BACKCOUNTRY USE INFORMATION INDEX

 

 

I.)         OVERVIEW

 

II.)        SAFETY

 

A.)        Be bear aware

 

B.)        “11 Essentials”

 

1)            Water

2)            Lunch, plus extra food

3)            Rain

4)            Extra layers of clothing.

5)            Means of starting a fire

6)            Sunglasses (goggles in winter), sunscreen, and a hat. 

7)            Pocket knife

8)            First aid kit

9)            Compass and/or GPS and map

10)         Pepper spray

11)         Flashlight or Head Lamp

 

C.)        Comfort

 

1)            A pack appropriate to the mission

2)            Boots

3)            Foot care remedies

4)            Hot pads or HotHandsä

5)            Walking or hiking sticks

6)            Insulating pad

7)            Toilet paper in a waterproof bag

 

D.)        Coping with other hazards

 

1)            Other wildlife

a.)          Bison

b.)          Moose

c.)           Elk

d.)          Rattlesnakes

e.)          Canids.

 

2)            Insect issues

a.)          Ticks

b.)          Mosquitoes

c.)           Bees/wasps

 

3)            Altitude sickness

4)            Dehydration

5)            Hypothermia

6)            Lightning

7)            Hydrothermal

8)            Falling trees

9)            Avalanches

 

III.)        PROCESS/PROTOCOLS

 

A.)        Pre-registration

 

B.)        Activity Coordinator Role/Responsibilities

 

1)            Activity announcement 

2)            Communications

3)            Pre-activity communications

4)            Screening participants

5)            Day of activity

 

C.)        Participant Roles/Responsibilities

 

D.)       Activity Protocol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY USE INFORMATION

 

 

I.)         OVERVIEW

 

This program is merely an extension of other informal programs that have been facilitated historically via chat page conversations, e-mail, Loonion web site, phone conversations, or word of mouth.  There is no formal club.  There are no by-laws.  Unlike some hiking or ski clubs, there is no formal governing body.  This also means there are no “trip leaders”, only “activity coordinators”.  Activity coordinators are individuals that propose an activity.  Those that choose to participate in a scheduled activity assume all the risks and obligations that would accrue to any person that elects to enter the backcountry of one of the subject national parks or other public lands nearby solo.

 

Why is this the case?  First, because most activities will take place in a national park, we must carefully avoid any semblance of fees being paid or compensation being given.  This could run us afoul of rigid rules governing concessionaire permits.  In the case of Yellowstone National Park, no new permits have been issued in recent years.  Reimbursement of a portion of the reservation fee on backcountry camping site reservations and reimbursement of some of the cost of gas in car pooling scenarios would not constitute “compensation” for purposes of being considered a concessionaire.  Second, hiking clubs and ski clubs throughout the United States have seen progressively more litigation at the hands of members and guests, in spite of the use of liability waivers and insurance for those that lead activities. 

 

We are strictly individuals who share a common interest and are utilizing a sophisticated technological tool to enable the sharing of that interest.

 

 

II.)        SAFETY

 

A.)       Be bear aware.  If you are less than 100% confident in your understanding of how to behave in grizzly country, visit this web site:  

http://www.bebearaware.org/indexnfnf.htm

 

 

B.)       “10 Essentials” – Most hiking clubs have embraced this way of thinking to help insure members do not forget items critical for survival.  The list changes from group to group, geography to geography, and from time to time.  Many people will add a few other items.  Here is our best stab at a list appropriate to Yellowstone National Park:

 

1)            Water – bring more than you think you need (at least 2 liters or quarts).  Bringing a filter can alleviate the need to carry extraordinary amounts of water, but make sure there will be accessible water available to filter.  Electrolyte replacement drinks (like Gatorade, PowerAde, etc.) are OK, but not in large quantities.  For most activities, they should not be used until at least 2 hours into the activity, and then they should be diluted at least 50%.  Avoid bringing anything sugary, like soft drinks or lemonade.  They can actually backfire and make you more thirsty.  For multi-day trips, having a backup, like iodine tablets, in the event of a water filter failure can be invaluable.

