Highlander Magazine Volume 3 Issue 1 Dec. 15, 2020

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1 Volume 3 // Issue 1


EDITOR Survival.

That word has such a terrifying connotation. It’s easy to associate it with sketchy summits, deadly injuries and feelings of fear and dread. I wanted to focus this issue on that concept of survival- what it means to trust ourselves as we recreate. But honestly, it can be so much more than that. We are surviving everyday. Life is tough but we are so much tougher. Whether you read these articles and decide to take an avalanche course or take a mental health trip. I encourage you to do what you need to survive these difficult times. I encourage you to do what it takes to take care of yourself. Survival in the end is seeing the situation you are in and creating the best outcome. So do it. Create your own best outcome. Keep fishing. keep shredding. keep climbing. Keep Surviving.













Hello! I am a sophomore studying Recreation Administration, English and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. I am passionate about protecting the earth, love making good memories with friends and I am a little obessed with mountain goats. I love white water rafting and when I am not on a river you can find me climbing and backpacking. I am involved with the SSO, and am a trip leader with the Outdoor Programs, so say hi if you see me on campus! If you have questions or concerns, you can contact me directly. Email: summer.vaughn@aggiemail.usu.edu Instagram: @summervaughn_







The Scottish thistle stands for strength, bravery, durability, and resilience, which is why we chose it for our logo.







Could you lead your friends o


Scenario: You are backpacking with a group of six people in the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho. It is early September and the weather is in the high sixties. It is the morning of your last day and you have six miles to hike back to the car on steep scree and rocky terrain. You are currently camped off the trail and not within cell service. The clouds are getting darker and the wind is picking up. Your bear hang failed in the middle of the night and most of your food was eaten by rodents. All the food you have left is a bag of bacon bits, 7 sugar packets, 13 Clif bars, and 2 instant coffee packets.


Your group did a crap job of storm-proofing and most of your supplies blew away in the night. However, your group has a jetboil with a partial fuel canister, a map and compass, water purification tablets, 2 trekking poles, 37.5 ft of thin rope, a small medical kit, one extra-large trash bag, a trowel, and a crazy creek camp chair. Every group member has a rainjacket, bivy sack, sleeping bag and pad, headlamp, backpack, and appropriate layers. One of your group members has been complaining about a hurt ankle from when they fell going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. They are having trouble walking. You assess your friend in the morning and reveal no other injuries other than minor abrasions. The friend is embarrassed but says they are unable to bear weight on their ankle. One of your other group members has been complaining of a headache for the past couple of days.

STOP reading and come up with a plan. There is not a single right way to handle this scenario, but there are ways to handle it wrong and make things worse. Some things to consider if you ever find yourself in a similar scenario: - Group management and decision making is key. - Communicate with your group, come up with a plan and run with it. - When there are injured people in your group you need to be attentive to their needs.You still need to be attentive to your own needs. Be hyper aware of hydration and navigation in these situations, you don’t want to make the situation any worse. With that being said, there are a couple of different ways your group might choose to handle this scenario. First, your group might choose to split up and send some “runners” back to cars to get help. With this choice, be aware that each group may not have adequate supplies.Another option your group might choose to make is to slowly hike out as a group. You have minimal supplies but enough to spend another night in the backcountry if you need to. In conclusion, it is important to remember to stay calm in emergency situations and critically think though your decisions.




out of the backcountry?


You are backpacking with a group of six people in the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho. The clouds are getting darker and the wind is picking up.”

