, and rustling of maps... They aggravate me. They stand there staring at maps, when what they should be doing is looking at the terrain and the landmarks and instinctively knowing where they are, like a human would. I am pretty certain some of them are prototype cyborgs!

edit on 12-1-2015 by TrueBrit because: Grammatical error corrected

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 08:03 PM
a reply to: KnightLight
Re: clothing... I know what you mean. There was a time when a quick trip to the store in flip flops seemed like no big deal... until the car broke down and I had to walk more than a few blocks. I do better these days. I did have one clothing issue on this trip that proved both irritating and humorous. I was wearing one of those items of clothing that tend to get shoved to the back of the drawer when it really should go in the trash or rag bag. Specifically it was a pair of panties with barely functioning elastic. Riding in a truck-no problem. On this day though they were less than ideal. At one point I considered taking my knife to them and leaving them on the side of the road! Dress for the weather, yes. But also stick with clothing that fits and functions.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 08:38 PM
a reply to: TrueBrit

compasses, and rustling of maps... They aggravate me. They stand there staring at maps, when what they should be doing is looking at the terrain and the landmarks and instinctively knowing where they are

Maps and compasses have their place but they are no replacement for, as you say, "instinctively knowing where they are." I can get lost, turned around, and momentarily disoriented, sure. But unlike some folks I know, I can tell you which direction my house is facing, I can find the "east side of town" without asking "is that on the left or right?" and I can at least use the position of the sun to know the general direction I'm traveling or find the north star. Can't tell you how many times I've told a friend or family member something like "town X is about 30 miles to our southwest" and they'll point in a totally different direction and say, "So, that way, right?" ARRGGHH.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 09:00 PM
That sounds like a fun experience. I'm glad you made it okay. If you get stuck again, you should try this:

I'm sure you can do it with a truck, too.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 09:22 PM
If you find yourself lost at night and don't have any navigation aids the first thing you should do is weigh up the odds. Am I safe here? is it too dark to make continuing under present circumstances safe? Is it necessary that I reach my destination soon? If the answer is no or yes to them respectively then wrap up warm and sit tight. If you do need to move and can't make out any distinguishing features, look up. Use the moon and the stars. It's well worth learning simple navigation tricks using the northern star and southern cross or the shadow cast by the moon. If you can't because of cloud cover etc, use trees and vegetation. Trees tend to grow towards the sun. In the northern hemisphere the side with the most leaves and straightest branches tends to be the south. The branches tend to grow at an upward angle on the northern side because they are stretching up to find sunlight. Leaves and flowers will also tend to face south. You can magnetise small bits of metal like needles by rubbing them in one direction through a piece of silk or other material and actually make a primitive compass. People were doing it for thousands of years so there is no reason we can't today.

edit on 0491642 by sg1642 because: so.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 09:32 PM
There is no better navigational aid than a good dog.
If I find myself lost in the woods, which has happened more than once, I ask my dog if she is ready for some kibble.
She takes me straight in the right direction.
We get home, she gets fed.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 10:02 PM
1. Never rely on high tech toys to navigate.
2. Never let someone who cant navigate drive or lead you anywhere.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 10:53 PM
First things first:

You go, girl!!!!! I think it's great that you are 56 with a 41 year old boyfriend! Awesome! Just awesome!

Ok, back to topic at hand. It may not sound like much, but I would've gotten a walking stick. Any small branch that has fallen will do. It helps keep you balanced and can be used to move vegetation. It can also be used as a weapon in the event that stray dogs come around.

posted on Jan, 12 2015 @ 11:11 PM
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

You are such a woman

If you were a guy, you would tell that guy to Shut Up, Suck it Up, you would have taken the charge of driving IN THE FIRST PLACE

I hate to see scenarios where a woman still lets a less competent male lead, instead of taking charge.

Of course this works vice versa too, but it happens to women big time. Because they are trying to be "nice"

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 01:23 AM
a reply to: TryAndStopTheFuture555

Hmmm. Ok. I chose to let him drive his truck because it was his truck, I don't like driving a manual transmission, and I didn't want to drive. I didn't voice an objection to the route he took because I don't mind trying alternatives (just happened to be not such a good idea this time) . The walking was my idea. I decided I didn't want to sit in the truck til morning waiting to be rescued. Not sure how this qualifies as being too nice but hey I don't mind being nice now and then. (Ugh. I keep losing my reply... using my phone. Screen way too small and cluttered)

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 04:27 AM
Experience trumps theory, every time!

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 05:10 AM
Some kind of medium sized B.O.B. in the car is a good idea. A first aid kit, wool blanket and a tarp are good too. Any extra clothes for the weather, like rain gear, snow boots, snow suit, whatever.

The other day, in single digit weather, I took a quick run to the bank in my slippers and sweet pants. I thought about how cold I'd be if I had to walk the 5 or so miles back if I ran into the ditch. No cell phone either. Lucky I drove really slow and made it there and back no problem, but I knew the foolishness of what I was doing. Actually, I have friends all along that route and would never have been more than two miles from help, but foolish and I totally knew it. At least I had a double pair of socks and those slippers are pretty good, I may not have suffered much if I had to walk.

Your story makes me want to put some stuff in the car trunk now. Thanks.

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 05:21 AM
Great post OP! Very practical advice - especially the "between the ears" parts. Attitude is EVERYTHING. It can make the difference between life and death. Humor is one our greatest allies in a bad spot. It will do more to help restore calm and allow one to make rational decisions than anything else.

I've been in your spot before only I decided to get myself lost intentionally after thinking I knew the area well. Fact was, I didn't. I ended up walking not only all day but all night to get back to a friend's house (I was trying to get back to my car, guess my navigational skills needed help).

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 05:58 AM
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

So you couldnt head to the nearest farm house and ask for help, like use their phone or something? I know it was past midnight but most people here wouldnt mind helping you out.

BTW great video Skid Mark, I suppose those Danes would know a thing or two about mud.

edit on 13/1/15 by Cinrad because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 07:17 AM
a reply to: TrueBrit
It's great that you were able to find a fulfilling experience.

An open mind and without denouncement for other great aspects of existing and of being human will heal your tone and expand your world. My advice to you is to keep the respect for nature and the natural world but while discarding the pessimism and indifference typically found with cynicism. It will open doors. Defeat is a mindset, consider what other people are seeking when you come across them and when they display interest back, the favor may return. Just know that we love you.

Be ready to have a trek or adventure from a different perspective or on different terms. You never know where you can find someone who shares your values or is interested in your perspective. The best thing about reality is that each run is something new, and the fulfilling and magical experiences of journeys can be found in every facet of the world and every facet of society.
edit on 2015 by BlubberyConspiracy because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 03:23 PM

originally posted by: Cinrad
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

So you couldnt head to the nearest farm house and ask for help, like use their phone or something? I know it was past midnight but most people here wouldnt mind helping you out.

Now that wouldn't make as good of a story now would it?
Just kidding. But seriously, in this case the direction from which we were approaching our place was a bit of a dead zone for approachable residences. The one or two houses out there were set way back off the road behind locked gates, dogs, and No Trespassing signs. Until we were almost home and then there didn't seem much point. The end was in sight.

posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 03:53 PM
a reply to: BlubberyConspiracy

I am always ready to encounter a trail.

The way I approach it however, will be something upon which I shall keep my own council, despite the obviously good natured intent of your advice, if only because I learn best for my own mistakes, and I love to learn.

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