 

2)            Lunch, plus extra food – no lectures here, other than to use common sense.  In summer, chocolate can make a melted mess in your pack in hot weather. Some items (including certain candy bars) have a habit of freezing as hard as a brick under winter conditions.  Carbohydrates and fruits are good options.

 

3)            Rain gear for summer ventures – Regardless of the weather when you leave the trailhead, you may need that breathable, rain repellant outer layer later in the day. It commonly clouds up and storms in the afternoon throughout the northern Rockies.  Gore-tex or some other effective PTFE membrane-equipped jacket and pants are appropriate.  Some manufacturers use coatings.  Just make sure the garment is “breathable” and “rain repellant”.

 

4)            Extra layers of clothing – important for both summer and winter.  Most summer treks will only require a wool or synthetic (fleece) shirt in addition to rain gear.  In winter, you want a head to foot additional layer available.

Keep in mind: 
COTTON KILLS!  Cotton does not insulate when wet.  This is not the place to go hiking in a cotton t-shirt and blue jeans.  Look around.  What is everybody else wearing?  Almost all backcountry veterans these days are making use of the newer garments made of hydrophobic (water repelling) fabric.  If this is new information to you, visit a sporting goods store that caters to backpackers, backcountry skiers, canoers, climbers, hikers, etc.  Ask for help with acquiring clothing made with synthetics.  In winter, most folks opt for a 3 layer system, utilizing insulated underwear made of hydrophobic material like capilene, polypropylene or thermax.  It insulates while wicking moisture away from the skin.  The next layer is typically an insulating layer of fleece or wool, something that insulates, even when wet.  Ideally, that layer should continue the transport of moisture to the outer layer.  The outer layer is typically a shell of some sort, made of a breathable, moisture repellant membrane coupled with a tough outer shell and an inner lining.  Gloves should be a combination of an insulating layer and  a breathable fabric.  Gore-tex and Thinsulate are common glove component layers.  A wool or synthetic hat completes the ensemble.

 

5)            Means of starting a fire – waterproof matches and a cigarette lighter are appropriate, along with an initial fuel.  I used to carry Fire Ribbon, but found out in a Wilderness First Responder class that duct tape works just as well (got to test it under real winter conditions).  Duct tape can also come in handy for a myriad of other applications, including first aid and constructing victim transport.

 

6)            Sunglasses (goggles in winter), sunscreen, and a hat.  If you need an explanation, you’ve already spent too much time in the sun.

 

7)            Pocket knife – Second only to duct tape in its versatility as a tool in emergencies

 

8)            First aid kit

 

9)            Compass and/or GPS and map – If you get separated from the group, you may find this a critical need.  These items can’t help you if you don’t know how to use them!

 

10)         Pepper spray – If you don’t know what this is for, revisit the link in II-A.

 

11)         Flashlight or Head Lamp – preferably waterproof, with spare batteries. Hopefully, you will never need it, but ask anyone that has been delayed reaching the exit trailhead until after dark, and you will hear about how important this item is. (Thanks to Tom Carter, author of Day Hiking Yellowstone, for reviewing this material and suggesting this important addition.)

 

 

It is important that every individual that hits the trail have the 11 Essentials in their pack or on their person.  If you get separated from the main party it won’t do much good if someone else is carrying your rain gear, water, food, pepper spray, ……………….  Here’s a simple protocol to follow when packing for day hikes or ski/snowshoe days.  “If you had to spend the night in the backcountry unexpectedly, could you do it in relative comfort.

 

 

C.)       Comfort – these are items beyond the 11 Essentials that might not save your life, but might make a world of difference in how you feel at the end of the day.  In some cases, they could even save your life or somebody else’s.

 

1)            A pack appropriate to the mission – Occasionally, I see someone laboring up a trail using an external frame backpack for a day hike.  Packs are like houses.  Your possessions expand to fill the available space.  Just bring what is necessary. At the same time, having a comfortable, well-fitting pack can make a world of difference in your ability to complete the trek and feel good about it.  This is not the place to argue the merits of ultra light packing, external vs. internal frame backpacks, or built-in versus ancillary camelbacks.  If you need a pack, consult the pros at a retail establishment like EMS or REI.