GET CERTIFIED, SAVE LIVES USU offers many courses that builds backcountry skills SUMMER VAUGHN





WILDERNESS FIRST RESPONDER This 80-hour course provides students with the knowledge and skills to respond to medical and traumatic situations in backcountry areas. CPR & AED skills are taught in the curriculum. The course is broken into two sections the first 30 hours consist of self-directed online modules that can be started the month before the in-person and scenario-based instruction. The in-person week is 50 hours of hands-on training. The next available course is April 5 - May 9. USU Student Cost: $675 Non-Student: $735

WILDERNESS FIRST AID This 3-day course is a great introduction to wilderness medicine. It is perfect for recreationists who want more specified training than typical urban first-aid. The emphasis of the course is on recognizing and treating life-threatening traumatic and medical emergencies, common wilderness injuries, bandaging and splinting, and environmental injuries. CPR & AED is included in the curriculum. Upcoming dates: March 27 - 28, 2021, April 17 18, 2021 and May 22 - 23, 2021 USU Student Cost: $190 Non-Student: $235

This three-day course meets the needs of professional river guides, USFS, BLM employees, recreational river runners, or anyone finding themselves working on or near moving water. Participants will gain valuable skills with water hazards and emergencies. The course focuses on rescues with limited resources and has an emphasis on communication. Next available date: May 7th, May 8th & 9th, 2021 USU Student Cost: $235 Non-Student: $275

AVALANCHE Participants can expect to get a good grounding developing a backcountry trip and to understand basic decision making while in the field. You will also learn rescue techniques required to find and dig up a buried person in an avalanche. Participants must be comfortable riding black diamond resort terrain in variable snow conditions and be prepared for strenuous uphill backcountry travel. This course is not recommended for beginner skiers and snowboarders. Next courses will be offered in 2022 USU Student Cost: $250 Non-Student: $350





LUCKY TO BE ALIVE Accident strikes in Logan Canyon LIAM WEED



What started out as a casual day of rock climbing turned quickly. Walking into the China Cave area in Logan Canyon, my friend Fox and I grinned eagerly. The weather had warmed up to our liking and we were both excited to kick off the climbing season and to see how our winter training had paid off. Looking up at the steep walls and feeling a little intimidated, we decided to start our day on less serious terrain. We chose a route on a vertical wall near the river. After our harnesses were put on, the rope was laid out, and all the gear was ready, we decided who would take the lead through a game of rock paper scissors. I threw a rock. He threw paper. Fox’s lead. He tightened his shoes, gave me a fist bump, and then began up the black limestone. Just below the first bolt, around ten feet above the ground his progress slowed. I asked if he was okay but before he could answer, the large block that held his entire body weight sprang from the wall. The crash was fast and loud. In an instant, Fox was thrown to the ground and pinned by the block. He let out a mix between a gasp and a yelp. I froze for a second and then without thinking, I grabbed at the rock. Through his pushing and my pulling the block relented and allowed him to take a sharp breath. It tilted backward, coming at me now. We shoved it aside before it took another victim and finally the large sheet of rock lay defeated in the mud.

Fox still gasped for air. The blood on his face and chest wasn’t a good sign either. We stumbled to flatter ground for him to lay down on. Recovering from the first wave of shock, he laughed and asked for some water. After a quick inspection of his wounds and interrogation about his pain, I laughed too. He was okay. Despite the possible severity of the incident, he was relatively uninjured. Scratched and bruised no doubt, but not broken or in danger. We made it to the car and drove down the canyon to find ibuprofen and ice. A few days later we investigated the scene. The block that had come off the wall with Fox was larger than we had remembered. We estimated that it was four feet tall and three feet wide, weighing around three-hundred pounds, although the size seems to get bigger each time either of us tells the story. We also realized just how lucky we had gotten. If I was standing two feet to my left the block would have landed directly on top of me. If Fox’s leg were one foot to his right, then it would have surely been crushed. Despite the scary start to our climbing season, Fox and I were out enjoying the route less than a week after his fall. Climbing is safe the vast majority of the time, but it’s important to be ready for when it’s not. Making smart decisions like wearing helmets and knowing your safety checks help prevent accidents.



The large block that held his entire body weight sprang from the wall. The crash was fast and loud. In an instant, Fox was thrown to the ground and pinned by the block.”




