Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all ready for a weekend full of great weather and hopefully a little less smoke! I have no doubt you have all been noticing all the smoke in town lately from the fires all around the state. It is a huge bummer to not be able to see all the beautiful views around town and can also have a pretty big negative effect on your health. Make sure you’re checking out the various weather apps and websites to keep an eye on the Air Quality Index (AQI) and avoiding too much activity when it’s unsafe. For today’s functional Friday post I will be writing about places to go and things to do in the area that can help you get away from the smoke and have some fun!
First of all I would recommend visiting https://data.greatfallstribune.com/fires/ or http://svc.mt.gov/deq/todaysair/. Both of these sources will give you the most up to date information on air quality, smoke density and the status of the fires in the country. Based on today’s data the best places in the state to visit around us is the Yellowstone and Red Lodge areas. The good news is there is SO much to do around there.
If you are looking to just go for a drive and maybe take a few short walks I highly recommend driving through the North entrance of Yellowstone, through the Lamar Valley, on to Cooke City, over the Beartooth Highway, and into Red Lodge. This is a long day of driving but it offers spectacular views the whole time and some great opportunities to get out of the car. In my opinion the Lamar Valley is the most beautiful part of Yellowstone and it also happens to be the least trafficked (shhhh let’s keep it this way). Check out this link for some pretty moderate day hikes in the Northeast Yellowstone area (https://www.nps.gov/tripideas/day-hikes-in-the-tower-area.htm). If you want to challenge yourself a little more try the Slough Creek Trail, more details can be found here (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/wyoming/slough-creek). An important note, the Lamar Valley is home to the preponderance of wildlife in Yellowstone, including grizzly bears. If you are going to do any of these hikes follow basic bear safety. Primarily, carry bear spray, hike in groups of 3 or more, and stay away from wildlife. Check out this link for a variety of great hikes in the Beartooths Mountains between Cooke City and Red Lodge. If any of you want to get a group together and go on one of these hikes let me know, I am always down!
Hopefully this post was helpful in giving you guys some good ideas to get outside and play amidst all of the smoke we are currently dealing with. Keep on the lookout for the good areas to go and when in doubt, climb high and you’ll be out of it. I hope you all have a great weekend!
This week, I would like to compare two essays that I recently came across…
I am currently in Maine dealing with recovery from a broken leg and I am unable to do much activity at the moment. So I have been spending a lot of my time at the beach. Yesterday was forecasted to be a sunny day, however, it wasn’t. At first glance marine fog seemed to be the culprit (which is normal for this area). When I first stepped outside, however, it was like Bozeman in August (which is not normal.) It was smoke from western wildfires, something I have not seen here before.
This smoke pouring in from home in Montana offered me a bizarre feeling of connection 2,500 miles away. This got me thinking about our connection as a society to our home planet. We don't think about: where our food comes from, how our actions affect other people (and species) and how frivolous usage of finite resources can cause chaos. It is so easy to forget the fragility of our home…
In life, we seem to go through without much thought to details. In the essay “The Etiquette of Freedom,” Gary Snyder attempts to use subtle language to teach a new understanding of wildness as it applies to human nature. To fully understand the message, attention must be given to Snyder’s word pairings and definitions which should make us consider details in order to rebuild our idea of wilderness, not as a place- but as a spiritual mindset and a way of life. Such comprehension takes thought to the subtle and deliberate choice of words that Snyder uses within the text.
It does not take Snyder long to start using this intentional language. His title “The Etiquette of Freedom,” seems like a contradicting statement. People often like to think of freedom as a wild and unrestrained entity. However, etiquette may remind us of rules such as “no elbows on the dinner table”- it is almost a rulebook on life. We have to think, what does he mean? Before we understand freedom via wildness, there must first be an understanding of wild and wilderness the way Snyder intends it to be. Snyder says, “Although nature is a term that is not of itself threatening, the idea of "wild" in civilized societies… is often associated with unruliness and disorder” (Snyder, 5). He then calls nature “whole” as it possesses all that is true and right in the world. This is a very substandard way of thinking due to the roots of our view on nature.
