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Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water
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David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water on 09/22/2007 04:55:37 MDT Print View

So I've read a couple of stories about Mary Wingfield... a day hiker who got lost last weekend near Diablo, Washington. The thing I didn't understand was... she left a note when she got lost saying she had no water. The note was found beside a stream?! Yesterday she was found and recused, tired, hungry and dehydrated... near the base of a waterfall! I couldn't figure out how she could possibly have been dehydrated, but the article goes on to say that she chose not to drink the water because she left on a day hike and didn't take a filter with her. She was missing for almost a week!!! Almost a week without drinking water... hiking down a stream.

So the question is... do you think she did the right thing? I can't imagine not drinking the water. If it was as remote an area as they say, I would say the risk of dying from dehydration after a week is a heck of a lot higher than the risk of dying from something in the water. Heck... I know friends who routinely go backpacking and don't even both to treat their water... on purpose (depending on the area).

Anyway... the lesson learned is... (altho' I'm sure it's not a lesson for most of is here)... even on a day hike... you should always carry a small ditty bag with a few essentials... fire starter... aqua mira... first aid... etc. Those are things I always have on me... even if I'm just doing an afternoon hike on a well marked trail. It's not like it weighs anything. I don't blame her for not carrying one of those ridiculous, huge pump filters tho'. Who takes that on a day hike?! But I always carry aqua mira.

Oh... and if you're gonna go off trail... know what you're doing and bring a map and compass. It sounds like where she was hiking was well travelled... so I assume she got lost by going off trail. She had no map.

Anyway... all's well that ends well. I was just kind of surprised about the water thing. I would have been drinking that water on day one I think... LOL :P

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water on 09/22/2007 05:23:54 MDT Print View

She was unprepared to be solo in the outdoors...lucky she lived...sheer ignorance on the water thing.

Thomas Knighton
(Tomcat1066) - F

Locale: Southwest GA
Re: Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water on 09/22/2007 05:37:14 MDT Print View

I'd have been drinking the untreated water too. While I understand the concerns she had, there comes a point where you have to weigh your options, and drinking would have won every time, especially for that long. If a human can't go longer that 72 hours without water, then at 48 I'd be doing some long, hard thinking...if I waited that long!


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water on 09/22/2007 05:52:39 MDT Print View

Seems like the result of the FS, backpacking mags, and filter ads trying to scare people away from drinking backcountry water to protect themselves from liability and to sell filters.
She could could have easily died for nothing.

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Untreated Water on 09/22/2007 06:52:47 MDT Print View

I agree that she was unprepared. I would definitely have drunk the water. I look at it this way:

If you don't drink the water, you WILL get dehydrated. If you do drink the water, you MIGHT get sick. Seems like pretty simple logic to me. I think she's really luck she made it a week!

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
She did drink the water on 09/22/2007 09:11:28 MDT Print View

Here is an interview with her. It looks like she was actually drinking river water and eating berries. She also had matches and had a fire going for part of the time until the matches ran out.

Maybe she resisted drinking water at first thinking she might be found in a day or two but then as the days went by she figured out the risk of dehydration was higher than the risk of catching a bug?

Edited by DanG on 09/22/2007 09:19:45 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: She did drink the water on 09/22/2007 10:32:52 MDT Print View

Very glad to read she's okay. I'd been following this story in the Seattle Times all week. Each article noted she was considered very experienced. I'm thinking, maybe not so much.

What she is, is very lucky.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: She did drink the water on 09/22/2007 11:08:38 MDT Print View

"Experienced" doesn't necessarily mean "knowledgeable."

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Re: She did drink the water on 09/22/2007 11:31:39 MDT Print View

Ah, I probably would have held out as long as I could too then. I guess you never know if you're going to be lost for a day or 2 weeks.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Missing hiker wouldn't drink untreated water on 09/22/2007 12:33:57 MDT Print View

She HAD to have drunk water at some point, or she would have died. At best, sitting in a cool place, with basically no activity, a human will only live about 3 days without water. She didn't make it 6 without drinking some water.

But I buy the idea that she unnecessarily went a while without drinking due to all of the fear engendered by companies pushing water purification products. They're everywhere. But a survival situation is just that - and survival says the poor decisions made by dehydration (not to mention eventual death) are a much biger risk than the small chance of a waterborne illness in 7-10 days.

Of course if she were really thinking, she would have carried some sort of waterpurification even for the dayhike. I suspect most of us here do so.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: She did drink the water on 09/22/2007 12:52:01 MDT Print View

As we all know, gear makers would have you believe that every single drop of backcountry water is "contaminated" and it's up to us to "make" water that's fit for human consumption using special equipment.

Here's a case where that BS marketing line almost killed someone.

EDIT: Shawn you beat me to it

Edited by bjamesd on 09/22/2007 12:53:05 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
NO COMMON SENSE on 09/22/2007 13:27:45 MDT Print View

This hiker seemed to be bereft of any common sense. Maybe, just maybe, she'll carry some Aquira Mira or chlorine dioxide tabs as a PERMENANT part of her "10 Essentials".

Then, again, maybe she'll drop hiking and take up something that requires no common sense, like politics.


