Archive for camping

Altitude Sickness in Dogs

Posted in dog, pets, Search and Rescue with tags , , on September 25, 2012 by rattlerjen

Grom and went hiking around in the mountains of New Mexico while we were on vacation.  He spent quite a bit of time resting under the shade of trees along the trail.  Could he have had altitude sickness?

What is it?

Maximal oxygen uptake decreases significantly at elevations above 5,000 feet. This is because oxygen is at a lower pressure at higher altitudes.  Your body has to work more to move oxygen throughout your body.  It can take 3 to 6 weeks of living at the higher altitude in order for your body and your dog’s body to adjust.


  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Pale gums
  • Bleeding from the nose and retina (only in extreme cases)
  • Increased pulse
  • Dry cough
  • Swelling of feet and possibly the face
  • Sudden collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Lack of coordination
  • Lethargy and refusal to move

It appears that the symptoms are the same for dogs as they are for humans and look quite similar to those of dehydration.


Luckily our ascent was very gradual up the mountain and we only climbed about 800 feet up.  Grom was used to being at sea level on the east coast, but he had been at 5,000 feet for nearly two weeks.  Both the dog and I were quite tired from this change.

If you ever do feel that your dog may be suffering from altitude sickness, the vet has a few remedies.  One is a drug known as acetazolamide, may be prescribed by your vet for treatment.  Oxygen may also help treat a dog for altitude sickness.

Final Word

Simply be aware that high altitude sickness does exist for both dogs and humans.  Take extra precautions when traveling with your dog. The best way to prevent altitude sickness in dogs or humans is to ascend slowly.  Be careful if you are quickly taking your dog to a higher altitude, especially on aircraft that does not have pressurized cabins (helicopters and small aircraft.) Take plenty of breaks, move slowly, and drink more water (lower vapor pressure also causes faster moisture loss.)  Don’t overdo it and you and your canine companion will be fine.


FTL: First Weekend

Posted in Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by rattlerjen

Field Team Leader Training.

Class Description

Intermediate-level training in search team management, implementation of search tactics, supervision of team performance, proper use of semi-technical rescue equipment, and evacuation management. The FTL course consists of approx. 60% classroom and 40% field instruction. Field work is held regardless of current weather conditions unless extreme conditions present personal safety concerns. Successful completion prepares the student to adequately function as a Field Team Leader under the indirect supervision of the Operations Section Chief.

Physical Ability and Conditioning: Search and Rescue is hard, physically demanding work. Prospective students to the field classes must be capable of ascending steep slopes (up to 60 degrees) over rough terrain, in the dark, while carrying a backpack that may weigh up to 40lbs. After several hours in the field under the previously described conditions, the student will then enter the rescue portion of the course. During the rescue SAR personnel will assist in the carry-out of a patient as part of a rotating 6-person team. The litter with patient package may weigh up to 300lbs. Read my post on patient packaging and litter carrying.

I learned so many things from this class.

The first thing explained to us was we needed to know everything from FTM (Field Team Member) class well enough that we could teach it.

That includes many rescue knots, carrying a litter, land navigation using a map and compass, helicopter proticol, radio communications, and boring government terms, organization, and paperwork.  (Sorry folks, but if I were to tell you that the National Incident Management stuff was riveting you wouldn’t believe me if I told you water was wet.)

The instructors found a way to make all subjects covered pretty fun. The Power Point presentations are often sprinkled with jokes, quotes, and funny pictures and the personal stories from the instructors really juice things up.  Often the stories from the instructors are more instructive than anything included in the prepared lessons.  I saw not one nodding head nor glazed eye the entire weekend!

We learned a few new knots.

Double Figure Eight Loop – Click to see an animated video

butterfly knot

This knot can be used for a harness or as an anchor for rappelling.

Emergency Harness – click to see animated video

This is a simple harness that anyone can do.  It is very useful for those steep drainages we sometimes have to search.  Simply strap one of these on yourself and anchor a rope to a nice tree to prevent a head over heals tumble down a rocky slope.

Butterfly – click to see animated video

Use this pretty knot on either side of a damaged rope.  A useful thing to know when you discover the rope you are hanging from got chewed on by a nasty rock.

Munter Mule – click to see animated video

or click here for Appalachian Rescue’s easier-to-tie version

This knot gives a controlled slide through a carabiner.  It is used when rappelling.  We will learn more about how this nifty knot works next weekend.