Throughout the creation of the New World, really up until the romantic period in the 18th century, the wilderness was seen as a dark place where demons lived. Even further, nature was seen as ugly. For example, mountains were seen as blemishes on Earth. This kind of thinking is still very much intertwined within our world today.
People are frightened by the freedom and lack of restraints within the wilderness and being wild. We have taught ourselves that everything must have restraints, even freedom. Without the constant judging of society, we have separation anxiety from what we consider to be the correct way to act within human skin. Diverging from these ways is extremely important for a complete human experience. How can someone embody a wild person if they are stuck in their head about how to be acting? Stripping away what has been taught in every lesson since birth is so hard, and probably terrifying for many.
Nature and wilderness is seen as something humans can not fully comprehend nor experience. Perhaps, in this day and age this is true. Nevertheless, as Snyder points out, humans are a product of nature (Snyder, 12). For instance, the land Manhattan sits upon was once a swamp, and around it were tribes such as the Mohonk Indians. These Indians lived in the wilderness very similar to the ways other species do today. Snyder asks, why can we not be reinstated as wild beings? The separation from our true beginnings in which we have drifted so far away from, must be identified.
Snyder is not the only one to indicate the detrimental weight society can have on people today. David Thoreau, who many know as a master of naturalist writing, wrote an essay titled Walking that touches upon many of the same topics. Thoreau also talks about wilderness and being wild within a new light. He seems to imply that wilderness and wildness is not a place but a mindset- a liberation from the process of life that we know all too well. Thoreau hints that through walking we will have the ability to connect with our innate wildness. Thoreau so eloquently summed up this lack of connection within Walking.
“I who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen fourth for a walk at the eleventh hour of four o’clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when the shades of the night were already beginning to be mingled with the day-light-have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for, I confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance- to say nothing of the moral insensibility of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, aye and years almost together” (Thoreau, 187-188).
There is not a single person who has worked an entire day indoors and has not felt the rust that Thoreau felt. This robotic act of filing paperwork is exactly the opposite of how humans were meant to interact with the world- thus we must combat it.
Thoreau and Snyder both have a different sense of wildness, one that can not necessarily be explained unless there are external changes. There is a mental and a physical change within both of these two author’s key to finding wilderness. They both recommend an alter in mindset from intrinsic societal norms, encompassing our wild side and of course they stress the importance of walking in nature. Both require a societal amnesia, wiping clear the worn and rusty slate, reconstructing it with the building blocks of our ancestral and wild past. Only then will we regain the ability to understand other species, and likewise- ourselves. Snyder sums this all up nicely…
“Practically speaking, a life that is vowed to simplicity, appropriate boldness, good humor, gratitude, unstinting work and play, and lots of walking brings us close to the actually existing world and its wholeness” (Snyder, 23).
We must be polite to ourselves in order to make great differences within this world.
Snyder attempts to teach us by changing the definitions of common words, only those brave enough to delve deeper into his word choice and meanings will have the ability to grasp these large concepts. Proper etiquette of freedom means that we know: how we stand as animals, how we interact with nature and how we can complete these daring protocols- ultimately changing our way of life. The lost protocol of the wild, according to Snyder and Thoreau can be found- you just have to go for a walk with a wild mind and look for them.
Today, as more and more environmental degradation surrounds us, these concepts are vital to our health and wellbeing. A community, or species disconnected from its home will let it burn. Next week, I will be writing my thoughts around factory meat production. However, while on the subject of human—nature connection- I urge you to start thinking about the food you eat. For example: where it came from, who put work into it to create it and where, the amount of water and sunshine it took to be produced? Ask to be a part of or watch a chicken harvest at a farm, or go hunting at some point. I guarantee that connection to the food you eat will only grow. We all know people who struggle with this disconnect of nature. This week, take them for a walk and get them considering reconnection. If you haven’t, read the works of Gary Snyder- he is a genius.
The two essays discussed:
Snyder, G., & Harrison, J. (2010). The etiquette of freedom: Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and the practice of the wild. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint.
