There are a lot of dangerous situations that we can put ourselves into just to get a great image. We see something we want to shoot but we don’t always think about the environment or the surroundings that we are in. We get so excited to see a grand vista or a water drop on a small leaf that we quickly forget that we are fragile Human Beings and become absent-minded, Ignoring our intuition and the hazards we may encounter when in the backcountry. I always put safety first when I am out hiking alone but I am not immune to being a dumbass when it comes to not paying attention to where I am or where my footing is. The following happened to me in October of 2010 and I wanted to use it to illustrate the importance of being carefull and knowing your surroundings when out hiking alone.
This particular story takes place at the tail end of the foliage season here in Vermont. The leaves had mostly fallen from the trees to the forest floor in Smugglers Notch but for the most part the still retained their gorgeous color. I wanted to try to get a few last images of this quickly fading season and headed up Route 108 for a hike along one of my favorite streams. ( This stream is fed by an old beaver pond which sits at the base of Mount Mansfield and runs down into the Brewster River and Jeffersonville, Vermont.) There was a point as I was driving up to the area where this voice in my head said “ You had better be carefull, It’s getting cold at night and the rocks along the stream may have ice on them.” You would think that being 36 years old and having more to lose than when I was 20, That I would have listened to that voice but there is always that side in each one of us that is just plain stubborn sometimes.
Forging ahead along the stream, I would have to say that the trek was difficult. At this time of year with the temps going down at night, The water in these streams forms almost invisible, super slick layers on the rocks. Being the adventurous type when I am out shooting, I made a valiant effort to continue on. I do have from time to time what I call “artist’s block” and this day was no exception, Being unable to make any decent compositions. Nothing was coming to me and scored like a baseball game the day would have read something like this… Nature-1, Photographer-0. Conceding the fight and turning to head back the way I had come, This was the point in the day where rational thought went away. Bad things usually will happen in an instant when you are just not paying attention. I was moving quickly from rock to rock and jumping to the tree line at times to avoid impassable areas. I was using my tripod as a walking stick to help navigate the slippery rocks and it was at this moment that I placed my foot on an icy rock and slipped falling into an almost waist deep pool of icy cold water.
fortunately all of my camera gear was safely stored in my backpack but I can’t say the same for my tripod. As I fell into the water I slammed my tripod down on a rock to brace the fall and in doing so I completely snapped off one of the legs and cracked the ball head. I am thankful on one hand that I did that because it saved me from a nice head crack on the rocks but it also rendered my old friend the tripod, useless.
I learned an expensive lesson here as I have since bought a new tripod but one well learned none the less. When you are hiking or working alone it is important to listen to that inner voice telling you to hold back or to be carefull. Nothing, Not even an image is worth getting hurt over. Pace yourself, slow down and keep analysing the terrain constantly so you see and avoid the difficult parts before you get to them or get yourself into trouble.