Triple Redundant Harness – click to see how this one is tied

A more secure harness than the emergency harness.  This version uses a bowline hitch, but it can also be made with water knots.

We learned that we carry more stuff

Here is an old posting about what I carry in my SAR pack

First, we have to carry all the things an FTM carries:
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket
  • Waterproof (windproof) pants (these don’t have to be expensive, just functional)
  • Wool or synthetic shirts or sweaters.
  • Wool or synthetic pants, or BDU’s with appropriate thermal underwear. NO JEANS!
  • Long underwear made of wool, silk, or other synthetic material – Cotton thermal underwear is not acceptable.
  • Gloves for cold weather with either leather palms, or a leather outer glove layer.
  • Stocking Cap or Balaclava
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Wool or synthetic socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket and pants.
  • Long pants – preferably rip stop material. NO SHORTS
  • Lightweight shirt – preferably of breathable material.
  • Hat
  • Gloves with minimum of a leather palm.
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Backpack large enough for daypack use
  • One quart minimum canteen or water bottle
  • One day supply of quick energy food
  • Whistle
  • Compass (Silva or Brunton preferred)
  • Headlamp with a set of spare batteries and bulb.
  • One other alternate source of light with spare batteries & bulb
  • Personal First Aid Kit
  • At least one 30-gallon leaf bag
  • Waterproof matches or disposable lighter
  • Storm Shelter (can be items already in pack such as garbage bag)
  • Handheld radio
  • Toilet paper
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Moleskin
  • Gaitors
  • Sunscreen
  • Signal mirror
  • Parachute cord
  • Small notebook & pen
  • Insect repellant
  • Water purification tablets or filter system
  • GPS Unit – Know how to use this and have it set up properly before putting it in your pack!

Field Team Leader Equipment List

All required equipment from the Field Team Member Equipment List (see above), PLUS:

  • 25 feet of one-inch nylon tubular webbing
  • Two (2) Locking-D aluminum alloy carabiners
  • UIAA approved climbing helmet (or hardhat with chin strap)
  • Electric Headlamp w/ extra batteries and bulb

We learned about ourselves.

Most of what makes up an FTL’s job is management of people.  It is the most important and most difficult skill to learn.  Within five minutes of walking into the classroom I was given a personality test.  Shockingly, I tested quite high as a “Showman.”  No surprise there.  Eleven years ago I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and came out with INTP.  I took it today scoring INTJ (although the J score was quite low.)

How useful it can be to understand how you think and react to events! Take the Myers-Briggs Jung Personality test free online here.

In order to successfully lead a team, one must understand different personalities and how to work with them.  Every personality type has jobs that best suit them.  Note: I have a big mouth, never give me the radio.

What it boils down to:gumby

It’s all about practice and experience in the field.

You are not physically fit at the moment to carry all this stuff.

Teaching and doing shows for four to eight year olds may help or hinder your ability to be a leader for adults.

Your mouth is gonna get you into trouble one day.

Limit the amount of Pizza and Mexican Food you eat at training weekend.  Rescue pants need to fit tomorrow!

Semper Gumby!

Dolly Sods Adventure

Posted in howto, life with a working dog, pets with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by rattlerjen

I just had to get out of the house and away from the traffic, responsibilities, and people.  It was time to hug some trees and burn some calories.  It was time for a backpacking trip.

In the past my german shepherd, Heidi has been my companion on such adventures.  Heidi is going on 11 years old now; her old bones just aren’t up for the trek anymore.

So, I figured it was time to take the pup for a backpacking spin.  First thing was to test the little guy with the dog pack.  I quickly threw it on him empty and strapped him in.  Grom took a few spins in circles chasing after the dangling straps before getting distracted with a chew toy.  That was easy.

The dog pack instruction manual said he could carry up to one-third his body weight; nearly 20 pounds! Since Grom is only a puppy, I put a meager four pounds into his packs. He was carrying his own water, food, and snacks for three days.

We are all packed up and ready to hit the trails.  Like my snazzy bright orange cape?

Looks like Grom’s favorite things to do was climb around on the rocks and check out the awesome view.

A smart dog takes a lot of naps on a backpacking trip.  The packs sure give a nice extra cushion.

The little guy doesn’t seem interested in group shots.

Don’t let me have you believe that he slept most of the time.  This is what he was like most every time we stopped.

