Category Archives: Idiots in the Outdoors

Stranded In Big Cottonwood Canyon: My first date gone awry

The following is a re-working of an article I wrote for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin a few years ago.

Maybe some things are just meant to be—no matter how hard you try to screw them up.

“We’re not too far away from the city, are we?” Meadow asked, veiling the uncertainty in her voice as best she could.  “Nah,” I reassured her, not elaborating that my definition of the term “far” at this particular moment was wildly subjective and that 4.5 miles by foot, in the mountains, at midnight, might be pushing the upper boundary of “not far.”

“Not way far,” I clarified.  What else could I say?

In hindsight, a night hike along what my friends and I referred to as “Certain Death Trail” in Big Cottonwood Canyon might not have been the best idea for a first date.  Especially given the fact that Meadow had just moved to Utah from the utterly flat state of Texas and had never been hiking before.  Somehow these thoughts failed to cross my mind a few days prior, when we met at a gathering of friends and I was arrested by her sultry hazel eyes.

“I’ll take her hiking,” I thought. “Girls dig outdoorsy guys who can take them on awesome hikes.  One look at the city from a canyon and she’ll be mine.”

Turns out my mistake wasn’t driving up the canyon or dragging her on a steep-ish two mile hike.  My slip-up occurred between those two events, but became apparent only after we had returned to trailhead parking lot and I noticed my keys were missing.

Initially, I convinced myself they must have slipped out of my jacket pocket at the overlook near the top. But a return to the top, scouring the mountainside by flashlight along the way, ruled that option out.  Meadow was incredibly patient with the repeat of the hike.

(Miles walked so far: 4)

I didn’t even want to consider the second possibility—that this strapping trail runner who, prior to the second two mile hike was well on his way to getting the girl, had accidentally locked his keys in the trunk of his 1991 Dodge Spirit.

The date, by all logic, was unsalvageable.  It was time for me to suck it up and somehow get this unfortunate girl back to civilization.  It was decision time.

Plan A: Somehow break into my car without shattering the windows and before she starts getting cold.

No dice.

Plan B: Start Walking. Stay upbeat. Avoid mountain lions and potential serial killers offering us rides. Then pick up the pieces of my shattered pride at the bottom.

“Hey, at least it’s downhill,” I told her.  She didn’t seem amused.

We joked about our misfortune, but our guarded laughter dwindled as we rounded curve after curve of quiet mountain road. We walked at least a mile (miles walked to this point: 5) before a normal-looking couple in a pickup offered to drive us to a pay phone (my phone was with my keys in the trunk). The awkward chitchat made the ride seem much longer than it was, but we were glad to be out of the mountains.

“So what are you going to do now?” The driver asked with all the compassion he could muster and still keep a straight face.

“Probably call a friend,” I lied as we climbed out of his cab at a grocery store in the valley, knowing full well that calling a friend would prove even more tragic than locking my keys in my car 4.5 miles up a canyon on a first date. The only thing worse than scaring a girl off is seeing her the next week at Leatherby’s, sharing a Banana Split with your friend that so nobly rescued her from her nightmare first date with you.

No, friends were definitely not an option. I picked up the pay phone and dialed the only person who could look past my idiocy and get me out of this mess. My mom arrived in short order, and we were soon driving back up the canyon with my backup key.

When we retrieved my keys and pulled out of the trailhead parking lot, I looked at the girl I was certain I’d never see again.

“I’m at a loss,” I blabbered, feeling about an inch tall. “I just don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she assured me, hinting that all hope wasn’t lost.. “This will be a great story!”

I agreed, and 14 years and 6 kids later, I still do.


Idiots in the Outdoors: Ducks too fat to fly away for winter

Yes, it’s another installment of Idiots in the Outdoors.  Only this time I’m not sure exactly who the idiot is.  Maybe the whole thing is just idiotic.  Or just sad, if in a mildly amusing way.

KSL reports on a flock of ducks wintering in a dropping-strewn Ogden, Utah park because they’re too fat to fly away:

The ducks at Bicentennial Park…are too fat to fly away, according to City Manager Ed Dickie. The Standard-Examiner reports on any given day, 50 to 100 ducks crowd into the park.

Dickie says the birds are beginning to become a nuisance. “They’re getting fatter because of people feeding them,” he explains.

Dickie says a lot of the animals are domesticated — they’ve been dropped off at the park, and people bring bags of bread to feed them.

Raised and fattened on welfare’s teet. Could move the ducks away from the park where they might slim up and learn to fend for themselves?

Last month, Ogden City tried just that.  They moved some ducks to a nearby wetlands area, but the ducks returned.  Not by air, mind you, but the portly birds seemed to have hoofed it back just fine.  The city is now considering moving the ducks a bit further away this time, like Willard Bay.

All I can say is good luck, Ogden.  And let this be a lesson to you and your bread-throwing citizenry!

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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in Idiots in the Outdoors


Idiots in the Outdoors: Yuppie 911

Riding high on the unprecedented success of my Funny T-shirts series (and by ‘unprecedented success’ I mean the fact that I’ve actually followed through, kinda), I’m floating the idea of launching another ongoing series called “Idiots in the Outdoors.”

We at the Outdoor Bloggers Summit always say the outdoors is for everybody.  Maybe it’s not.

I’m big on safety in the outdoors, and I’m grateful for the technological advances that take some of the worry out of enjoying the wilderness.  The personal locator beacon (PLB) is one of those.  Get into trouble?  Push a button, and in swoop the rescue helicopters.  Chalk it up to savvy or luck, I’ve never been in an emergency situation in the outdoors– at least not one serious enough that I would have activated a PLB.

But then of course, I’ve never been faced with a situation so dire as one party faced in the Grand Canyon in September.  In fact, their trek on the Royal Arch Loop was so harrowing that, according to this AP piece, they activated their PLB no less than 3 times in 3 days.

Wolf Cry #1: The group activated their PLB for the first time when they ran out of water.  A legitimate reason if– IF– you’re about to die.  Never mind that no hiker with half a brain would try to tackle a desert canyon without making certain he had enough water to sustain him.  No worries, though.  By the time rescuers arrived in their emergency helicopter, the hikers had found a nice stream.

Wolf Cry#2: Later that night, the party (whose members’ names I can’t find anywhere) pushed the red button again.  This time it was for a far more serious reason:  the water they had collected from the stream “tasted salty.”  The hikers declined the offer for evacuation, so the rescue team left them fresh water.

Wolf Cry #3: The hikers activated their PLB again the next morning (AP doesn’t mention why, but I’m sure it was an absolute emergency).  This time, frustrated rescuers forced their evacuation.  They were finally cited for endangering rescue crews with their wolf cries.

I’ll leave the debate over PLB’s to the comments section.  If I were the National Park Service and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, I’d charge these hikers for the costs incurred by these rescue missions, right down to the water that was left for them.

Then I’d ban them from the outdoors.  Forever.


Posted by on November 10, 2009 in Idiots in the Outdoors