LOST IN THE MYTH The fatal facts of romanticizing the wilderness BRYCE JOHNSTON STAFF

On Oct 30th, the Salt Lake Tribune published an eye-grabbing headline: “Police investigating Holly Courtier, the Zion hiker who was missing for 12 days.” The woman, Holly Courtier, went into the park after being dropped off by a private shuttle at the Grotto parking area on Oct 6th and was reported missing the same day. After 14 days she was found by park rangers, and the questions began. In Boy Scouts, a common rule of thumb for survival is the “Three” rule. This estimates you can survive three weeks without food, three minutes without oxygen, and three days without water. While Courtier was lost in the park, the only viable water source would have been the canyon-forming Virgin River. In an interview after her rescue, her sister mentioned that Holly was without her own water for those 14 days, and knew that the Virgin River was unsafe to drink. Along with this, she was able to walk away from the rescue without medical help. The official NPS missing notice for Holly features prominently a picture of her meditating, wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt. Sources say that her goal was to go on a spiritual journey, fasting in the wilderness and reading the Bible. Whether her getting lost was a misguided unintended consequence, or a scheme with her sister to raise donations, the important part of her story is that she survived. Despite the fact she had shut off her phone and packed minimally, she luckily walked out. Some people aren’t as lucky, one of the most famous being Chris McCandless.

McCandless has become famous not only to outdoor recreationists but to people from all walks of life. His story popularized, by the author Jon Krakauer in “Into The Wild”, paints the story of a wandering spirit. After hitchhiking to Alaska in search of ‘the wild’ to find fulfillment, McCandless took up refuge in an abandoned bus 25 miles from the nearest warm building. His packing consisted of ten paperbacks, a ten-pound bag of rice and a hunting rifle. After staying in the bus for 113 days, he was found dead by hunters two weeks after his death. When Krakauer’s book was published, controversy about his explanation for McCandless’ death ignited an argument between the Massachusetts author and organic chemistry researchers. The seeds believed to be the cause for McCandless’ unfortunate death were found to be nontoxic and after a few refutations of other theories, Krakauer became a self-studied organic chemist and co-authored a paper on the potential toxicity of potato seeds found in the bus. Since the publishing of “Into The Wild,” the story and it’s wayward central character became an idol for free spirits. Visitation to the dilapidated bus increased greatly from self-proclaimed “pilgrims” wanting to see the book’s epilogue. Sadly, some people found their adventure too close to the book; two deaths have occurred on the rushing river that is required crossing for the pilgrimage, with dozens of rescue operations due to injuries.



The wilderness, in hearts and minds, becomes a paradox. It simultaneously is an idolized pilgrimage and a distinct danger to travelers. The only way people return back home is by either letting the go of the desired to succeed, or extreme luck. Today the outdoor product industry is growing rapidly, and more companies want to capitalize on the idea of wilderness. You can buy jackets named after remote mountain peaks, shoes named after canyons, or any assortment of items from brands who seem to be having a war over which name has the most extreme conditions associated with it. People want to be “in” by being “out there.” National Park visitation has been rising, especially spiking with the COVID-19 pandemic. While millions of people will tread out in their Merrell boots and Patagonia fleeces, there are some that never return. While it seems that this romanticism of wilderness is some fool’s errand that leads only to death, there is a positive outcome to it. In McCandless’s final few weeks, he highlighted and made notes that still resonate to this day with people, such as “Happiness is only real when shared.” Many people find divine revelation in the natural world, even in places much closer to home than the bus. The danger is when people revel too far and can’t find their way back to Earth. McCandless sought to find true freedom, but instead could only leave his writing to tell us what he found: “Death looms as a serious threat. Too weak to walk out, have literally been trapped in the wild.”


While millions of people will tread out in their Merrell boots and Patagonia fleeces, there are some that never return.�


Thick canvas. Heavy wool blankets. The exposed metal of an external frame Jansport backpack. Gone are the styles and materials of traditional backpacking and its ideologies too. The door has opened for futuristic-sounding fabrics like X-Pac, Dyneema Composite Fabric, or Silnylon. Along with backpacks, shelters, and sleep systems that are often sub-two pounds, this now mainstream backpacking-style is dubbed Ultra-light.