It was a fantastic trip.

Here are a few things I learned backpacking with a dog.

Tips for backpacking with a dog.

  • Walk your dog several times with his packs on.  Be sure to start out with them empty
  • Pack extra food for your dog, he is going to burn many more calories than normal.  I bring about 1/3 more food for each meal, plus two extra meals
  • Bring dog snacks with you.  I like duck or turkey jerky.  Make sure its the good stuff.  Your pup will need rewards for listening to you in the great outdoors.  Snacks are easily kept in a treat pouch or chalk pouch with a draw string or closure that keeps it shut tight and hung from the shoulder strap on your pack.
  • Don’t take your dog out camping if it will get below 40 degrees F at night unless he has thick fur and is used to being outside in the cold.  Our domesticated pups can be as whimpy as humans when it comes to temperature.  Consider bringing a camping bed for your dog.
  • You will need lots of extra water for your dog.  Be sure to offer water to your dog often, he cannot cool off as easy as you can.  Teach your pup on walks to drink out of a water bottle or whatever you will be using on the trip before you go.
  • Keep your dog on a leash, even in the middle of nowhere.  I ran into several people with dogs after hiking for five miles straight without seeing a soul.
  • Make sure your dog has the come command down no matter how much he wants to do something else.  A deer bounding across the trail could very well end with your dog yanking the leash out of your hands and getting lost.  I trained my dog to come to the emergency whistle attached to my pack.  I always had one nearby.
  • Make sure  your dog has been trained to stay near you off lead.  There will be a few areas on the trail that you may need to unhook your dogs leash for safety. I found that scrambling up rocks or crossing streams with a dog ended up with either my dog stumbling or myself on my butt in the middle of a stream.
  • Keep watch for others on the trail.  Get yourself and your dog off the trail to let others pass.  Some people are afraid of dogs, are new to backpacking, or are off balance.  They will appreciate the courtesy.

Lyme Disease?

Posted in Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2010 by rattlerjen

I have been a bit slow on posting this week as I have come down with something.  Needless to say, I went to the doctor yesterday for a Lyme Disease blood test and some antibiotics.  I will have to go back again in two weeks to get retested as the tests are not reliable this early in the infection.  Has it been 3 or 4 weeks since I pulled that tiny engorged tick from between my toes?

In honor of the millions of bacteria that are systematically being marked and executed by giant globulous blobs patrolling my veins, I bring you:

Pictures of the accused:

Lyme bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi)

That tiny little Deer tick

The havoc those tiny little things often (but not always) cause:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • muscle and joint aches
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • a rash that may not appear until 30 days after the bite (can be seen as early as 3 days)

You got it folks, the same list of symptoms for nearly anything else a person can think of.  Lesson is to go to the doctor ASAP.  These little corkscrews can permanently damage your nervous system, heart, and even eat holes in your brain if left untreated long enough.  I will keep ya all updated on the results.

How to make a One Match Fire

Posted in how to, howto, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2010 by rattlerjen

Fire is an important thing to have in a survival situation.  It allows you to stay warm, boosts morale, cook food, and purify water.  It is not as easy to make as you might think.  In a survival situation, or even when backpacking in the woods, one match is all it should take.

Here, we learn how to make a one match fire from our favorite outdoor guru, Rob Speiden.

First, you must gather kindling and tinder.  tinder and kindling

Tinder should be light and fluffy.  This is what the match will light on fire.  People who get good at making fire are able to get tinder to alight in flame with a single spark.  This takes lots of practice, but can be done.  We shall be prepared, so no firebowes mate.

Bark that peels like paper from a tree such as cedar or birch, cotton dipped in Vasoline, char cloth, and lint from the dryer work well.  Unfortunately,  leaves do not work very well because they burn at such a low temperature it takes an enormous amount to light the kindling.  Gather far more tinder than you think you need.

Kindling are dry branches and twigs as big around as your thumb or smaller.  Only gather these from the dead lower branches of trees, not from the ground or they are likely to be wet.

If it snaps it is dry if it is green or wet it will bend.

Gather several armloads.  Then go back and gather more.  No one ever gets enough of this stuff.  Break the kindling into 6 inch lengths.