 

2)            Boots – Remember the statement that “a pound on your feet is like 5 pounds on your back”.  Actually, recent research has refined that equation to be “one pound on your feet is equivalent to 6.4 pounds on your back”.  Of course, basketball players have been known to wear weights on their ankles in practice, so if it’s a short hike and you want to train for something big, go ahead and wear those 5 pounders.  I haven’t worn a non-Goretex boot since about 1980.Just remember, don’t wear Goretex boots in thermal mud.  I ruined two pairs of Danner Lights walking through thermal mud in Yellowstone.  Also, if there will be a river ford in your future, bring something for the occasion.  I used to bring old tennies until a few years back, when I almost landed in Winter Creek after slipping on a river rock.  Now I bring river shoes, designed for such work.  Winter demands a whole suite of different footwear, depending on what you will be doing.  Most skiers have one set of boots for striding and specialized boots for skating.  I have several different pairs of insulated boots available for simply hanging around the roadside watching wildlife.  Snowshoeing implies more activity, which means less need for insulation “while moving”.  Weight can make a big difference in your ability to maneuver on snowshoes.  Stay with wool or synthetic socks that will wick away moisture and still provide warmth, even when wet.  Don’t forget gaiters for virtually all winter activities.  They even come in handy in the summer for negotiating wet vegetation.  The fellow that led the way for us up Chaw Pass in the summer of 2002 gathered so much moisture on his pants, socks, and boots from the dew-laden plants along the trail that he had to stop on top of the pass to dry his boots and socks!

 

3)            Foot care remedies – Bring what works for you.  I routinely carry an assortment of Dr. Scholl’s corn pads and other circular pads to deal with hot spots.  For the serious stuff, I carry moleskin.  I’ve never had to use the moleskin on myself, but I’ve sure made a few other people’s day by pulling it out for them miles from the trailhead.

 

4)            Hot pads or HotHandsä for winter (or even cold, wet spring roadsides) – These little wonders of chemistry can last for hours.  We found a box of 40 pairs at Costco real cheap.  Just put them in your gloves or the toe of your boots.

 

5)            Walking or hiking sticks – Today’s version of that venerable old standby can make a profound difference in hiking comfort.  Spring for the shock absorber-equipped version for a real treat.  Don’t go cheap on this item!  Quality counts.  There is no end to the potential uses for these gems.  They are invaluable for crossing streams on logs or rocks.  They can help transfer some of the weight off your feet, particularly on downhill stretches, where they do wonders for problem knees.  Some folks carry little attachments that turn them into monopods.  Telescopic poles can be valuable components of a litter used to transport an injured party.

 

6)            Insulating pad – Invaluable in winter for providing a dry warm place to sit while eating lunch or taking a break, they weigh very little and can be strapped to the outside of a pack.  Some folks even bring them in the spring and summer.

 

7)            Toilet paper in a waterproof bag – For treks above treeline, you might consider a ziplock bag to carry out used toilet paper and feces.

 

 

D.)       Coping with other hazards

 

1)            Other wildlife – Besides bears, there are all sorts of other critters that you might encounter in the backcountry.  Some can kill you if you’re not careful.

 

a.)          Bison – These gnarly beasts are responsible for more injuries annually in Yellowstone than the bears.  They are big and they can move fast. I have been charged by both a bison and a grizzly.  They are equally scary. Give bison a wide berth, particularly cows with calves and the old bachelor bulls.  With the arrival of wolves, there is a new threat to be wary of.  If you are peacefully walking through a meadow with a herd of bison grazing peacefully nearby and a group of wolves show up, be ready for something out of Dances with Wolves.  I’ve seen bison take off running when spooked by wolves.  I wouldn’t want to be in their way.

 

b.)          Moose – Everybody wants to see one, but many people are unaware just how dangerous this species can be.  A cow moose with a calf might take exception to your crowding them to get a photo.  You wouldn’t want a bull to mistake you for a rival during the rut (or a cow for that matter).Steer clear and stay alive.

