Submitted June 1, 2009

The temperature dropped down to an official 11 degrees

In November 1977, some friends and I decided to camp-out (just overnight) in the high-desert called McCain Valley just east of San Diego. While the weather looked a little "iffy" here on the coast, we decided to go anyway. Well, as you can imagine, we were hit with an unusual cold front that brought snow, sleet, hail, and high winds that were absolutely brutal. All the crew that we were with, bailed-out as the sun went down, but three of us decided to stick it out.

We were equipped with an old Korean-War era US Army tent, a double Hibachi BBQ, a couple of blankets and a few pillows. Oh, and I forgot, an aluminum folding lounge chair. Our light source was an ancient Coleman lantern that I'd forgotten to replace with new mantles before we left.

Needless to say, the temperature dropped down to an official 11 degrees, but one has to remember that "wind-chill" either hadn't been invented yet, or was at least not in or repertoire. We were easily down to Zero and not even dressed for it. To make matters worse, the old Chevy El Camino's battery was dead in its tracks, and we were snowed-in.

The mantles went out for good as we bundled everything we could find from the truck (which was now an ice-box), and my friend and his girl wrapped themselves-up as tight as they could, but we were still absolutely freezing, as the tent could only keep-out the elements but not the wind and cold. Remember that we were only dressed in Levis, a Levis jacket, and sneakers....common for the day.

I made a command decision to fire-up the Hibachi, wait for it to burn to coals, and bring it into the tent. I knew then and I know now how dangerous this practice is, and thus, perched myself on the lounge chair keeping watch and making sure of ventilation throughout the night. I nearly froze. We got out at daybreak as one of our original party called the Sheriff's Office and told them to look for us. They cleared the road enough for us to pass, jumped our truck, and gave me one of the better "bitching-outs" I've had in my time.

I was 17 at the time and I'm now 49, yet it still frightens me to think what could have happened had we been overcome by carbon monoxide or fire. However, it goes to illustrate the point that you can never be too prepared and that adequate essentials are ESSENTIAL, because you may just find yourself doing something you know is wrong in the interest of survival.

My suggestion is that everyone should have a good "do's and don'ts" guide when heading out to the wilderness, complete with a checklist of those things to bring along. And that they not take it lightly. Communications and GPS are also now almost commonplace, but cannot be completely relied upon.

Anyway Tom, I hope this helps and is what you were looking for....I'm sure lessons can be learned from this story and that products can be suggested for the novice and the experienced.

Don Sanders San Diego, Ca

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