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TrishandAlex
08-16-2008, 07:23 PM
I post this to tell just how quickly and easily things can go wrong, even if you think you are very prepared. I consider myself a responsible hiker, but I made mistakes today. We are all fine, but things could have turned out very differently. I risk getting blasted here, but I want to share this so maybe someone can learn from my errors.

First, thank you to those who responded to the "easiest 4000 footer" thread. The info was very informative, and we chose Tom today because I felt it was the best fit for our family and the potential afternoon weather. My husband had to go away on business AGAIN this weekend, and since it's been 2 weeks since we've hiked, Alex and I were itching to go. Sage said she was game, as long as I carried her as much as I could.

We set off early. The forecast was for a chance of thunderstorms. As it has been for much of the summer. Early this morning I checked the weather forecast for the towns surrounding Crawford Notch. Thunderstorms were possible in the afternoon. Okay, so as long as we got to the summit before the afternoon and were on our way back down, fine, right?

I packed the usual abundance of gear/clothes, packed the kids' packs, and off we went.

There were quite a few groups of hikers at Crawford Notch, which gave me a false sense of confidence. One group of adults with a young boy were heading up to do all three summits (Tom, Field and Willey). A couple of women were headed up to do one or two peaks. There were 3 other groups of various folks. We had company setting out, so again I felt fine about this endeavor.

Sage hiked like a champ all the way up the Avalon trail. She got tired around the A-Z intersection, so we sat a bit and rested.

I began to carry Sage as much as I could up the A-Z. This was difficult -- I had packed a ton of clothes for Alex AND Sage. They have their own packs with their own change of clothes in them, but I also carry coats, extra clothes, etc. in my own pack. My pack weighed a ton, so I had to carry Sage for ten minutes, then ask her to walk for ten. We understandably went at a slow pace.

Halfway up the A-Z, I heard thunder in the distance. I could not get a good glimpse of the sky to see if the clouds were threatening, or if they were far away. In the past, thunder had rumbled while we were hiking, but I had always had a visual on the sky and could tell if it was far off, coming close, etc. Today, I could see a bit of the sky, but not enough to really tell much of anything. It was sunny where we were, so we continued up.

Mistake number one: I should have turned back here. Thunder -- even in the distance, as it was then -- coupled with not being able to see the sky put us at a disadvantage. I didn't have adequate visual information and should have turned back.

We made it to the Tom Spur path at 11:15am. At that point, the thunder sounded a bit closer. Two groups of hikers were coming down off Mt. Tom, one of them was the people we had met in the parking lot. I asked both groups of people what the clouds looked like. Both groups, independently, told me that there was a nasty looking thundercloud moving away from the mountain. That it has gone right by us and was moving away. BOTH groups told me this. The first group said they were continuing toward Mt. Field and that they figured the danger of thunderstorms was past, at least for a while. I looked up and saw grey sky, but with sunshiny bits coming through. I did not have a visual anything other than what was right above me. So we continued on.

About 5 minutes after we started on the Tom Spur, BOOM! Within 10 seconds of the first BOOM, lightening started hitting what felt like areas right around us. Hail began to pour down.

As fast as I could, I got the girls off the path and into the adjacent (short!) trees. I grabbed the raingear out of my pack and put it on them both. We assumed the lightening "safety" position (crouching down with just the soles of your boots touching the ground) and huddled close together but not touching. I told them calmly that we would wait a few minutes and then decide what to do.

After 5 minutes, the frequent lightening was starting to push my panic button, and I wanted to get the girls back down to the interstection with the A-Z trail. The trees were taller there, and it was just overall a better shelter area than the short trees we were now in. I told the girls my plan. I told them we had to move as fast as we could. I told Alex she could start ahead while I grabbed Sage and ran after her. I made the split-second decision to leave my pack (and come back for it after the girls were in a more sheltered location...we were not far from the A-Z intersection, perhaps at most .2 mile). Alex made a dash for it, I grabbed Sage and ran after Alex.