To loosely define ultra-light backpacking it is, “a base weight below probably like 10 pounds,” claims alumni Bennett Fisher, “everything you’re carrying besides fuel, food, and water. It’s just a way to move faster and lighter in the backcountry.” Fisher has successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, totaling around 6,000 miles, which is an exhausting feat to even ponder. But, this style of backpacking is often seen as niche and expensive, which is valid. Sometimes though, it is just about creatively cutting out the things you think you need like more clothing, toiletries, that extra shirt, etc: substituting most gear for versatility and a layered clothing system. For example, “You don’t need to bring Chacos, $5 Walmart flip-flops will probably do the job for a third of the weight,” states Fischer. Naturally, moving through the woods in this style poses some safety questions and problems. “You can get into trouble following these Reddit accounts that have the perfect gear list,” Fisher said. Pages like these can often be misleading and lead to dangerous situations due to cutting food or getting rid of a shelter just to save weight. Fischer shared a prime example from a fellow through hiker, “who wanted to curl up under his tent because they didn’t bring rain flies and it was raining really bad, and it was super cold.” Another common way backpackers cut

pack weight is by ditching items like the pre-made first aid kits. However, not having a first aid kit, in general, seems extreme. “It was on the Uinta Highline trail,” USU sophomore Rockwell Cooper recalls. The trail itself stretches around 107 miles from east to west in Utah’s Uinta Mountains and is known for its jaw-dropping views, mountain passes, and an unusually large number of wildlife sightings. “We were going over this pass called Dead Horse Pass. We were all kind-of hiking together; there were only four of us so we were just kind of taking it easy. It was more of a chill day cause’ we had killed ourselves the first two. We started descending and I don’t know exactly what happened. He [Cooper’s friend] was right behind me, but he just stepped off a small ledge, like six inches, and just collapsed” A summer backpacking trip gone quickly awry with what would later be diagnosed as a broken ankle. Luckily Cooper, who has been doing similar outings since he was 15, had a dialed, yet light, first aid kit including what would be the saving grace - a Sam’s Splint and some Ace Bandages. After the incident, quick-thinking Cooper added “I wanted to figure out where the nearest trailhead was, and how we could get out as fast as possible. We ended up bailing out at the east fork Bear River Trailhead that was 8 miles away. It was crazy. I was just super worried he was going to lose his foot if he didn’t have circulation.” At the trailhead with cell reception, Cooper was eager to call an ambulance, but his friend without insurance was eager to find a ride to their car at the other trailhead. They would find someone able to drive them to their vehicle, and they made it to the hospital safely so the story goes.


Now, Fisher and Cooper are backpackers with different needs and mileage; however, their two stories intertwine in a quest for lighter backpacks and, come to find out, a commonality of broken-anklestories. At, “mile 1,011,” of the PCT Fisher stepped into a snowy tree-well. “This time my heel caught and didn’t let me slide and my ankle just went down… and with the whole weight of my backpack, we had just re-supplied for 5 days, just pshhh [falling noise]. I heard it pop.” Despite Fisher’s ankle, “swelling up to the size of an ostrich egg,” he hiked 20 miles the next day into town and then more after, thinking it was just a torn ligament from an old football injury. He would eventually have to get off the PCT. Both of these examples worked out for the better; that will not always be the case though. This begs the question where is the line between safety and aiming for an ultra-light setup while backpacking? The main thought to consider is trip length, style of hiking, how many people are in your group, weather, location, and most importantly, what works for you as a backpacker. You are not a gear list found on the internet. Fisher says, “You pack your fear in your pack,” which is why he brings Imodium for stomach relief. A good rule of thumb to consider, but not go overboard with, as one puts together their first aid kit or purchases a safety system. Cooper and Fisher both listed off some first aid, safety, and rescue items that would fit into that middle section of the Venn diagram that is ultra-light and traditional backpacking. Now, as to not scare anybody off, backpacking is great fun. However, it comes with responsibility in the backcountry that coincides with what you pack in as a participant in earth’s great wilderness.