Happy Wednesday everyone! Today I will be continuing with the theme of Wilderness Medicine Wednesday. My goal is to make these posts informational and relevant to things you may commonly encounter on normal outings in nature. I know that a lot of us in the gym love to go hiking and take advantage of all the amazing trail systems around Bozeman. With hiking comes rough trails with lots of roots and rocks. You can probably guess where this is going, today we are going to be talking about ankle injuries!
There are a lot of misconceptions floating around out there about how to properly deal with ankle injuries in a WILDERNESS environment (do not apply the following information to treat your friend at a soccer game in Bozeman) and I want to address some of those. So, let’s go through this process in a somewhat chronological order from the time of injury.
As most of you already know the most likely time for an ankle injury to occur is on the way back to the car. We know we’re getting close, all we can think about is what kind of beer and burger we are going to order at MAP, and BOOM, that one loose rock takes us down. Depending on how far you are from the car when your mind starts to wander this can be a pretty serious emergency. So for the sake of the scenario let’s say you were at the top of Hyalite Peak when the injury happens to one of your friends, you are pretty far from help and at the risk of exposure if you stay up there too long. When dealing with this injury we want to rule out the worse case scenario and work our way down the spectrum.
The first thing you should do is look for obvious deformities in the ankle, is it at a crazy angle or is a bone sticking out? Anything this drastic would indicate a fracture and mean that unfortunately you are carrying your friend down from the top of Hyalite Peak. In another post I’ll write about how to make a litter or carry patients in other ways. Someone with a broken ankle is not going to be putting any weight on the joint.
Barring obvious deformities we still haven’t ruled out broken bones. I’m going to pause here because we now have a decision to make if your friend is wearing shoes that cover their ankle, like hiking boots. It is extremely helpful to remove their shoe to further inspect the injury BUT you run the risk of their ankle swelling and being unable to put the shoe back on. In a WILDERNESS environment this could be even more of an emergency than the actual injury, especially in the cold. My advice here would be to leave their shoe/boot on unless you have easy access to ice or very cold water like a stream or alpine lake. If you can immediately get their ankle on ice or in cold water to prevent swelling go ahead and remove their shoe. Anyways, the next step is to rule out fractures. There are two tell-tale signs of fractures, one is one definitive, and the other is “pretty” definitive. Point tenderness is the easiest and only exclusive way to diagnose (and I use that world lightly, we’re obviously not doctors) a fracture. There will be a specific spot that hurts them incredibly badly and the rest of the area won’t be so painful. The other way to tell is what we call crepitus, which is a crunchy, clicky feeling they will have if they try to put their ankle through a full range of motion. If your friend exhibits point tenderness and/or crepitus we can probably assume it’s a fracture which still leads us to evacuating them more under our power than theirs.
If we have ruled out a fracture we should now be thinking a sprain/strain. For the purposes of this post and its usefulness I’m not going to go too deep into the difference here. What we need to know is that both of these injuries will show themselves in a few ways: decreased range of motion in the joint, a lot of swelling happening quickly, bruising, and a more dull and diffused pain around the area. The last symptom I mentioned is the big difference between a sprain and a fracture.
The good news with a sprain/strain is that in a wilderness setting this is an injury that we can work through. The best course of action is to have them rest, elevate the ankle for a hour or so, get it on ice or in cold water if you need, and then make your way home. As long as the sprain is not too severe they should be able to walk themselves out of the woods, there will be a lot of pain and complaining but whether they think so or not, they can. Some ways to help them is lending them your shoulder, making some rudimentary crutches from a stick, or creating a splint. A SAM splint is a great tool to buy for your hiking first aid kit. It’s incredibly useful in making splints and other random stuff as well. You can take a look at them here:
Also, see the video below for some tips on how to make an ankle splint. When it comes to splints remember the acronym RAFT (rigid, adjustable, flexible, tight).
As always, I hope that none of you have to use anything that I’m writing about in this post. But, if the next time you’re hiking you or your friend start to imagine that post-hike meal at MAP a little too early and take a tumble, I hope this comes in handy. Cheers everyone and keep having fun outside!
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