Alex ran ahead, and I lost sight of her. Sage and I got to the A-Z intersection -- and ALEX WAS NOWHERE. I yelled for her, and then grabbed the whistle from Sage's pack and started blowing with all my might. I just blew and blew and blew. I saw what had happened. In the pouring rain/hail, booming thunder, and in her fright and fast running, she had run right past the Mt.Tom sign and continued along one of the three paths in front of me. I just blew, hoping she would hear it and turn around.

Thank God, she did. She wasn't too far ahead of us, but she had turned right on the A-Z (heading in the opposite direction of the way we had come up). After what seemed like an eternity of blowing that whistle (but was maybe 30 seconds?), she came into sight and ran back to us. She had no idea, in that moment, that she had run past the intersection. She had just seen trail and kept running. Then she had heard the whistle and turned around.

Mistake number two: Never (!!) Let Your Kid Run Ahead. Even if you think you are right behind them. I thought we were on her heels. She turned a corner, then got faster ahead of us, and then she just wasn't there.

I had the kids hunker down in the "safety" position, told them I had to retrieve the pack (my emergency gear was in it), and ran full speed back up the Mt. Tom spur. Getting it and coming back down probably took all of 3 minutes, but I'm sure it felt like an eternity to Sage, who was scared and crying when I returned.

I think I made the right decision in dropping the pack to get Sage down as fast as possible, My husband thinks that was a wrong move. In the middle of the lightening, I didn't want to take the time to get the pack back on, and I knew I would not move quickly carrying the pack and Sage. I just wanted to get my kids down further, fast. They had extra (warm) clothes in their own packs, which was with them. Yes, I had to leave them alone, together, to get the pack. I was gone perhaps 3 minutes. Yes, that made me very uncomfortable. Yes, I knew they would stay put, as I had told them to. Yes, I understand why my husband thinks that was a wrong move. However, again, in the moment, I strongly felt that leaving the pack and just hauling butt back down to better shelter was the right move for the kids' safety. Perhaps there's no right answer here.

After I got the pack, I grabbed Sage's hand and the three of us moved as fast as we could down the mountain. It was difficult. Alex has legs of steel and is good on a rocky trail, even if it's wet. She truly hikes like a fit teenager, she's rather amazing. Sage, on the other hand, was scared and tired, and I could not carry her while moving quickly down wet rocks. I did carry her as much as I could, but about half the time she had to walk holding my hand, moving fast with few breaks so we could make it down as quickly as possible. I just kept apologizing to her and telling her how proud I was of her, and that I would never, never keep going if I heard thunder in the distance, ever again.

We made it to the Avalon intersection. This trail was much easier, and I swooped up Sage and carried her almost all the remaining 1.3 miles. The thunder was still there, as was the rain, but at least the hail had stopped and the lightening no longer sounded like it was just around the bend.

Within the last half a mile, the rain stopped and the sun came out. We passed two male hikers going up the mountain. Alex looked at them as though they were insane and said, "Be careful of the thunder and lightening!!" They looked at her curiously, and I told them we had been hailed on the vast majority of our way down. They looked surprised -- I guess things had been sunny and pleasant in Crawford Notch??

We went on our way, Sage now walking again, and were finally, soon at the Depot. Now there was sunshine, and I looked up, behind us, and the mountains were clearing. Across the street, the southern Presidentials looked like they were still getting it good.

I promised Alex that in the future, at the first sound of thunder we would turn back. I also promised her that I would never let her run in front of us again.

So, as careful as I think I usually am, I made two major mistakes today that could have had serious consequences. In the moment, the decisions seemed sound. In retrospect, it could have been a disaster.

Lesson Number One: If you can't see the sky to judge what's going on up there, at the first sound of thunder, turn back. Even if the forecast is for afternoon storms and it's still morning. Even if the thunder seems far away.

Lesson Number Two: Never let your kid run ahead of you. Way too easy to lose sight, and too easy for them to turn down the wrong path.

So I'm humbled with today's experience. I have a ton of gear, clothes (hypothermia was never a danger), etc. But still I feel I put us in danger with two it-seemed-like-a-fine-idea-at-the-time decisions. So I'm putting this out there so maybe someone else can read and learn from my mistakes.