Find two forked sticks and break them off about 6 inches from the fork.  Shove these guys in the ground about a foot away from one another.  Now, break a twig off of a green branch and lay it across the two forks.  You want the branch to be green as you want it to resist burning for a long time. It will look like you are about to rotisserie a chipmunk.  (I heard they are quite tasty.)  Don’t jump the gun folks!  You are going to need this little frame to build your fire on, so put that rodent away.

Start building a little a frame house with the six inch lengths of kindling.  Make sure you have provided for airflow and enough room in the structure for your hand.  Pile it on. Remember, there’s not really any such thing as too much kindling.

The most important part of fire making:  Sit back and watch all of your hard work BURN!

Survival Weekend: After Lunch

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by rattlerjen

The buffet, it was massive!  Really folks, you probably could have ordered a few pizzas and been done with it. There were three kinds of sandwich meats, four cheeses, deli mustard, onion rolls, creamy potato salad, bagels, donuts, gatorade, soft drinks, chips, cookies, and food galore.

On our packs went and waddle waddle waddle our feet shuffled.  To the other side of base camp our destination was.  To a graveyard in the middle of a forest, creeeeeeepy!  Down a trail and up a creek was the path to take.

I don’t think this trail is on the map.  Bullocks!

No problem, just look at the nice beetle that clicks and pops like popcorn. DISTRACTION!  How is that for self defense!  BOING!

We split off into multiple groups to try different routes.  I decided to tag along with a newer volunteer in our organization.  This was the very first time she had done orienteering.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to learn more.  Rob must have sensed trouble and decided to tag along with us.  (I could get lost in my own sock drawer.)  We let the new woman do all of the navigating.  I succeeded in clearing up a bit of navigation confusion, Yay me!  Then proceeded in confusing us both a minute later.

We stood at a joining of two drainages, which is the correct one?

Rob is the Awesome.  He taught us a few new skills so that we were able to figure it out ourselves.  All you have to do is point your compass up each drainage and determine the bearing it follows and match that to the map.  Spiffy!

I learned that most trail maps are out of date and possibly useless; topo maps are the bomb.

The cemetery turned out to be a charming little plot of a half a dozen old stone markings surrounded by a little metal fence like what you would see around a really nice garden.  The area past the graveyard opened up into a gorgeous bright green meadow.

Rob started pulling bark off of a dead cedar tree.  GOLD!  I stuffed a ziplock bag full of the magical paper thin strips.  We gathered together with the others under a tiny canopy of trees.

That is when we found out what the heck was in Chris’s bag.

Are you sure this is big enough?

She came prepared man!  The whole team could probably use that thing as a shelter.  After teasing our poor team member, we decided to have a bit of fun.    At her expense of course.

We learned three valuable ways to make a shelter:

Shelter burrito,


and Lean-to.

When constructing your shelter of choice don’t forget your pink string.

This of course matches your pink knife, pink water bottle, pink clothing, pink….

*Cough* umm yeah.  What were we talking about?

Up Next, How to Make a Fire or How not to burn yourself.

Survival weekend training fun

Posted in life with a working dog, pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by rattlerjen

Every year our team has a survival training weekend. This was my first time participating.
We had the great pleasure of Rob Spieden to teach the class for the entire day.

A flurry of emails before the weekend quickly spoiled any hope of me losing any weight during the weekend and dashed my hopes of eating beetle stew.  A great pot luck feast was brewing amongst the team.  My husband and I brought two dozen donuts.  I sat them on the classroom table near enough food to feed three times the class’s partipating number.

We had just enough time to finish our coffee and donuts before Rob decided classrooms are boring.  After a wonderful introduction to the use of maps and compass, most of us already had one or two classes under our belts on the subject, we staggered outside.  Under the weight of our packs and maps in hand, we staggered into the woods to find our first orienteering marker.learning to navigate

This marker is a four foot tall wooden post with the top painted orange and a white number carved into the side.  We had to bushwack by a route through the woods to find it.  Our small group of troublemakers walked straight down the road where it comes to a stop at another road crossing it.  We then cut into the woods and down a drainage nearly straight to the marker.  It was the easy route.

With a simple walk upstream we walked nearly right into the marker.

On a lovely carpet of bright green moss we sat and waited for the other groups to catch up. They had taken more challenging routes and found the marker soon after we did.  On the perfect area for maximum relaxation, we learned about the Rule of Threes.  A simple list of things to remember in order for a human to survive.