 

c.)           Elk – Surprised that this critter made number 3 on the list?  You wouldn’t be if you spent much time around Mammoth during the rut.  We had one bull spearing cars with his antlers one fall a few years ago.  Visitors have been treed by irate cows with calves.  I’ve been bluff-charged countless times by cow elk in Mammoth just trying to do my job.  If you ever happen upon a newborn elk calf laying in the grass or sagebrush, leave it alone.  Their mothers commonly leave them that way while they wander off to graze.  The newborns are scentless.  Their mothers know they are relatively safe from predators when they stay hunkered down in the vegetation.

 

d.)          Rattlesnakes – There is a small population of prairie rattlesnakes in the lowest elevation part of Yellowstone, near Gardiner and the North Entrance.  They are not particularly aggressive, but should be avoided.

 

e.)          Canids – There are both coyotes and grey wolves in Yellowstone.  Some visitors believe they could be attacked by them.  The only incidents I am aware of in Yellowstone involving canid attacks on humans have been a few isolated instances of chronic begging coyotes nipping at someone that got too close while feeding them.  If you were to get seriously attacked by a coyote or a wolf in the backcountry you would have the solace of knowing your circumstance was sufficiently rare that you could probably auction off the movie rights to your story for enough moola to pay your hospital bills AND seriously upgrade your lifestyle.

 

2)            Insect issues – One could argue that these belong under safety, and it would be hard to refute that proposition, particularly considering the growing risk associated with encountering two of our subject critters.  Bring insect repellant.

 

a.)          Ticks – These little pests hang out on the branches and leaves of vegetation waiting for unwary mammals to walk by.  They are nature’s consummate hitchhikers.  Thankfully, their presence tends to peak early in the season. Prime time to be concerned with ticks is spring and early summer.  There are two types of diseases you can contract from ticks.  The really dangerous variety is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Visit the linked CDC web site for information on this rare, but serious disease.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rmsf/Prevention.htm

There is a more common, but much less serious illness that is spread by infected ticks, known as “tick fever” or “Colorado Tick Fever”.  Check out this state of Utah web site for additional information:

http://hlunix.hl.state.ut.us/els/epidemiology/epifacts/ctf.html

Off-trail activities in May and June tend to increase the tick hazard markedly.  We make an extra effort to wear light clothing (so ticks show up much easier), minimize contact with branches, brush, and leaves, and conduct extensive tick checks afterward.  Tonya recommends spraying the bottom of pants with a REPEL insect block.  She does that and has never picked up a tick.  Our experience over decades of hiking in the Rockies tells us that it is not uncommon for a tick to hitch a ride, then bail out in our vehicle or in our home.  I hate to say it, but you have to maintain vigilance for days after a backcountry outing in tick season.  Thankfully, Lyme Disease has not made its way to this part of the U.S.

 

b.)          Mosquitoes – Until recently these “winged assassins” were no more than a transient nuisance in the northern Rockies.  In the summer of 2002 the first cases of West Nile Virus showed up in Montana and Wyoming.  The game has changed.  It may not be acceptable to let these minute felons have their way with you.  There are a number of steps you can take to minimize your attractiveness to these pests.  One is to wear light clothing.  There is some evidence that they are more attracted to darker colors.  Light clothing also serves the same purpose it does with regard to ticks.  It makes them easier to see.  Another item within your control is to stay away from colognes and perfumes.  Research indicates mosquitoes are attracted by many of the scents that we humans splash on ourselves.  Use an insect repellant.  Only you can determine what you are comfortable with.  Many people swear by high concentrations of DEET.  Others have abandoned the use of DEET due to the unpleasant impact it can have on some plastic and rubber materials.  (It has been known to literally melt certain materials.)  The downside risk associated with the West Nile Virus has prompted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to recommend the use of DEET:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm

Research has shown that mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide in high concentrations.  The exhaled breath of their targets tends to be rich in CO2.  If you can hold your breath for hours they just might not find you.

 

c.)           Bees/wasps – The northern Rockies have their share of stinging insects, but not in numbers any greater than most places.  The only people who have cause to be concerned are those who are prone to anaphylaxis.  Hopefully, you know who you are and know to bring an Epi-pen or something similar with you in the event of an allergic reaction to a sting.