FisherCat
08-16-2008, 07:56 PM
First, that's certainly good news that all of you are OK. I'm sure you are glad you had your whistle, but based on your comment son one of my trip reports it sounds like your practice anyway!
And remember, all of us have been humbled by either the weather, the mountains, or the decisions we make. At least you feel you have gained experience and knowledge from this, don't condemn yourself in what is a retrospective lesson. In the heat of the moment decisions have to be made and you did what you thought was best. It just shows no matter how experienced we are things can get out of control, and fast. As your kids grow older its a lesson they won't forget.
Most important you guys are alive and well. Thanks for having the guts in sharing that with everyone.

Brad
08-16-2008, 09:07 PM
A great report - glad you all are safe - and thanks for posting it for others!

JimS
08-16-2008, 09:17 PM
Glad to hear that everyone is okay. As mentioned above me, the kids will remember this, and I think it is very important to reflect with the kids, let them know what you think you would do differently, and everyone will learn from it.

Today's hailstorm was like one I've never seen. Nearly an hour of pouring hail. We'll put pictures on the homepage tomorrow. And it was unbelievable what people were doing, dressed like, and asking during the storm. Seeing the summit of Washington today would make you feel better about your two mistakes...

Bill O
08-16-2008, 10:09 PM
Glad to hear that everyone is okay. As mentioned above me, the kids will remember this, and I think it is very important to reflect with the kids, let them know what you think you would do differently, and everyone will learn from it.

Today's hailstorm was like one I've never seen. Nearly an hour of pouring hail. We'll put pictures on the homepage tomorrow. And it was unbelievable what people were doing, dressed like, and asking during the storm. Seeing the summit of Washington today would make you feel better about your two mistakes...

Jim...was that status quote on FB referencing the hail? I sort of glanced over it.

TrishandAlex
08-16-2008, 10:10 PM
Thank you for your kind responses.

Yes, the kids will remember this. We've already discussed it at great length since we've been home. Alex, bless her, took the time to tell me that she really loves to hike, but she never wants to hear thunder when we hike again, ever. I'm sure we'll continue to talk about it over the next few weeks and beyond.

mtruman
08-17-2008, 07:40 AM
Trish - I echo the sentiments of the others that have responded. Very glad that you all are OK. It is very hard to second guess your decisions after the fact - everyone has 20-20 hindsight. I also think that the conclusions that you reached for "what to do next time" are the right ones. It is easy to say that we just shouldn't get ourselves into that kind of situation in the first place and err on the side of caution, but I think we've all made decisions like this before. Most of the time the potential danger doesn't appear and we never know how close we might have been to the kind of situation you found yourself in - or worse. Hopefully all of the rest of us learn something as well when we hear these stories from others and not have to learn them ourselves. Thanks for sharing.

Steve M
08-17-2008, 08:08 AM
I too am glad to hear everything worked out for you guys. I know the feeling of easily pushing aside something that should take more importance. There have been times where I felt nervous out there in the weather but kept going yet all turned out better than I thought. This is not always going to be the case. I take hiking in the Whites very seriously and generally err towards extreme caution and yet at times I also dismiss a potential danger because I want to keep going.

simons mom
08-17-2008, 08:37 AM
First - thank goodness you and the kids are alright. It sounds like it was a horrible experience for all involved.

Second - thank you for posting this. While I was reading your post I realized I probably would have responded in the same way. Your lessons learned are going to be in the back of mind during all my hikes (with Simon or otherwise). Also, it reinforces to me the importance of everyone having a whistle.

Again, thank you for sharing, and I'm really happy everyone is OK.

Rich
08-17-2008, 02:32 PM
Glad you're all OK, Trish! We were stuck in a lightning storm in July while on the Red Bench trail. We were on our way out and just booked until we reached the edge of the woods, waited for it to slow then ran for the overhangs on the Highland Center. Again...glad you guys made it out safely! That's not fun...and I LOVE lightning storms!

Brad
08-17-2008, 07:15 PM
When I get back to NC tomorrow I am heading to REI and picking up several whistles. I will have them in my pack to hand out to others on our hike next time.

