With the autumnal equinox upon us, my first thoughts are of shorter daylight hours and gorgeous fall colors. However, this is coming from someone who can't reliably locate the business end of a shotgun. I'm certain there is a large subset of the population here in Idaho who equates the onset of fall with something else all together: hunting season.
I was reminded of this last the weekend when, as is common in my work as a Life Flight paramedic, my crew and I helicoptered deep into the Bitterroot Mountains in search of an injured hunter. A few pointers came to mind in conjunction with my recent expedition.
For starters, a helicopter needs a relatively flat surface without high obstacles—like trees—in order to land. In other words, landing zones (like the one pictured below) are scarce in heavily forested mountains, so any outdoor enthusiast who routinely explores rugged terrain should be prepared for delayed rescue efforts. Just because a helicopter is on the way does not mean that a person can be easily or speedily extracted from the wilderness.
Secondly, a satellite phone is of limited use if you don't know your exact location. Get a GPS. Preferably a Spot GPS, which enables the user to transmit his or her location, along with a message indicating whether help is needed or that everything is OK.
Finally, be careful out there. Beautiful country isn't so beautiful if you're not well-prepared for the challenges it offers. Take it from a chopper jockey who has seen it from 10,000 feet.