 

3)            Altitude sickness – This curious little ailment can strike virtually anyone, regardless of their physical condition.  It can also trouble those who have been at altitude regularly in the past with no apparent affliction.  The primary cause is the lack of sufficient hemoglobin (red blood cells) to transport oxygen.  In the thin air of higher elevation, your body needs time to build additional hemoglobin.  It takes about 3 days to make up half the deficit, with the remaining increase strung out over time.  The best way to avoid altitude sickness, characterized by headaches and nausea, is to stay hydrated and well-rested.  This is one of several reasons for taking frequent short breaks when doing steep ascents.  The only known cure for this disorder is to descend to a lower elevation.

 

4)            Dehydration – This is a chronic problem in the backcountry, particularly on day hikes.  It decreases your energy level and can contribute to the onset of altitude sickness.  Make sure you are well-hydrated prior to starting out.  Drink regularly throughout the day.  The experts tell us if we wait until we are thirsty to drink we have waited too long.  If you are not stopping periodically to urinate during the hike, you are not drinking enough water.  If your urine is dark yellow, that is a sure sign you are not drinking adequately.  The Wilderness Medicine Institute tells us our urine should be “clear and copious”.  Avoid diuretics like alcohol and caffeinated drinks in the backcountry.  They backfire and cause the loss of liquid.

 

5)            Hypothermia – This is a KILLER!  We will never know how many drownings in the lakes of Yellowstone were the products of hypothermia.  Simply put, hypothermia is the loss of body heat.  Your body’s core temperature is lowered through excessive exposure to cold air or water.  Contrary to what many think, hypothermia is not just a cold weather phenomenon.  People have died from it in ambient air temperatures as high as 50°F.  It can easily occur in thunderstorms during the spring, summer, and fall if you’re not prepared.  It is particularly dangerous to those boating on Yellowstone’s waters.  The waters of Lewis, Shoshone, and Yellowstone Lakes are quite cold, even in the middle of summer. Immersion can be fatal!  If canoeing, hug the shore.  Don’t succumb to the temptation to shortcut bays.  Strong winds can come up with very little warning. Afternoons are notoriously deadly, with a windblown chop almost certain to develop on virtually any day.

 

6)            LightningElectric Peak comes by its name honestly.  Yellowstone gets plenty of lightning, particularly via the afternoon thunderstorms that pop up so often in the summer.  This circumstance dictates that we get an early start when trying to go up above treeline.  As far as environments where lightning is more likely to strike than others, research continues.  What we know so far is to avoid virtually any place that makes you stand out.  That means avoid ridgetops and mountaintops.  Standing in a broad flat meadow is also ill-advised.  Even standing along a sloping ridgeline well below the summit is not a good idea.  Lightning is known to follow those ridgelines for thousands of feet.  Standing under or near a tree is a recipe for disaster.  On the other hand, broad doghair stands of lodgepole pine might be desirable.   Standing along a lakeshore or river bank is risking being “course du jour” at a barbecue.  Groups should scatter somewhat.  It lessens the chance of getting more than one or two people struck.  Hopefully, the unstruck can administer first aid, particularly CPR to the victim(s).  When all else fails you can follow Lee Trevino’s advice.  The veteran PGA golfer, who has been hit by lightning twice advises:  “Hold up a 1 iron.  Even God can’t hit a 1 iron.”

 