“It’s so freeing. You don’t have to worry about anything. There’s no clocking into work. There’s no turning in assignments. Every day you know what you’re doing. You’re working towards this huge goal. When you achieve it, it feels amazing.” Fisher said. PHOTOS BY NASH CALVIN









The connection between mental health and travel KATE ROBINSON STAFF

People enjoy traveling and recreating for a multitude of reasons, and the pandemic shines a light on many of these benefits. National and state parks across the country are documenting significant increases in visitation numbers, and sales of tents, kayaks, RVs, and other outdoor rec paraphernalia are through the roof. Outdoor recreation is seeing a massive surge in popularity; people flock to the outdoors as a relatively safe place to socialize, exercise, and enjoy the mental health benefits of travel.

Travel can also improve interpersonal skills. By seeing new cultures and ways of life, we learn empathy. Travel introduces us to people that we would never otherwise interact with, and these people can show us different ways of looking at the world. We learn that there are multiple ways of navigating life, and we can incorporate these lessons into our daily lives. Learning to respect people who are different from us opens the door to easier communication with coworkers, friends, and family. Spending time outdoors provides countless benefits to our physical and mental health; the outdoors are our “happy place,” in the words of Katie Siesel. Even just spending 20-30 minutes outside each day can significantly reduce cortisol levels, which lowers stress according to challengethestorm.org. USU students Addi Cook, Stockton Jewkes, and Bryce Johnston reported feeling a sense of stress relief and comfort in the outdoors, describing nature as a place to “calm down,” “ground yourself,” and engage in “lucid reflection.”

The pandemic has shown many people how much they valued traveling and took it for granted in the past. Even short day trips with friends became difficult or impossible when phrases like “quarantine” and “social distancing” entered the popular vocabulary. Everyone has felt the effects of quarantine: unending, identical days around the house. People who live in cities have been especially badly off. They are packed so tightly together that they cannot even walk down the street without violating public health policies. Secluded outdoor recreation opportunities are often inaccessible. By contrast, people who live in small towns or rural areas have been much better off. They often live on larger pieces of land that allow them to garden or hike. They also tend to live closer to national forests and other public lands, where it is easy to find a secluded spot. Spending time in the outdoors has helped many people, like Sage Sutcliffe, weather the stifling monotony of the pandemic. Sage describes the outdoors as her “savior throughout COVID.” The outdoors keeps us all sane during these unprecedented times, remaining a constant and positive presence in our lives. Traveling can take many forms, from a plane ride and a family visit to a road trip with friends. Sometimes, people just want to get away from everything and wander around, and sometimes they have a specific bucket-list destination that they want to check off their list. Whatever the motivations or the destinations, travel is an amazing experience. It teaches us to go with the flow when things don’t go according to plan -- and they never do, to live in the moment, and to appreciate all the amazing things that this life has to offer.


Traveling breaks the routine of everyday life and acts as a “form of therapy,” as USU student Meridian Wappett says. It puts our worries and problems in perspective. We are focused on navigating the ins and outs of a new location, which takes our minds off of life’s mundane stressors. The place we visit may have different customs from our home, and it can help us see situations back home in a new light. Studies have shown that this kind of adaptation can improve the brain’s neuroplasticity and increase creativity, proving that travel creates positive physiological changes in the brain as well as having emotional benefits.

Outdoor activities often involve being active, from hiking to kayaking to rock climbing. It can be hard to get out on a hike or a climb or any physical pursuit when you are feeling down, but it always feels better once you get outdoors and start moving. Exercising releases endorphins, which create the pleasurable feeling of a “runner’s high,” though you do not have to run to receive these benefits according to Mayo Clinic. The outdoors are also one of the only safe venues for social gatherings in the midst of the pandemic. Therefore, people are flocking to the outdoors to spend time and de-stress with friends.


“Because in the end. You won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” - Jack Kerouac highlandermag.com