Charlie
08-17-2008, 07:25 PM
When I get back to NC tomorrow I am heading to REI and picking up several whistles. I will have them in my pack to hand out to others on our hike next time.

the best one to get is one without a pea that way if it gets wet or freezes it still works
we use a fox-40 whistles in our search team ,it has a very shrill sound and can be heard far far away
here is a link
http://www.fox40world.com/index.cfm?DSP=ProductList&startrow=1&pagepath=Products&id=4130

Bill O
08-17-2008, 07:31 PM
A whistle is on top of my safety gear list.

Charlie
08-17-2008, 08:04 PM
we teach a class to kids on what to do if they get lost or needs help
it is a hug-a-tree program

# Hug a tree once you know you are lost. One of the greatest fears a person of any age can have is of being alone. Hugging a tree or other stationary object and even talking to it calms the child down, and prevents panic. By staying in one place, the child is found far more quickly, and can't be injured in a fall.

# Always carry a trash bag and whistle on a picnic, hike, or camping trip. By making a hole in the side of the bag for the face, and putting it on over the head, it will keep the child dry and warm. The whistle is louder than the childs voice and takes less energy to use.

* Without this hole, there can be danger of suffocation.

# My parents won't be angry at me. Time and again children have avoided searchers because they were ashamed of getting lost, and afraid of punishment.
Anyone can get lost, adult or child. If they know a happy reunion, filled with love is waiting, they will be less frightened, less prone to panic, and work hard to be found.

# Make Yourself Big. From helicopters, people are hard to see when they are standing up, when they are in a group of trees, or wearing dark and drab clothing. Find your tree to hug near a small clearing if possible.
Wear bright colored clothes when you go near the woods or desert. Lie down when the helicopter flies over. If it is cool and you are rested, make crosses or SOS using broken shrubbery, rocks, or by dragging your foot in the dirt.

# There are no animals out there that want to hurt you. If you hear a noise at night, yell at it or blow your whistle. If it is an animal it will run away to protect itself. If it is a searcher, you will be found. Fears of the dark and of lions and tigers and bears are a big factor in panicking children into running. They need strong reassurance to stay put and be safe.

# You have hundreds of friends looking for you. We have children in the local area of a search tell us, "My parents would never spend the money to search for me with all these people". Search personnel are mainly volunteers who work with other professionals who charge nothing and do it because they care. Many children who are lost don't realize that if they sit down and stay put, one of the many searchers will find them. Some are afraid of strangers and people in uniform, and don't respond to yells. Many have actually hidden from searchers they knew were looking for them.

# Footprinting your child is a five minute excercise that cuts down the time of a search by several hours. Have the child walk across a piece of aluminum foil on a soft surface, such as carpeting or a folded towel. Mark the foil with the child's name. With this print, trackers can separate your child's track from the hundreds of others in the area, and quickly determine the direction of travel.

TrishandAlex
08-17-2008, 09:04 PM
Again everyone, thank you for your kindness and concern.

Charlie, what a great class to teach! What great instruction -- hug a tree. I'm passing that on to my kids as soon as they wake up tomorrow. And thanks for the link. I'm going to get a few more whistles, the kind you suggested. Alex and Sage always carry two each, which is good because the one Sage wears around her neck fell off at some point yesterday..I used the one I had stashed in the mesh of her pack. Yes, whistles are a wonderful thing. They're also cheap and lightweight. Gotta have one, or several.

PS: silly minor detail: I spelled "lightning" wrong in my original post and now I can't edit it. Sorry for the error.

Charlie
08-18-2008, 07:21 PM
when we do the class it is funny how the kids say they have there cell phone and thats all they need :eek:
we tell them not to call for help because they will loose there voice in a short time .
we tell them you can use a hard stick and bang it on a hollow log 3 times ,the sound will carry good .they can also use 2 rocks and bang them together [ then i say my little joke ,do you know how you can make 2 rocks a little louder you put your finger in between the rocks then you will be yelling at the same time :D ]
we also say not to spell out help with wood or other things it will take to much stuff ,all you need is a big X then when the air unite is looking for you they will see an X .there are not many other people putting big X's out there every day .

