Confessions of Stupidity: Little Death Hollow

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by DiscGo, Jun 14, 2016.

  1. DiscGo

    DiscGo Member

    I have spent most of my life in the outdoors, and I'm very comfortable in how to survive in an emergency situation. This weekend I was given a reminder of how un-nurturing "Mother Nature" can be, and given a good dosage of humility.

    So let me save you the trouble of calling me names, because I admit that I behaved stupidly and am lucky to be alive.

    Here is my confessional / trip report:

    My wife and kids were out of town and my usual Outdoors friends were all busy (or recently split up), so I decided to go hike Zebra Canyon by myself (I know going into the outdoors by yourself isn't recommended but I figured Zebra Canyon is fairly popular and I sent my weekend plans to my wife with instructions to send someone to look for me if she hasn't heard from me by Monday morning.

    Being by myself I was able to hike Zebra Canyon in less time than I expected. It was my first time hiking Zebra Canyon and I thought it was beautiful!

    I finished by 8pm on Saturday, so I drove over to Little Death Hollow which was an alternate activity on my route if I finished up Zebra in time. I slept at the trail head of Little Death Hollow and started hiking around 7:30am in the morning.

    Here is a quick list of all the things I did wrong on my hike:

    • Did a hike I had never done before by myself
    • Went to a remote area where nobody was around to help or report trouble
    • Did not thoroughly research the hike: I thought Little Death Hollow & Wolverine Canyon was a 7 mile loop and obviously connected)
    • Had the wrong GPS coordinates format and continued with the hike with the assumption "I'd figure it out"
    • Did not review my location and tracks sufficently
    • Due to believing it was only a 7 mile hike, I did not ration my water
    • More than anything I was over confident and under prepared.

    When I showed up, I wasn't sure where the trail was, so I used my drone to scout around to ensure I was going the right direction. I left with about a gallon and a half of water, a sandwich, and a bag of "Trolli Sour Watermelon Sharks" with the expectation that I would return within about 3 hours.

    I hiked in and it was a beautiful hike. It took a couple of miles before the hike became great, but it did become awesome! Having confessed how irresponsible I was go there unprepared and alone, I will also confess that I loved being the only person in the world doing that hike that day. In my enjoyment, I didn't realize that every step I took that day was a step against myself. After about 3 hours of hiking, I was getting nervous but I hoped that my GPS (Garmin 64st) was just not getting a signal because of the canyon (and I was having so much fun that I just wasn't checking my location like I should have) so I continued but after 6 hours, I was over 8 miles away from my van as the crow flies and I realized that something had to be really wrong.

    So I reviewed my map further and realized that I was in the wrong canyon. I was following the wash instead of the trail and hiked through a lot of Horse Canyon. After 10 minutes I decided that I needed to go back and follow my GPS tracks to get back to the van but at this point I only had 1 liter of water remaining and when I returned to hiking my body was more noticeably sore.

    So I hiked back the way I came. I knew there was a small stagnant pond within 3 miles of the trailhead, so as I hiked back I was careful to save at least 300ml of water until I reached the stagnant pond. As I became further dehydrated I literally saw a mirage that I thought was water and my body became very achy.

    When I reached the small pond I drank the rest of my water and filled up my life straw container with the water from the pond (which had cow feces floating in it), I recalled there being a deeper pond not far ahead (which I hoped to be cleaner) so I continued on. I didn't find the deeper pond, and I remember having read that you could filter urine through a LiifeStraw, it may have made it sanitary to drink it did NOTHING to help the flavor.

    So I plugged my nose and drank and then used the "Sour Watermelon Sharks" to mask the flavor.

    Having flown the drone over the area previously, I knew that I was now within a mile and a half of the van, but my body was exhausted. I had considered resting and continuing later but I was concerned that if I stopped, I would not be able to continue later. So I pushed on until I got back to my van and hot water (which all of my water was by this point) had never tasted better.

    Reviewing my GPS tracks I discovered when I got home that hiked 37 miles. I limped for a couple of days and still have not felt like I can consume enough water since then, but I walked away healthy and with a renewed respect for nature.

    The first 2/3rds of my footage from that hike was happy and fun and the last 3rd was more of a "Man vs Wild" type video. I selectively edited the video to reflect the good times and trimmed out my panic and concern.


    P.S. I just got my drone, so I didn't know at the time how to adjust the camera angle and that is why the propellers are so visible in the video.

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  2. Outdoor_Fool

    Outdoor_Fool Member

    Fairbanks, AK
    Nice confession and a great reminder for us all. Glad you made it back.
    DiscGo likes this.
  3. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside.

    Salt Lake City
    Thanks for sharing this story. I like when people share things like this because they help others (like me) be more prepared. I'm glad it was still a beautiful hike!
    DiscGo likes this.
  4. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Wild! I'm still not 100% sure what route you ended up doing. I'd love to see those GPS tracks. Good on you for sharing the story though. I've had some experiences where I felt I should just sweep it under the rug, but stuff like this is so valuable to other people. Keeps reality in check. Thank you.

    Oh, and the standard LWH - Wolverine loop (~17 miles) is awesome!
  5. piper01

    piper01 Member

    Houston, TX
    Yowsers, 37 miles? Was that just on Sunday or did that include your mileage from Zebra? Either way, you had a rough day.

    I'm not sure that I'd include doing a new hike alone or in a remote area in a list of things you did wrong. Yes, it's riskier than going alone- through the level of risk depends greatly on who you go with- but it seems like most of the problems stemmed from your last bullet point: under-preparation and over-confidence. But then again, I may be trying to justify my decisions to go hiking alone, since that's usually the only way I get to travel. Plus there's a peace in hiking alone that you can't achieve with company.

    The other thing you did wrong was taking sour sharks. Peanut M&Ms or Oreos are much better choices. ;)
  6. Paulo

    Paulo Member

    Eagle Mountain, Utah
    I love this report. I too have gone into the unexpected and foolishness (completely at my own fault). I'm going to soon upload a trip report of Boundary Canyon (stunning) and the adventure we had. Might or might not have included an airlift of a party member. We, too, learned a lot.
    Nick likes this.
  7. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More

    Provo, UT
    Yikes! I know what it's like to feel dehydrated while hiking and thinking about that while down in a desert canyon with scarce water sources, all by yourself in a remote area, with nothing to contact help, all just makes me shudder a bit. Glad you lived to tell the tale!