The outdoors can be a dangerous place.
We’ve been reminded of that fact regularly by recent news stories, many of which have centered on the 14 fatalities in Yosemite National Park this year. Some of the ill-fated made obviously bad choices, such as climbing over a railing to wade in an icy stream just upriver from a tall waterfall. Others apparently thought they could handle risky situations, such as the young hiker from the Bay Area who fell off the side of rain-slick Half Dome, and two experienced backpackers who died while trying to cross a footbridge made hazardous by a roaring waterfall.
Tragedy is not limited to Yosemite. The Eureka Times-Standard reports that three people have drowned in North Coast rivers since June.
The outdoors – even the version you find in places like the Sacramento River Rail Trail and Anderson River Park – is not a well-controlled environment. It’s not like an amusement park, where you’re reminded to keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times. It’s not like a video game, where you can simply hit “reset” if your character gets smashed to smithereens.
In the outdoors, you make your own choices and suffer the consequences. Most of the time, though, you make your own choices and reap the rewards. Climb Brokeoff Mountain, raft the Trinity River or simply watch the birds from the Sundial Bridge, and you experience life in a way not possible if you’re glued to a couch and staring at a video screen.
A little perspective, is helpful, too. Yosemite gets about 4 million visitors annually, and in a typical year, about half a dozen of them perish. That includes people who die of natural causes, such as a heart attack victim who happened to be out for a walk in the park when fate struck.
When you consider that about 3,500 people die in automobile wrecks each year in California, hiking even the most rugged backcountry trail doesn’t seem like a dangerous activity. Statistically, the drive to the trailhead is far more hazardous to your health.
It’s true that tragic accidents can happen in the outdoors to the best-prepared Eagle Scout. For the most part, though, using reliable equipment, being careful and knowing your limits – essentially, making the choices your mother would want you to make – will serve you fine, whether you’re backpacking in the high country, mountain biking through the national forest, or paddling a wild and scenic river.
See you out there.
On today’s A La Carte menu:
Give the Y your 2¢ worth … If you buy something at JC Penney in Redding through August 27, you’ll have the opportunity to round up the purchase price to the nearest dollar, with the difference going to Shasta Family YMCA in Redding. The effort is part of JC Penney’s “pennies from heaven” campaign, which aids after-school programs. About 900 children and teenagers participate in the Redding Y’s after-school programs each year. And while the JC Penney gesture is nice, I’ll suggest that you could bypass the retailer and donate more than a few cents directly to the Y.
Didn’t I just give my 2¢? … Shasta Regional Community Foundation has raised $122,000 toward establishment of an arts endowment for Shasta and Siskiyou counties, but the organization needs another $28,000 to take full advantage of a matching grant offered by the James Irvine Foundation. The overall funding picture for the arts and arts education sure hasn’t improved since we first cheered the Shasta foundation’s Articipate Campaign a year ago.
So says the sheriff … Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser and membership drive of the Shasta County NAACP chapter on Tuesday, August 9, at the MLK Multicultural Center, 1815 Sheridan Street, in Redding. Dinner is set for 5 p.m., with Bosenko speaking and answering questions beginning at 6:30. Call (530) 776-8165 for details.
Legislation that doesn’t suck … Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill, AB 120, that extends a moratorium on suction dredge mining until June 30, 2016. It had appeared that a two-year-old moratorium on suction dredge mining, in which miners suck up a creek bed in a search for gold, could end later this year when the Department of Fish and Game completed an environmental review and adopted new regulations for the practice. The legislation appears to supercede the agency’s process. The new law also requires adoption of much bigger permit fees when suction mine dredging does resume. With gold at near-record prices, I’m sure people with idle dredges are cursing. Meanwhile, fishermen cheer.
A field of whose dreams? … As you probably know by now, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors earlier this week unanimously approved a 700,000-square-foot retail development proposed for the Churn Creek Bottom, between Redding and Anderson. Four years ago, while working for a statewide publication, I wrote a short piece about the board’s remarkable decision to reject an auto mall proposed for the same location. I’ll simply say that the more recent decision was remarkable for entirely different reasons.
Paul Shigley is a freelance journalist based in Western Shasta County, CA, and figures that safety railing is there for a reason. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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