7)            Hydrothermal features – Beware of thin crust and overhangs.  There are so many different ways to do yourself in.  Expiring as a result of thermal burns is one of the most painful.  Yellowstone’s backcountry hydrothermal features have claimed many lives over the years.  Many hot springs have boundary shelves that are seriously undercut.  Who knows how much weight or vibration it will take to trigger a collapse?  When approaching one of these deathtraps, do so cautiously, slowly, deliberately surveying all 360° to maximize visibility to any hazards.  Do not get close to the edge!  There are so many bizarre circumstances that could send you tumbling into 180 or 190°F water if you are along the edge.  A burst of wind, an earthquake, a bee sting, having an equipment malfunction, a camera strap failing, a clumsy companion, and all sorts of other unforeseen developments could send you into a hot spring if you are too close to the edge.  It is not only the water temperature that you have to beware.  Some hot springs in Yellowstone are more acidic than the sulfuric acid in auto batteries!  Then there is thermal mud. Occasionally, someone, even geologists and researchers, breaks through thin crust accidentally, only to discover thermal mud beneath.  What makes thermal mud potentially more dangerous than hot water is the potential for the mud to get between your boot and your foot or between your clothes and the air.  Because of its viscosity, thermal mud takes much longer to dissipate heat compared to hot water.  Mud can literally cook your foot in your boot.  Beyond all the scary stories and deadly possibilities, there is also the responsibility to protect the resource.  Remember that geyserite (silicon dioxide), the material that forms geyser cones, eruptive pool rims, and occasionally delicate mineral formations in hot springs, accumulates at an average rate of 1 inch per century!  Insensitive humans can set Mother Nature back hundreds of years with one careless step.  There is also life in most hydrothermal features in Yellowstone.  Biologists estimate that only 2% of the thermophilic (heat-loving) microbial life in Yellowstone’s thermal features has been catalogued.  These extremophiles have already contributed mightily to DNA identification science, the Human Genome project, and NASA’s search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.  Who knows what keys to additional medical miracles lie waiting to be discovered in Yellowstone’s hot springs?  When you walk among runoff channels, be careful to avoid stepping on algae beds or bacteria mats.  One last thing:  If you spend enough time in Yellowstone’s backcountry, sooner or later you will come across some researcher’s equipment or tools.  Please leave them alone.

 

8)            Falling trees – particularly in times of high winds.  This would be an almost comical advisory anywhere else, however, even before the 1988 fires falling trees had claimed lives and a substantial amount of private property in Yellowstone.  There were quite a few years ago, but they got in the habit of falling on people and their property.  Lodgepole pines have notoriously shallow root systems that do not spread very far laterally.  High winds render them an accident waiting for a time to happen.  The 1988 fires, which burned 793,880 acres in Yellowstone, only exacerbated an already dangerous situation.  Every windstorm seems to blow dozens, even hundreds of dead fire-burned trees across trails.  These dead snags come by their colloquial name, “widow-maker”, honestly.

 

9)            Avalanches – Those that venture into the backcountry under winter conditions must be wary of these potentially fatal snowslides.  By far the best way to deal with them is by avoiding the type of conditions that produce avalanches.  Stay tuned in to the latest avalanche condition information.  The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center is a good source of current information on avalanche danger.Their web site is

http://www.mtavalanche.com/

A good source of generic information about avalanches is

http://nsidc.org/snow/avalanche/index.html

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, like most other areas of the Northern Rockies, have plenty of chronic avalanche zones.  These are places that have experienced repeated snowslides over the years.  They are easily distinguished by their relative lack of trees.  Many fatalities occur in places that appear relatively harmless, but suddenly an avalanche is triggered and people perish.  There is an area that is prone to sliding annually (actually, multiple times each winter) right outside Mammoth Hot Springs.  Unfortunately, the zone crosses the Howard Eaton trail between the Hoodoos and Terrace Mountain.  For those skiing or snowshoeing in areas prone to avalanche, certain items are absolute necessities.  Bring a lightweight aluminum shovel designed for backcountry use.  Multi-section avalanche probes or ski poles that convert to a probe are a must.  An avalanche beacon can easily mean the difference between a buried person living or dying.  Each member of the party should have all of these items. Snowmobilers are not immune to avalanche danger by any means.  They show up on the list of fatalities each winter, right along with out of bounds downhill skiers and snowboarders, telemark skiers, and other backcountry travelers.  High-marking on steep slopes is a rather dangerous endeavor.  I’ve seen it start snowslides.  We’ve all seen depictions of avalanches being triggered by loud noises in cartoons and movies.  Don’t underestimate the ability of 2-stroke engines to generate the sort of sound waves that fracture the fragile bond between layers of snow.

 

 

III.)       PROCESS/PROTOCOLS

 

A.)       Pre-registration – Activity coordinators are encouraged to require participants sign up for  backcountry activities, particularly long day hikes and overnight trips.  There are a number of reasons for this:

 

1)            There are limits on the number of campers allowed at virtually all backcountry campsites in Yellowstone.  Pre-registration is necessary to insure the group does not exceed the maximum number at a given campsite.

