Outdoors in the Ozark

God’s creation is often on full display as we enter spring and summer. The Ozarks is filled with places to explore – including many hills, hollers, lakes, rivers, caves, and creeks.

Growing up a country girl climbing trees in Christian County, I’ve long considered nature to be my extended home. Our family spent many summers camping and canoeing. My grandparents (pictured) encouraged a life of adventure as they sent postcards from wherever they might be in their camper.

Now, years later, as another summer season begins, I am eager to “get out” and kayak, camp, and explore new sights. Of course, it’s always good to be prepared when heading into the wilderness. To help ready myself for any expected and unexpected trips, I sat down with my favorite seasoned explorer, my 90-year old grandpa, David Caldwell. I can’t resist sharing his words of wisdom with you as you look to adventure this summer. 

Grandpa’s Wilderness Survival Guide

1. Know the Map & Carry a Compass

Before you head out, study the map and look for waypoints (landmarks or points of interest). Be sure to download trail maps on your phone for when the cell phone signal doesn’t work. If you run out of phone power, knowing the waypoints will be a huge help. Having a compass will help guide you the right way. The sun will also help you find your direction; it can also help you tell time. For example, from the horizon, one finger is about 15 minutes, a whole hand is an hour.

2. Have a Good Medical Kit

A top-notch medical kit should include: a few full-sized triangle bandages, burn ointment, aspirin or Tylenol, and suture supplies (a sterilized needle and thread). Some explorers might also need an inhaler or special medications. An emergency medical kit should be customized to your personal needs. 

3. Watch Out for Snakes & Prepare for Bears

If you are hiking the Ozarks with a friend, don’t follow them too close when hiking out at night or dusk; a Copperhead snake will let one person go by, then strike the second one.

If you’re in an area with bears, have a small pack of firecrackers to toss into the firepit or throw to scare off the bear. Don’t keep food in the tent, hang it up or you might get some unwelcome bears, skunks, or raccoons.

4. Have an “Away from Camp” Pack

Grandpa David’s go-to “Away from Camp” pack always included a fly-fishing rod that could fold down, a film canister with a few hooks and lures inside, a couple candy bars or protein bars, a poncho, and a book of matches.
For help starting a fire, in a pinch, he shared that you can always find dry fire-starter at the trunk of a Spruce tree.

5. If You End Up Lost, Stay Calm

Try to find a high spot to figure out where you are. Typically, following a stream should lead you out to people, or to a better path. If you can’t see, stop, get on the ground and listen for sounds that carry (like cars driving on a road).

Another tip from LaDonna Greiner, who survived a night lost in the Taum Sauk Mountains, is to find shelter and keep moving in place – especially if it is cold or wet. This summer, consider reading her new book,“I’m Here for a Purpose,” where you can find additional tips and suggestions for your next adventure.

Want more outdoor tips and a list of summer outings? Head to: schweitzer.church/outdoor.

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