This page is intended to give some advice to backcountry hikers for some of those problems that we all hope will never happen, but sometimes, inevitably, do. Nobody wants to think about these things, I know I never do, but as the saying goes "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". It is always a good practice to be aware of where you are, of what could happen to you, and to have some sort of plan for how you will deal with it if it does. Sometimes being careful is enough to prevent these problems, but sometimes they happen anyway. If you are hiking solo, as I frequently do, then you need to be extra careful. You're on your own out there and if you run into trouble the only person who is going to help you is yourself.
Personally, my biggest fear when I am traveling the Grand Canyon backcountry are the scorpions. In fifteen years of hiking I have never seen one so I guess I've been rather lucky. Still, I know that they are there and when I think about it, it really bugs me.
Most problems with scorpions can be avoided by common sense and by heeding the advice of the park rangers. If you leave your boots outside your tent at night, make sure you bang them together and shake them out real good before you put them back on. Scorpions like damp places and a pair of boots that have been hiked in for many miles are the perfect home for them. If you've got room inside your tent then you would be even better off to bring them in with you at night. If you're one of those people that don't use a tent in the backcountry then my heart goes out to you, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"
As for some other problems, I asked one of the Backcountry Rangers a series of questions regarding some other problems that might occur. Here are the questions and the responses that I received:
Each case will be different but in general - if the injured person is able to take care of himself - eat and drink - and the injury is say a fracture then I would send the other to get help. If they are near the river then stay and wait for a river trip. If the hiker is unable to take care of himself and help is less then a couple hours away - get help and get back, if it is over 5 hours then stay - and signal and wait.
We get calls of visitors that see signal mirrors all the time - they even report mirror flashes that turn out to be reflections from shiny objects. Also aircraft will report the flashes to airport towers - which could be Las Vegas - and the tower calls our dispatch - some times it gets a little confusing on where the flash is.
For the solo hikers that plan on hiking alot I would advise them buying a ground to air radio. This will cost 150 - 500 depending on the range and how many channels. All aircraft will monitor certan frequencies and when the aircraft is overhead you can talk to them directly. This is how the river trips call for help in the canyon.
There is a company that will rent satalite phones for $35 a day. Very shortly there will be a service of buying a satalite phone and when you use it you will then pay the cost - about $50 per call - but it's not out yet.
Scorpion sting - Centrodies - is the one that hurts, it is like a bee sting for 12 hours - after that you are weak and feel like you had the 24 hour flu - but with 1 to 2 days rest you can continue.
The bigger scorpion - is hairy and black - the smaller one - that hurts is light tan color and about 1" long. The hairy scorpion is non toxic and just stings for a short while.
For those that are or may be allergic they need to have a epi kit - it has 1 to 2 doses of eppinephrine to stop the swelling associated with the reaction. For most people they are not allergic, but for those that are to bee, and other insects, they should carry the kit.
Almost all the people bitten were on the river and had been drinking alcohol - one waited for over 20 hours before he decided he should be seen at the clinic. He also acted like he had a bad case of the flu and his finger was twice the size where he was bit. Most healthy adults will not die from either bite snake or scorpon.
Our first aid is to splint the limb to slow the movement of the limb and circulation so the poison enters the blood stream very slowly and the body handles the poison - yes you are sick but still alive.
If you are near where other hikers will find you I would wait and try and signal, if you hike then the poison will enter your blood stream faster and be a bigger shock to the system.
With resting - and not moving 4 to 6 hours before you get really sick - if you start walking - less than one hour.
Neither the author nor the National Park Services assumes any responsibility for the advice offered on this page.
Read the bottom line of your BACKCOUNTRY USE PERMIT, it says:
NOTE: HIKERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY. KNOW YOUR LIMITS!