 

2)            There are finite limitations on how many vehicles can fit at certain trailheads. Pre-registration can facilitate car-pooling arrangements to cope with this.  One of the features that makes Yellowstone’s day hike opportunities so special is the number of one-way itineraries available, providing there are multiple vehicles.  Knowing how many hikers to expect assists coordinators in planning for vehicle shuttles.

 

3)            Advance sign-up allows the activity coordinator to respond to questions from participants in advance.  This also facilitates a screening process to insure that those signing up are capable of completing the activity in a safe and timely manner.

 

4)            It is not unusual to have to make eleventh hour adjustments to itineraries, particularly for day hikes.  Trails are closed periodically due to carcasses that attract bears or unexpected maintenance issues.  Weather concerns can also manipulate the plan. If the activity coordinator has “Can Be Reached” information, it is much easier to notify participants of necessary changes.

 

 

B.)       Activity Coordinator Role/Responsibilities

 

1)            Activity announcement:  Always err on the side of giving too much information, rather than less, in the activity information on the calendar.  Mandatory information to be supplied in the calendar announcement includes:

 

a.)          DATE

 

b.)          Trail or location name

 

c.)           Destination

 

d.)          Whether activity is one-way (enter one trailhead, exit another) or roundtrip

 

e.)          Distance

 

f.)            Elevation gain/loss

 

g.)          Pace (leisurely vs. forced march, or something in between)

 

h.)          Any significant water crossings (ford, logs, rocks)

 

i.)            Will this be trail-based or a bushwhack (off-trail)?

 

j.)            Any need for technical climbing gear/skill

 

k.)           For winter, avalanche exposure – whether shovels, probes, and beacons are necessary

 

l.)            For overnight trips, which campsites will be used on which days

 

m.)         Any recommended equipment beyond the 10 Essentials, e.g. cameras, binoculars, Crazy Creek Chairs, shovel, plant identification guide, wolf chart, swim gear, fishing gear/license, PFD (for water trips), FRS radio

 

2)            Communications:  It is vitally important that you establish two-way communications with prospective participants.  Bare minimum, furnish either your e-mail address or a phone number where participants can contact you to sign up for your activity.  In a pre-registration scenario, you will give participants the meeting place and meeting time info once they have committed to attend.

 

3)            Pre-activity communications:  This can make or break an activity.  You need to be thinking and planning ahead for that last week to 10 days prior to an activity.  You may have left home and headed for Yellowstone.  Many of your participants may have done the same.  As long as you have access to the Internet, you can post updates to the trip announcement on the calendar, but keep in mind that some pre-registered participants may not have access while on the road.  The time to get “Can Be Reached” information is at the time of pre-registration.  Get as much info from participants as possible.  What campground or hotel will they be staying at?  Do they have a cell phone?  How about an FRS radio?  Give them your cellular number if you have one.  This information swap can be invaluable in the event something forces a change in plans.  Trail closures or inclement weather may force you to cancel or move an activity.  Family emergencies, illness, or car trouble might force a participant(s) to cancel late in the game.  Remember that there are PCs available at Mammoth in the library for public Internet access.  You can also purchase Internet time at the Flying Pig in Gardiner.

 

4)            Screening participants:  You owe it to the individuals that contact you as well as the other members of the group to insure that prospective participants are up to the task.  Ask them about previous experience in comparable activities.  actor in the altitude.  If the itinerary calls for a brisk pace, be sure this person is comfortable with that.  Remember that your group will be traveling in grizzly country.  It is not an option to segment the group midstream to accommodate both fast and slow participants, unless each group would have at least 4 individuals and be comfortable being separated.

 

5)            Day of activity:  Arrive early at meeting place.  Round up the participants.  It is your call on how late you wait for late-comers.  My suggestion is that anything more than 15-20 minutes is penalizing all those that made a special effort to be there on time.  Get everyone organized.  If there are participants that have not met each other, initiate introductions.  Before departing, gather everyone together and review protocols for the activity.  A quick review of Essentials may be appropriate, particularly easy to forget items like hats, insect repellant, sunscreen, sunglasses.  Make sure people are carrying enough water or have a filter if water will be available on the activity.  Does everyone have their pepper spray?  Get a final count of participants before hitting the trail.