Edited by Danepacker on 09/22/2007 13:28:44 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Don't dreenk thee water on 09/22/2007 17:38:47 MDT Print View

I wouldn't blame her reluctance to drink the water entirely on BIG BUSINESS, although they definitely get their 2 cents' worth in. I know a lot of backcountry people up here in the PNW, both experienced and knowledgable, who are very careful about drinking untreated water. I suspect it's a result of aforementioned BIG BUSINESS hype and a few actual cases of the runs striking fear in the community at large over the years, to the point where it verges on conventional wisdom that you treat your water. I myself tend to error on the side of caution, having contracted both amoebic and bacillary dysentery in the past, but I can tell you for sure that I would have been doing some hard drinkin' long before I got down to hard thinkin', had I somehow found myself in her situation. She definitely lucked out this time. Let's hope that she is on a path where experience, knowledge and judgment converge, both for her own sake and that of the guys and gals who have to go out and bring her back-dead or alive.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: NO COMMON SENSE on 09/22/2007 17:40:26 MDT Print View

I think she did have some common sense and therefore would not be fit for politics.

On the plus side she left notes, DID drink the water, and ate some berries. She had matches. She did follow the stream down which is generally a good policy if you're going to move.

On the minus side she did not stay put or she would have been found earlier at the location of her 1st note. She ran out of matches? She did not build a nice smoky fire to attract attention.

It is unclear if she made a good cup of tea: (See the following URL "Survival is all about a good cup of tea.")


R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
A good cup of tea on 09/22/2007 19:17:16 MDT Print View

Interesting article

Thanks for sharing

Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst on 09/22/2007 19:46:58 MDT Print View

As the old saying goes, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

I follow that motto like it's my job. Of course, "prepare for the worst" does not mean "bring the kitchen sink". But we all know what needs to be done to have a safe journey into the wilderness. Whether it's for 2 hours or 2 months, you should be prepared for the worst case scenario.

Greg Vaillancourt
(GSV45) - F

Locale: Utah
I know people on both sides of the treat/don't treat spectrum on 09/22/2007 20:31:25 MDT Print View

Those that don't treat suggest that a tested immune system is a stronger immune system.

Those that do treat may have gotten sick once in the past and they talk about Giardia like it was a demonic possession.

I'm a treater. Even on a day hike I have the means to treat at least 4 liters of water. I used to drink from high altitude streams untreated, I DO still drink from springs sans treatment.

My dog got a super case of Giardia last year. Required some serious treatment and his immune system is nothing if not tested.

Re: a survival situation...drink! Dehydration is a right now problem whereas possible bugs getting to you is a few days away.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Before you all pile on her on 09/22/2007 20:41:07 MDT Print View

Take a look at the trail she was. Some might say "it was only a 3 mile trail!". As most of us Washingtonians well know, last November's major storm blew out many trails here. That trail was shredded that she was on.
If you saw the King 5 interview they got of her at the TH she had a decent sized daypack with pack cover on. She wasn't unprepared, just under prepared.
From the interview and other articles it appears she got turned around on the "trail" (what was left of it that is!) and ended up going the wrong direction, deeper into a ravaged area.

Btw, during the day she dried her clothes off on rocks in the sun. That takes thinking!

Pointing fingers won't help. She is very lucky they found her, and she won't forget it.

Instead of yamming on about her, think instead about how scared she must have been when the trail suddenly couldn't be found-and knowing that no one knew where she was! She did the best she could! Until you have been in her shoes, and gone through what she did, you shouldn't judge her. That is called armchair quarterbacking, you louts!

I have hiked solo in the North Cascades often, and I can picture the terrain she was lost in quite easily.

Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
you're right on 09/22/2007 21:06:00 MDT Print View

You're right, it's much easier to sit here and talk about it. But these discussions are important because they function as an educational tool for everyone who is fortunate enough to have not been lost. One day when I'm scrambling around in the New Zealand bush trying to find my way back, I'll think back to this thread and say, "Crap, I should drink the water instead of drying up."

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: you're right on 09/22/2007 21:46:14 MDT Print View

True, it never hurts to talk about it..but here is a discussion a friend of mine had with me this summer. She is a newbie hiker, and got frustrated seeing so many dayhikers with nothing more than a water bottle on a trail that entered the wilderness. She said she wished she could talk to them, teach them. My reply to her was that was their comfort level. They had never suffered, so why need more? After all, it was "just" a dayhike.
Thing is, she carries a daypack like me: with everything but a sleeping bag and tent (and in winter one in the group always has a tarp). But.....and this is a BIG but...nothing in that pack will save you if you don't use the #1 survival item:
Your brain.
This is what I told my friend will do you more good than anything else.

Her drying her clothes out saved her from hypothermia most likely - since it was raining at night. That took thinking. She left notes. Another idea that took thought.

Last winter a lady became separated and lost from her group while snowshoeing in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness here. Like this lady she beat the odds and was found alive. But what she did was against what you are taught: she kept moving. And that kept her alive. It kept her warm. She never quit moving! She got lucky and found a pair of massively oversized rain pants that were bright-which the helicopter found her waving.
She to lost her way due to a trail that didn't make sense (a tricky trail junction).

In the end, while I might carry a ton of gear on dayhikes, it doesn't mean I would make the right decisions or survive. None of us can say that!