On June 19, 2000, I learned how it feels to know you're about to die.
Obviously, since I've written about the experience several times, I didn't die.
I was lucky.
About ten that morning, I set out from my campground on Arkansas' Mount Nebo
for hike. The trail I had in mind was four miles long. I was in pretty good
shape, had food and water, and felt confident I could complete the hike.
The only thing I forgot was a map.
My hike went well for a couple of hours, at which point I realized that I had
no idea where I was or which of three branching trails to take. I did an
eeny-meeny-miney-moe and chose a trail. Later I learned that if I had gone right
at this point instead of left, I would have made it back to camp safely.
The trail I did choose led me on a winding path and finally dumped me out on
the main road to the state park. Having driven up the mountain the day before, I
recognized where I was--three or four miles down the mountain, at a guess, on a
steep mountain road with hairpin curves. Even if drivers recognized that I was
in trouble and not hiking for pleasure, they couldn't stop. There was nowhere to
pull over and cars coming up the mountain couldn't see around the curves.
If I was going to make it to camp, I had to walk up the mountain.
So I started walking. But I soon realized I probably wasn't going to make it.
The camp site was, by my guess, at least two miles up the mountain. I was so
exhausted I could only take small steps, and my legs had stopped aching and gone
numb. Blisters on my feet were screaming in agony. Worst, I was out of water and
had stopped sweating.
I was in the early stages of heat stroke, and I was too exhausted to do the
only thing that would help--get back to camp faster.
I kept walking, until I couldn't walk another step. My body cried out for
rest. I knew if I sat down I would have to stretch out, and that if I did that I
would fall asleep, and if I did that...
I would die of heat stroke.
I made a deal with my aching body. One more curve, and then I'll think about
resting, with all the consequences. But just one hundred more yards. Just to the
other side of this curve.
This is where fortune stepped in.
As I rounded the curve I saw the campground. My tent was a still couple of
hundred yards away, but over more level ground, and once I reached it I could
rest, drink water, rest, and drink water.
I made the campground, poured cool water over my head to cool off, slowly
drank water, and fell asleep. Four hours later, I woke aching and stiff, but
I didn't know about GlacierBands then, but I'll never go hiking without one
In fact, my hiking gear now contains the GlacierBand around my neck and
another, soaked and wrapped in a plastic bag. I should never need the second
one, but why take the risk? They weigh almost nothing, they take up very little
room, and they can save your life.