Dr. Joanne T. Gjelsten
To Your Health
As I write this I’m mourning the loss of someone I didn’t know, but I did know the area where she lost her life. The hiker who lost her life on the Rockland Lake Park trails was walking with her little dog and fell 300 feet to her death. According to early reports her dog also was found, but at 100 feet above her. When I heard she and her dog were missing, on the very trails I hike and snowshoe and at the very place I park my truck when I’m out and about up there, my heart sank. Logic tells you that if someone hasn’t been found overnight and day, someone who’s familiar with the terrain in a place where I know that cell phones do work, then some injury had to occur such that no communication was possible. That, combined with the fact that she was with her dog which was also missing, would, and did, point to something ominous having happened. This is a tragedy for both hiker and dog, and so we must learn from this and prevent it from happening to ourselves and to others. She was an “avid hiker” who seemed to have slipped up there in the snow; lost her balance, or possibly her dog slipped first and she went after. Whatever the scenario, we need to find a way to stay balanced, both literally and figuratively when an event like this happens. How can we avoid such things? I think that looking at what happened can teach us. This hiker seemed to have been familiar with the area, hiked there before, and was equipped for the hike. She was wearing snow shoes, appropriately. They say she was off the trail. That is where we need to start. If you go anywhere alone, stay on the trail. I always leave a “flight plan” (as pilots do when they take off); where I am, what trail, what time, what direction and who’s around, where I’m parked. She did that, but then went off the trail. If you need to do that, do two things. First, call and tell someone exactly where you’re veering off, the time, and direction, and where you plan to rejoin the trail. Second, make sure if you’re hiking with your dog, that it is leashed, especially when it’s slippery. I saw a guy take his dog off the leash a week before this tragedy, and the dog went straight for the deer standing in the meadow in front of the fire house at Rockland Lake. He yelled and the dog eventually returned, but what if this happened up on the cliff? Would the dog go over, and would he try to save it and go over too? Common sense means anticipating what could happen, and giving your self the edge. And never hike near a cliff if you have balance problems. That can mean anything from a cold with clogged ears which could make you dizzy, to Menieres syndrome, but stay away from slippery edges. I’m familiar with the trails where this occurred. Going to the edge isn’t necessary in order to have fun, whether it’s hiking, biking or any other sport. That’s your balance. Find out where you’re safe and stay there.
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