 

 

C.)       Participant Roles/Responsibilities

 

1)            If an activity requires pre-registration, please conform to the procedure.  There are typically multiple reasons for requiring advanced sign-up.

 

2)            Be brutally honest in your self-assessment of your abilities and your responses to questions posed by the activity coordinator.  It may save both of you a lot of embarrassment and discomfort in the backcountry.

 

3)            Provide “Can Be Reached” info as accurately as possible that applies to those last few days before the scheduled activity.  If there is a methodology supplied to check for last minute changes, avail yourself of the opportunity and make the effort.  In the event some unforeseen emergency prevents you from participating, make every effort to get word to the activity coordinator or one of the other participants.

 

4)            Arrive at the meeting place no later than the scheduled meeting time.  If you are the sort of person that will sign up for an activity, then opt out if you happen to run across a pack of wolves or a tap-dancing moose enroute to the meeting place, I would suggest you not sign up in the first place.  Those that engage in this flighty behavior risk acquiring a reputation that precedes them.  The word will get out, and most activity coordinators will turn you away from future activities.  If you are that fourth person necessary to reach the magic “four or more” mark or you have the all-important second vehicle necessary for a shuttle between trailheads, you can ruin those other participant’s day.  Don’t be selfish!

 

5)            Arrive at the meeting place prepared.  Have your gear in a state of “trail readiness”.  Review the 10 Essentials in advance.  Make sure any desired comfort or optional items are along.

 

6)            Identify any relevant medical conditions to the activity coordinator.  If they require medication, be sure to bring it along.

 

7)            On overnight trips, volunteer to cover some of the cost of the $20 campsite reservation fee.  If carpooling in someone else’s vehicle, offer to reimburse a portion of the gasoline expense.

 

8)            Do not wander away from the group during the activity without checking in with the activity coordinator first.

 

 

D.)       Activity Protocol

 

1)            If the activity coordinator has not required pre-registration, their may be protocols identified in the calendar announcement.  Short trips, like Bunsen Peak, Grizzly Lake, Monument Geyser Basin, Fairy Falls, Lone Star Geyser, Duck Lake, Riddle Lake, Elephantback, Storm Point, Clear Lake/Ribbon Lake, Ice Lake, Cascade Lake, Grebe Lake, Mt. Washburn, Lost Lake, Trout Lake, Yellowstone River Picnic Area trail, and Wraith Falls might not require pre-registration.  In that case, the activity coordinator needs to post any info that participants will need to know in the announcement.

 

2)            The activity coordinator should lead the group, unless the coordinator delegates that responsibility to a veteran participant.

 

3)            The first several individuals on the trail should be carrying easily accessible pepper spray in the event of an encounter with an aggressive bear.  A veteran participant, equipped with pepper spray, should take up the rear position.

 

4)            In a group with differing abilities, the slowest participant should be placed near the front of the group to insure the pace being set is not too fast for them.

 

5)            Groups of 4 or more are highly recommended for backcountry travel in grizzly areas.  That is because no group of 3 or more has ever been attacked by a grizzly in Yellowstone.  No group of 4 or more has been attacked by a grizzly in the northern Rockies.  Certain Bear Management Areas in Yellowstone are closed to groups of less than 4.  Others “recommend” groups of 4 or more.  There is another reason for maintaining groups of at least 4.  In the event of a serious injury, one person can stay with the injured party, while the other two go for help.  Anything, whether it be personal friction or differences in ability level, that causes a splintering of groups of 4 or more needs to be dealt with immediately.  Splitting up can be life threatening to all concerned.

 

6)            In overnight activities, food must be secured in accordance with NPS procedures. Hang food high enough and far enough away from trees that bears and other scavengers can’t access it.

 

7)            If canoeing or kayaking, stay together.  Self-rescue in the frigid waters of Yellowstone’s lakes may be impossible.

 

8)            In winter, keep an eye on each other for signs of frostbite or hypothermia.  Err on the side of caution.

 

9)            Remember, today’s “participants” are tomorrow’s “activity coordinators”!

 

10)         Observe all park rules and regulations.