Charlie
08-18-2008, 09:14 PM
when i was on Mt Mansfield Stowe Vermont there was a family with 2 girls about 6 or 7 and a boy about 4 or 5 and he was having some foot pain but the girls wanted to go to the top . we were where the tower is and they talked there parents to go to the top
[ and that is a 1hr hike away ]

http://images108.fotki.com/v606/photos/1/1072837/6576926/MTMansfieldstowe005-vi.jpg (http://public.fotki.com/hvachawk/my-hikes/mt-mansfield-stowe-/mtmansfieldstowe005.html)
Hosted on Fotki (http://www.fotki.com)

well as they were walking to go to the top i had to say something
i said they need to watch the weather the rain was close and they were in shirts and no rain gear .
i said in my SAR training we saw a film with a family of 4 wanting to do the same thing then a storm came in when they were almost at the top . then the narrator in the film said they found there bodies the next day all huddled together dead but the dog was alive

so im glad they went back to the car
if they were to keep going it was raining 15min after they got to the car
i was happy for saying something :)

TrishandAlex
08-19-2008, 07:41 AM
i said in my SAR training we saw a film with a family of 4 wanting to do the same thing then a storm came in when they were almost at the top . then the narrator in the film said they found there bodies the next day all huddled together dead but the dog was alive

so im glad they went back to the car
if they were to keep going it was raining 15min after they got to the car
i was happy for saying something :)

I'm happy you said something too. I admit I would have liked to have seen their faces while you were telling them the SAR story.

storygirll
08-19-2008, 12:09 PM
Charlie,
Excellent lesson in the hug-a-tree program. I have saved your post and will use it in the library during our outdoor safety program. You never know what will stick in a child's mind. Your words were very strong.

>^..^<

Charlie
08-19-2008, 07:00 PM
Charlie,
Excellent lesson in the hug-a-tree program. I have saved your post and will use it in the library during our outdoor safety program. You never know what will stick in a child's mind. Your words were very strong.

>^..^<

here is a video we show at our demos we know the people in the film

https://www.anpr.org/order-lost.htm

Breeze
08-19-2008, 08:27 PM
Trish, I'm glad your adventure ended safely for y'all.

One thing to take note of: that storm Saturday Morning literally BLEW UP in place. It wasn't tracked on any weather radar, it didn't move in from somewhere else, it HAPPENED right overhead. BAM! Birth of a storm.

I was working at Mt Washington that day, and we started EARLY for the bike race. MW summit was in the clear at 6 AM, and stayed in the clear for some time. The Top Notch ( elite group) start was 8:40 AM and the first finisher's time was 54 minutes 57 seconds, and he finished in clear weather/sunshine with no precip. So make that just about 9:30....... still in the clear looking like nice day.

By 9:45 summit race- support staff was reporting pelting rain, 5 minutes later that was pelting rain mixed with hail, and by 10:05 AM Road Crew was reporting full-on pea sized hail, no rain, with rapid ground coverage above 5000'. At the base we were just beginning to see the big raindrops that foretell "dumpage".

Auto Road Base was monitoring 3 weather radar views and in contact with MWOBS, and the only testimony to local bad weather was < in person witness accounts>. Nothing showed, anywhere, unless you were standing in it.

I made a comment to a co-worker about the sudden, severe hail at the summit, something to the effect of " OHHH s*it, that kind of upper level convection this early in the morning, it is gonna get noisy, REAL fast". Next thing we knew, lightning was striking close by, and we wound up getting roundly pasted by something that just birthed itself over our heads. Your heads just were included by proximity.


What is my point?

Saturday morning's storm exactly profiled the capriciousness of mountain weather. That IS the kind of weather that is dangerous, you can't see it coming or track its route. It happens. On TOP of you~!


I hope you and the kids don't dwell on the scary stuff. I think you handled the situation admirably, and so did they. Alex may have been stressed with Sage while you bolted up-trail and back for the pack, but trust comes from those kinds of situations. Alex gets a huge BIG SISTER star from me for standing tall and being there for Sage while you went back up.

