What you need to know about staying safe at our nation's parks

Courtesy Rebalyn/myBudgetTravel
Death Valley National Park

A 64-year old man had to crawl for days out of Canyonlands National Park in the Utah desert after he broke his leg. Amos Richards nearly died. He was lucky that intrepid rangers were able to find and rescue him. He had taken five liters of water and two power bars with him, and no rain jacket or other protective gear.

Richards' story comes during an overall bad year for park safety. At more popular Yellowstone National Park alone, 17 people have died so far this year. The most recent and sensational case happened earlier this summer, when a hiker in Yellowstone was killed by a mother grizzly bear—one of two such deadly attacks this summer.

Yesterday, an investigation revealed that the victim, Brian Matayoshi, 58, of Torrance, California, had not been carrying bear spray and had run, instead of standing still, when the bear approached—a definite no-no. Never run if a bear approaches, says the National Park Service.

The most common injuries and fatalities in the wilderness are sprained ankles and knees, according to national studies published in the American Medical Journal. If you're in a remote location, this can put you at risk of not being rescued.

As for deaths, the most common cause is falling. Abusing alcohol is also a "probable causative" factor in 40 percent of traumatic deaths.

Drowning counts for one in five fatalities, so careful swimming is also important.

If you're hiking alone, write down the general area of where you plan to explore and when you expect to be back and share it with someone responsible before you set out.

Is solo hiking too dangerous? Or does the media blow these stories out of proportion? Sound off on the comments!


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