There’s certain risks we accept in any sport. Hell, there are risks we accept just getting up in the morning and leaving the house. This doesn’t stop us from doing the things we love. What can increase your safety in anything is knowing the dangers and being prepared. I learned this, as with everything I do, the hard way.
For a little weekend getaway, Ryan and I headed up to Okanagan Falls to visit his parents. While we were there, and as it was still part of my 45 days, we took in some of the local trails in Penticton and Naramata. The first day there we headed out to a trail called Rock Oven. As you can tell by the name, there are lots of rocks and it’s in the sun. On this day it was particularly hot (around 40-45 degrees) and we were still covered in a haze of smoke from the BC wildfires. While I’m aware of general “ourdoorsy in BC” dangers like bears and cougars and poison ivy (not that I could identify it if my life depended on it) I didn’t take the time to research what new hazards to look out for in this new riding area. Luckily for us, Ryan’s parents (and a giant sign on the trail) gave us a warning to look out for snakes – including rattlesnakes. While I had my bear spray on me, it seemed a bit overkill for a thread from a snake. Either way, we headed out with eyes on the bushes and started our long, long, long climb up to the trail.
After some terrified peeing in the bush (while calmly talking to the potential snakes: “I’m just going to walk right here. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m just going to do my thing and leave you alone”) we made it to the trail and lo and behold…. a snake.
Now, I wish I’d taken the time to research snakes before leaving so I could figure out how terrified to be. Turns out this guy isn’t venomous but we weren’t taking any chances. We made plenty of noise from a distance until it slithered back into the bush. Having the confirmation that snakes were out and about definitely put a new spin on the day, but we headed forward.
Partway through the trail (a trail which I did not care for at all but I’ll reserve my rant on why I hated it so much) I didn’t feel so good. I was dizzy. Hot. Sweaty. I had my Camelbak on me with 3L of water in it and was drinking it like crazy and yet I couldn’t quite get it together. The dizziness was leading to a general lack of balance and I wound up crashing… a lot. Luckily I got away with just a bruised tailbone but there were more pressing matters at hand.
I knew it was bad when Ryan took a look at me and said, “okay so let’s just keep going quickly and carefully and get down to the car.” After some pressing about why we were in a rush he admitted I didn’t look so good. With good reason! It would appear that no matter what I tried doing, my body was hell bent on getting heat stroke that day and we both knew it was only going to get worse.
The scariest part about the whole situation was just how out of my mind I was without realizing it. It was almost like being drunk but thinking you’re sober. I came up with a perfectly logical plan to close my eyes for a quick nap on a big rock slab in the sun. I couldn’t concentrate. I had a total meltdown for 15 minutes because I had to ride through a mud puddle with wasps swarming in it (for the record I consider freaking out about that quite reasonable). At any rate, I only thought I felt a little woozy and tired. Until I felt better when I realized just how far gone I had been. I am grateful that Ryan noticed early on, pressed me to keep drinking water, and encouraged me down the mountain. Between the snakes, the miserable trail, and the heat stroke it was not my best day.
What we can learn from this is to be prepared. I know everyone’s heard this a million times but it’s incredibly important and worth emphasizing. So much more could have gone wrong and if it did we could’ve both been in serious trouble.
Research the dangers in the area you’re headed out in. If there’s animals you need to worry about, what are you supposed to do when you encounter them? Is there anything you can bring to keep yourself safer? Do people know where you are and when you’re coming back? Even a quick rip out on trails you’re very familiar with warrant at least texting one person where you’ll be.
Do you have some food and plenty of water? Not just to last you the ride but what if you get lost or stuck for a while? Do you know any first aid? Do you have any first aid supplies on you? I carry a small first aid kit that you can get at any outdoorsy store. It may not be perfect, but in an emergency it’s helpful to have anything you’ve got.
My lesson in preparedness was challenging but, luckily, had no lasting consequences. Hopefully after reading this you all will take a quick look in your pack to see what you could add and do some quick research on local dangers in order to keep yourself a little bit safer on the trails. Happy shredding, and be safe out there.