I just listened to a news story where a 72-year-old woman from Tucson, AZ survived nine days on a “distant stretch of back-country road” in the desert. She was on her way to visit her grandchildren in Phoenix and became lost, ran out of gas, and her car battery went dead. She made several unsuccessful attempts to climb several ridgelines to find cell service but to no avail. Did I mention she had her dog with her?
To make a long story short, she was eventually found (nine days later) by DPS officers, but not by her car. Her car was spotted first and then later, her dog, as it was walking out of the Canyon Creek area. They survived on pond water and eating plants. She made one potentially dangerous mistake, but she also made some good ones.
- Pack your car with emergency items for personal survival against the elements, first-aid kit, warm clothes, a signal mirror, food, plenty of water – for her dog AND herself, recharger for your cell phone, etc. Always include a filtered water bottle in addition to extra water. Don’t skip this one!
- Try to stay on established roads and, most importantly, let someone know your route – even any last minute changes – and include departure and approximate arrival times. (She did look like an adventurer so maybe that was in her favor for the other things she did right.)
- Always check out your car (tires, full tank of gas, wipers, etc.) prior to leaving home, especially if you know gas stations are few and far between.
- Should you get lost, DON’T LEAVE YOUR CAR. In this incidence and in others I’ve heard, the car is usually found before the people if they wandered off. Plus, if you wander off (especially without any provisions and don’t have something to protect yourself) you run the risk of getting even further lost or something worse, such as running into predators (animal and/or human), becoming dehydrated, face the harsh elements, etc. The only exception for taking off from your car would be if your car is hidden by trees or shrub and can’t be seen by aircraft above. In this case, you may need to wander a bit to find a clearing, but always come back to the car before nightfall.
- The grandmother had the sense to spell “HELP” with sticks and stones across the canyon floor and even put a note under one of the rocks that told where she was headed. It was a good idea but it would have been even better to stay with the car and put up a white or yellow flag outside the car. (A yellow or white bandana clipped or tied around the antenna would work well.)
- In addition, she evidently built a shelter (something everyone should learn how to build – before a crisis) and she built a signal fire. Would you know how? It would also be good to find something you could defend yourself with.
The Take-Away: No matter where you’re going or have gone to that place many times in the past, still GO PREPARED! There can be many reasons to cause a breakdown or cause you to get lost or get in an accident. Seriously, what do you have to lose? There are certain items you should carry in your car AT ALL TIMES. Do you have a Survival-Bag in your car right now? If not, make it a priority to put one together ASAP! Then, PUT IT IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR! A large backpack works great in this case. For whatever the reason, you might need to take it with you should you have to leave the car. And, take more than enough water and a signal mirror. Still the unimaginable can still come up but at least you are prepared better than if you hadn’t done anything at all!
As a Christian, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, “Pray!” – before (asking for a safe travel and guidance), during (for continual protection) and after (thanking God for arriving at your destination!) Quite possibly, this is the best thing you can do with everything else at a close second! Enjoy your trip!