Column: Time to take stock in our ability to survive

'Hiking Arizona'

Every year, it's the same. Someone finds themselves in a wilderness survival situation somewhere across the Southwest, especially in Arizona. Now that summer has arrived in all its furry, it's time to take stock of our ability to survive, if lost or injured on our next hike.

The first three factors determining your survivability might surprise you. Is it water or food? What about signaling or having a survival kit on hand? How about a shelter or is it first aid supplies? Being more tech savvy these days, you might suggest a cell phone or GPS unit. While particulars vary widely, three factors rise to the top of the list regardless of the context.

The second most important factor is how you respond when you realize that you are stuck, hurt, or lost. Do you panic or stay in control? If you panic, lose your cool, and freak out, it doesn’t matter much as to what else you have on hand regarding resources or even training. If you stay calm, even though you lack basic resources, you are much more likely to get back home. I would put water at number three. Aridity, extreme temperatures, and intense solar radiation, combine to suck the life out of anything: plant, animal or human. Therefore, it is more worthwhile to ration sweat rather than drinking water. Unfortunately, people have been found dead with canteens of water next to them, thinking they would stretch their supply of water but as they became dehydrated, their mental capacity was compromised and they didn’t even realize they were in danger.

If your mental state is number two and water is number three, what is the most important factor that will determine whether or not you survive in the wilderness? We’ll discuss this factor along with a host of other information at a survival workshop at Prescott Valley Public Library on Saturday 15 July. Two sessions will be offered, morning and afternoon. The afternoon session is a repeat of the morning session. Space is limited, therefore registration is required.

Edible plants offer a tantalizing temptation, yet there is much confusion over what is edible and what is not. There are so many plant species in Arizona and the characteristics which distinguish them combine to simply befuddle anyone that lacks specialized training in identifying the local flora. Additionally, we seem to care more about food than is warranted. So many people, the world over, routinely get along fine with much less. Nevertheless, our chance of survival goes up with a source of energy and nutrition, as long as water is plentiful. If not, we are better off focusing on water rather than food. Nevertheless, our attitude is given a significant boost if we have food on hand and that greatly enhances the odds in our favor. Each workshop will have samples of edible plants, plus we’ll demonstrate a fun way to “test,” whether or not a plant is edible.

Finally, don’t become a statistic. Get familiar with some of the skills, techniques, and resources that will enhance the likelihood of you returning home after each hike, no matter what you run into, be it a rattlesnake or an unexpected night out in a remote corner of the State. The workshop at the Library is a great place to start or get a refresher, especially if you are new to Arizona.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.