Hiker at Calico Basin outside Las Vegas

Just about anybody who knows me, is familiar with my enthusiasm for hiking. I’ve always been an outdoorsman, being raised a Southern country boy from Texas. We didn’t have all the electronic advantages that keep kids indoors today. To stay inside meant chores and Mama finding something for us to do. Behind my house were woodland plains and I explored it all. I didn’t have a car, so when I needed to go somewhere I walked, but most often you’d see me wearing swim trunks and running.

Model Melissa

I joined the regular Army at 19. By the time I was discharged, I had been a regular infantry soldier, an Army Ranger, Pathfinder, and Scout. It kept me outside and I preferred the smaller manned squad operations. I enjoyed being elite. I fit well in that class of soldiers and it became my life for 10 years. Upon exiting the military all that stopped as I entered the workforce. New priorities kept me busy working and oriented on school and advancement. It wasn’t until I got to Vegas, that all my outdoors endeavors burst out again. Part of that was due to the Las Vegas Hiking and Outdoors MeetUp.com group headed by Alan Gegax. I joined up when there were a little more than 300 people signed up. Now the group is the largest MeetUp group of any kind in Vegas with well over 5100 members. I went on my first hike led by Alan, which was one of his Moonlight Tunnel hike out at Lake Mead. I recall distinctively that Alan made me feel comfortable around a bunch of strangers and he welcomed me to the group.

Hikers at Calico Basin

Today, my favorite radio station, KNPR did an segment on State of Nevada about hiker Ron Kirk who came up missing around mid-January while hiking at near Calico Basin, one of my familiar places to visit. Host Dave Becker had Alan on to give some points on Hiker Safety as well as freelance journalist, Joshua Longobardy who discussed an article he wrote on Ron Kirk in LasVegas City Life. Alan touched on several pointers that, had Ron Kirk taken heed, he would have either been found already or not have been lost at all. But I have to admit I can understand Ron’s mentality in this. Joshua Longobardy talked about the fact that Ron’s experience and advanced skills could have actually contributed to his predicament and I understand this totally. Often, I’ve gone out hiking alone and have been caught in some hairy situations at times.

Hikers at Calico Basin

Sometimes you just don’t want to wait on a friend to make up their minds to go with you. Other times, people in the meet up groups might not be doing a hike you’d like to do. So instead of waiting, you just go on your own. That independence can be inspiring. And with my familiarity in taking care of myself in the wild, I can become overly confident in my abilities and not give a second thought to telling someone where I’ve gone or  when I’ll be back. Its really no different than you finding out you are out of eggs when making a cake. You get in your car to go to the grocery store and handle your business. You don’t necessarily feel a need to play it safe and give someone your itinerary.

Hikers at Calico Basin

Two things made me become a bit more cautionary. Once while a hike in the same vicinity where Ron Kirk’s car was found at Calico Basin, I had decided to explore this area and spent considerable time climbing and scrambling up some beautiful rocks. I had under-anticipated how long it would take to do this. I scrambled up fairly high, very fast, and over some arduous rocks. The sun was getting low and it got darker in the canyon quicker. Getting down was MUCH tougher than I had imagined. I encountered a cleft that I had to traverse which had a downward incline with a 60 foot drop to reward a misstep. I took about 15 minutes to weigh my options in my mind. I deduced that I could drop my backpack (which held my camera!) and increase my odds of success. But the backpack might also help protect my head in a fall. I rationally concluded to keep the backpack on and than if I did indeed fall, I needed to fall in such a manner that I keep my legs together and let the sides of my legs take much of the initial impact. I might sacrifice my legs, but if I could maintain consciousness, I could low-crawl my way back to the main trial where someone was bound to find me by morning. I found that I was also high enough to be able to switch my cell phone from 3G, back to the old EDGE network and get a call through. I called my friend Felix and gave him my sit-rep. Then I took the ledge.

The second thing that made me a little more cautious was “127 Hours“. The scene where Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, having to finally cut though his arm to free himself was one thing. What got me was when he was shown trying to cut through that nerve. Woof! I don’t know if I could do that. And the real kicker is that there are actually THREE nerves that run through the arm! To say the least, I quickly began to reassess my thinking when I go out alone. It didn’t preclude me from going out alone, but SOMEBODY knows where I am and when I’m expected back!

Model, Melissa

I pray, Ron Kirk is found alive. Its been more than a month already. Is that possible? Who knows. I say, yes. Unless God has other plans for the man, it’s possible he can survive even for this long. I wish I could help in the search. Rock scrambling with crutches is seldom done for good reason. Please listen to the State of the Nevada podcast and take heed to Alan’s suggestions while on the trails. Its great advice and speaks volumes of wisdom. And take advantage of the Las Vegas Hiking and Outdoors Meetup group if you live in the area. Somebody is always doing a hike ranging between the simple and easy to the more skilled. There’s a hike for everyone and you should really get out and see the parts of Nevada that have nothing to do with The Strip. You won’t believe how helpful these group members are and the new friendships you’ll make. Actually, Alan met his wife while out hiking!! I can’t wait to get back on the trails. You can also listen to Alan and myself talk about the Group and what we get out of hiking these back trails of Valley of Fire from a Spring 2011 NPR State of the Re:Union podcast. Catch us at minute 12 when you click on Segment C.