I had no doubt that the 11 women who’d be joining me for a backpacking trip in The Bob Marshall Wilderness would be awesome. Then half way through the trip, after dinner one night, we heard yells for help from the stream that ran down by our camp. Our dogs were barking like crazy as we ran, grabbing bear sprays and first aid kits, down to the water to find our friend lying on the rocks, covered in blood, barely conscious with a head injury. I had no doubt that they’d be awesome, but from that point on, I was nothing short of blown away by the women around me.
Even in the scariest of moments-- when we had someone hurt, 8 miles from the nearest trailhead and cell service, at 9 PM-- when the situation seemed so much worse then it would turn out to be, I saw these women stay calm, step up to fill any role that was needed, and perhaps more importantly, take care of each other. I saw women offer to add to their already heavy pack to lighten someone else’s load. I saw women link arms to ford a freezing, rocky stream in pitch black. I saw women, one after the other, take turns walking first in the line, shouting ‘hey bear’ over and over, at the top of their lungs, as they made their way through thick brush in the dead of night. I saw women putting someone else’s needs above their own, pushing through pain, swallowing their fear.
Its true we were beyond lucky to have two nurses in our group who could provide the medical insight needed to understand what was happening and what could happen as the situation went on. And the fact that we had a couple WFRs who could put together different plans for getting a hurt person out of the wilderness was valuable. But the fact that in this group of women, some on their first backpacking trip ever, many with no experience in this kind of thing, everyone was able to stay calm, to agree on a plan, and carry it out even after that adrenaline had worn out, is remarkable. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a situation like this, and I’m lucky to have some training in how to deal with them. But none of that compares to being surrounded by such a solid group when it does happen.
I’m sure we’ve all had moments talking with someone—maybe a parent, relative, friend, or coworker—where they can’t believe we do the things we do. “But it’s so dangerous!”, “What if you get hurt?”, “But, BEARS!!!” Moments where we find ourselves having to defend these things we do to get ourselves out into the places that we love and to defend the risks that we take. In these moments it’s easy to shrug off risk, to say “it’s really not that dangerous” or “we’ll be fine”. And maybe we need to be able to keep telling ourselves that to keep getting ourselves out the door. But when things did go wrong for us on our trip, when we had to stare those dangers and that fear straight on, it became clear that the only thing shielding us from that danger was each other and ourselves.
One of the most amazing things about being a part of this outdoor community is that we surround ourselves by strong, brave, smart, curious, and caring people. When we leave the trailhead together we’re require to put our trust in each other, and by and large there’s no community of people I’d rather put my trust in.
I’m realizing that the next time my mom gets freaked out by a trip I’m taking, instead of shrugging it off, I should nod and say “You’re right, but there’s no better people to be with for it”.
Post by Margosia Jadkowski, BadAssador