Then, we whipped out the knives.  Big ones, little ones, pink ones, serrated ones, ones with scissors, ones with saws.  Some people had multiple knives. Some had enough knives to belong to the circus.  A few had knives that belonged on the set of Crocodile Dundee.  We like the knives.  A good thing too.  A decent knife is an important item on the list of 10 Essential Survival Items.

box turtleEveryone was instructed to find the next marker on the side of a steep hill.  I joined a group that decided to walk upstream counting drainages in order to find our marker.  A slow turtle and gorgeous warty little red toad later, we aimed ourselves up a steep drainage.  red toad

God, I am out of shape.orienting the map with no compass

At that marker we learned how to relate what can be seen on a topo map to true life.  Some people can do this crazy runnin around in the woods without a compass.  Now, that is quite cool!

It was then decided by unanimous vote that it was time for LUNCH!

The Rule of Threes

Posted in pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by rattlerjen


3 SECONDS – (MIND) the time you have to decide to escape or take action on an immediate danger.

3 MINUTES – (AIR) the average time you can survive without breathable air.

3 HOURS – (SHELTER) without it, time before you start dying from hypothermia (cold) or hyperthermia (heat).

3 DAYS – (WATER) the time before dehydration can claim your life because lack of water.

3 WEEKS – (FOOD) the time before you cannot do any daily necessary task because of lack of food.

3 MONTHS – (HOPE) the time without meeting anybody else before a solid depression catches you.

Our instructor suggested that we add something to 3 Seconds.lauren sleeping


Less than 3 seconds of shut-eye behind the wheel could kill.   Don’t believe me?  Close your eyes for 3 seconds and imagine you are driving at 55mph.  It’s a long time!

This is especially important for Search and Rescue Teams.  Typically a call comes for teams in the middle of the night after a full day of 9 to 5 work.  That call in the middle of the night might mean that the volunteers will be awake all through the night and possibly the next day tromping through the woods with full packs on.

If you are tired, it is better to get back in the car for a nap rather than a drive home.


If you keep in mind the Rule of 3’s before leaving for an outing, you will always be prepared.

Survival: An Introduction

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2010 by rattlerjen

Last weekend was our Search and Rescue survival training overnight.  I will share with you probably the most important things a person should have with them out in the woods.  I will never go on a simple walk in the woods without everything on this list.

The Ten Essential Items for Wilderness Survival

  1. Shelter – a tarp, tube tent, or even a trash bag may be used as a shelter.  (see previous shelter burrito blog for the simplest of shelters)
  2. An extra layer of clothing – Even if it is a hot 90 degrees during the day, inactivity and night time temperatures can leave you shivering at best, dead at worst.  Hypothermia is a too common cause of death for the unprepared.
  3. Two forms of fire making – I carry at least three.  A lighter (useless if wet but it does give you lots of chances to start a fire), waterproof matches, and magnesium or flint.  I also carry char cloth or lint as tinder in a mint tin or film canister.
  4. Water – One to two liters per day per person
  5. Plastic beadless whistle – It can be heard farther than yelling.  As long as you can breathe you can blow a whistle.  You would be surprised how quickly your voice is lost from yelling.  No metal whistles either; condensation from your breath will freeze it to your lips or the metal ball within, rendering it useless.  Plus, you will look really silly with it stuck to your lips when you are found.
  6. First Aid Kit – I especially find butterfly band aids, duct tape, gauze, antihistamines, and pain meds useful.  Many good kits can be purchased from outdoor stores.
  7. Knife – Be sure to get something sturdy, but small enough to easily carry in your pocket or on your belt.  I carry a multitool and a swiss army knife.  I have found plyers to be very useful for the strangest things.
  8. Flashlight and extra batteries for it. Heck, carry two flashlights.  Leds are cheap and small enough to carry a pocketful
  9. Food – A person might be able to go several weeks without food, but nothing cheers me up than a chocolate chip granola bar when my stomach starts grumbling!
  10. Map and Compass, and most importantly, the knowledge to use them.

Shelter Burrito

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , on May 31, 2010 by rattlerjen

Here is a wonderful way to keep yourself warm in the woods when in a pinch.  Gather tons of dry leaves and pile them on one side of a tarp.  Fold tarp over the leaves.  Then lay on the tarp and roll yourself into a leaf burrito.

AHHH, now doesn’t that look warm?

Once I catch up on my sleep, I will post more of survival training from this weekend!

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