My son was visiting me during the holidays recently. I accompanied him to a local cell phone store, where he purchased a Droid. On the five-mile drive home, he entertained me by turning on its GPS feature; and we listened and laughed as the automated voice instructed us to turn left here and right there, over a route that we knew like the back of our hands. It did get me wondering, though, if it’s possible — in this information technology age — to get lost anymore.
And if our GPS units and cell phones have taken away our excuses for not knowing where we’ve gotten ourselves to, we face a new question of responsibility. If a “reasonable person” should no longer get lost, doing so suddenly becomes irresponsible behavior.
Bill Due Upon Receipt.
In an article in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of National Geographic Adventure Magazine, it was reported that last April a 17-year-old boy turned his ankle while hiking the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. When he didn’t return home by the time he was expected, a search was organized for him. Soon the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Maine Forest Service helicopter, the Mountain Rescue Service, and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department got involved. Four days later, the boy was
found — in relatively good health — by the fish and game department. His parents sent $1,000 to the department as a token of thanks. New Hampshire Fish and Game sent back a bill for $25,238.
We’ve all heard of stories like this, where someone climbed a mountain, say, or rafted a wild river who had no business taking on the challenge because he or she lacked the required skills. Thousands of dollars later, the adventurer is back home, safe and sound, leaving cash-strapped communities and local rescue groups to carry the costs. Why shouldn’t those who take the risks also foot the bill when things go wrong?
A Free Wilderness — Of Rescues, That Is.
On the other hand, charging those in danger for their rescues would certainly discourage people from calling for one — probably until it’s too late. Usually in circumstances where a rescue is required, time is of the essence. Delaying a call for help could mean the difference between life and death, extend the time it takes to complete what earlier would have been a far quicker and easier rescue, and put search-and-rescue personnel in grave danger.
Since 1984, a man named Leo McAvoy and other outdoorsmen have been proposing “rescue-free wildernesses.” In these designated remote areas, a person would enter at his or her “own peril.” McAvoy’s contention was that you can’t have a real wilderness experience without complete self-sufficiency, and you can’t have complete self-sufficiency if there is always someone standing by to bail you out if you get into trouble. Only those who understand the deal up front should be allowed into these areas, where they can then have a richer, more fulfilling nature and wildlife adventure.
Daniel Boone is reported to have said, “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” It’s quite possible that with the wide availability of pocket technology equipped with GPS features, society will no longer be willing to pay the expenses for those who get “confused” once in a while.
Do you think people who venture outside their comfort zones should pay for their own rescues? Or should we continue to subsidize them, just as we still pay for a rescue from a house fire or auto accident?
On December 29, 2009, USA Today reported that a Nevada couple got stuck in the snow for three days in Grants Pass in eastern Oregon, after their SUV’s GPS unit sent them down a remote national forest road.
Looks like we humans aren’t the only ones who can still get a little confused.
Feature photo: Are outdoor adventures only for those who have the know-how? ©Candice Gaukel Andrews.