Thoughts on Funding the Cost of Rescues, and How I Got Lost
It's a debate that continues to spring up as people get into sticky situations in the backcountry. Adventure Journal Author Steve Casimirio highlights the American and European approaches to paying for rescues, and cites examples of folks who were told they'd have to pay after various organizations came to help. I took the Adventure Journal poll and chose the "Government agencies except in cases of extreme recklessness, then the rescued should bear costs, too" option. But boy did the article get me thinking, particularly about an experience I had on one of my first outdoor adventures.
|Being aware of your surroundings can help if you get lost. |
This stream helped me find my way in Maryland.
The trail followed a beautiful stream at first, but branched off into the woods. My desire to explore got the best of me and I found myself off trail and completely lost. I couldn't have been more than a mile from where I'd started, but well out of earshot. I knew camp wasn't far, but I also knew I had no clue where the trail was. I ended up walking downhill enough to locate the stream and followed it back to the trail. Prior to figuring out how to get myself out of trouble, I panicked for a second, pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and discovered I had reception. If I hadn't been able to find my way back to the trail, or got hurt, and called for help, should I have had to bear some of the cost of the rescue?
Paying for Rescues and "What If's"Bottom line, it's a tough situation - one there doesn't seem to be a clear solution to. I do think people who needlessly put themselves in harm's way due to poor decision-making should bear some of the cost of their rescue. People who are, for example, obviously and wholly unprepared for a given undertaking. Or, as another example, if there's a giant sign at the trailhead during your hike that says, "Trail Closed Due to Dangerous Conditions" and you venture in anyway, that's a poor decision. It's right up there with the rope-ducking example in the Adventure Journal post. Should you be rescued? Absolutely. Should you pay for it, at least part of it? Maybe.
|Heeding a warning sign on |
Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks.
"Don't Proceed Without Proper Gear!"
But is venturing out without enough knowledge reckless in the first place? As Donald Rumsfeld said, "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
Then, there's the question of the "extreme" adventures. If you're attempting something no one's done before, something so unimaginably daring, and you find yourself in trouble, should you pay? Is that reckless? Or should we just chalk it up to your being bold and exploring uncharted territory? Still extreme, what about climbing mountains like Denali? In 2011, there was a debate about fees to climb in Denali National Park around increased fees to cover the National Park Service mountaineering program there.
Should people who take on endeavors that have historically resulted in significant costs to rescuers pay to fund the programs? Should people who use the same land, but don't take on the same endeavors, bear the burden too? It's tough to come up with a concrete solution for every circumstance.
What do you think? Who should pay for rescues? Should it vary? Leave a comment!