I know your family dynamics are being sifted and remixed in light of the hike. It is a good thing to exemplify learn and change by challenge, but only you can decide if Sage is <ready to learn> or < ready for challenge>.


Breeze

TrishandAlex
08-19-2008, 08:56 PM
Hi Breeze,

Thanks for the post. I feel somewhat better knowing the storm birthed itself right nearby, and that it wasn't tracked or predicted. Somehow that comforts me.

The most traumatic thing for Sage was indeed being left while I bolted for that pack. In retrospect, I would have done the same thing all over again (leaving the pack, getting them down, then racing back for the pack). But Sage was affected by it and has had nightmares. She's been sleeping with me since then. During the day she's fine, but at night she is troubled. I'm sure I will have many more conversations with her about those very long minutes as she grows and is better able to converse with me.

The good thing is, they both want to keep hiking. The experience did nothing to put either of them off of the trail. They just do NOT want to be outside (even in our own backyard) if they can hear thunder, ever again.

Regarding Alex, she's a tough kid and an amazing hiker for her age. Both my girls rock. Of course, I'm not biased at all.

FisherCat
08-19-2008, 11:23 PM
The good thing is, they both want to keep hiking. The experience did nothing to put either of them off of the trail. They just do NOT want to be outside (even in our own backyard) if they can hear thunder, ever again.

That's really great. When I was a little guy something very similar occurred during a hike my dad took us up on Mt Jefferson. I still remember the air sizzling and how at the mercy of the elements one felt. But it never, ever dissuaded any of us from hiking again. Its one heck of a momento, that's for sure.

Stets
08-28-2008, 07:45 PM
A little late with the reply, but we are just getting started with this. My son Hunter and I were out on the Avalon Trail heading for Avalon and Field when we passed you at one of the stream crossings. You were having fun getting your gang across. Hunter and I were on a day hike the day before I dropped him off at Camp Dodge to join the Mount Washington Teen Spike Trail Crew for the week.

As you know this was a strange day of weather to say the least. We were just below the summit of Mt. Avalon when the first round of thunder was heard. For a little background, Hunter and I have a few hundred miles of White Mountain Hiking experience under our belts, but this day was different. The thunder did not sound that close. Hunter motioned to me he thought it was over Mount Webster but we couldn't get a read on it. The second round came in and we just looked at each other and began to decend. We could have just as easily continued toward Mount Field. I give my son a lot of credit for understanding that it was a good idea to head down even if a storm never hit.

But as you know this one did. We arrived at The Highland Center just as the hail began to hit. The first thing we thought of was all the hikers above that may be in the storm. We were very lucky, as the day could have easily gone the other way. That amount of lightning got my attention.

We are so glad that you and your kids are O.K. You did great!

This was not a normal storm, especially since it hit before lunch time.

You could be the most experienced hiker in the world and still get caught in that one.

Thanks for sharing that very important moment with us. We are all still learning.

TrishandAlex
08-29-2008, 06:30 PM
Stets,

You are a very sweet man to chime in with this. I feel a lot less guilty/bad mother-ish.

I appreciate your take on this, and it was lovely meeting you at the stream crossing.

Magpie
08-30-2008, 08:07 AM
I'm late too. Glad to hear all are OK. I grew up skiing and hiking MT Tom and the area is thunder storm prone for sure.
I wouldn't feel bad everyone has to make decisions. Chalk it up as experience.
Its part of the adventure.

M_Six
08-30-2008, 01:49 PM
Wow, you're giving me flashbacks of a foot patrol along the Czech border that went horribly awry in a similar manner. It was an evening/night patrol and just as it started, the weather became our biggest threat. Torrential rain, lightning, pitch blackness, etc. I was leading a bunch of adult soldiers and it was tough going. I can imagine how tough it was with two scared kids. You done good getting them down safely. And I'm glad they see it as a lesson for the future and not the end of hiking altogether.

MsCntry
08-30-2008, 02:43 PM
Yes, we are glad that everyone is ok. Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect. Just glad you are able to learn from your mistakes.
Lots of hugs for you and the kids hun!!