Tag: hiking

River Crossing For An Apocalypse

River Crossing For An Apocalypse

Most people would think knowing how to cross a river or wide stream in the woods is not of much usefulness in life unless you’re an avid backpacker. Before skipping this post, consider the following:

river crossing


The Scenario

You’re on a walk on a nature, woods, or forest trail with another individual for companionship. Let’s say one of you is a guy and the other a woman (it allows me to write” he and she” rather than “she and she” or “he and he” which could be confusing.) You don’t know this walking companion very well (the “she” because I’m a guy and it’s easier for me to remember that way but the reader can reverse roles if you choose). You only recently met her in town at a store and accidentally come across her on the trail. You decide to tag along because you read traveling in twos is a good idea, although she may not be very enamored with the same concept. Approaching a river, you astutely notice the trail turns to the right, along the bank. She stops at the river’s edge and announces, “I’m going to cross here.” Looking at the river, maybe three car-lengths across, you see the rapid flowing water carrying branches and sticks. It looks deep at the center and is strewn with boulders and rocks under the surface. Studying your trail map, you explain to her that the trail crosses the river a half-mile downstream on a nice, safe footbridge. She tells you that a zombie apocalypse just broke out behind us and she wants to hurry across the river there. (Zombie Apocalypse can be replaced with many other possible urgent emergencies if the reader wishes). Against reason, you decide to follow her. (As it turns out I didn’t need to use the word “he”). The reader can certainly appreciate that the need to cross a river may be more likely than initially thought.

river crossing
The Better Choice


How To Cross A River

Listed below are tips from hiking organizations on how to safely cross a river. Just so you are completely informed, some experts term this “fording a river.” I’ve added comments relative to the application of those tips for the common scenario outlined above.

river crossing

  • Choose Your Crossing—Scout for the shallowest water that doesn’t go above knee level, look downstream for hazards, look at both banks, look for downstream hazards like waterfalls or rapids, see if there are floating hazards like branches and logs—For our scenario this step can be skipped. She wants to cross there regardless of hazards. Your choice is either to follow her or violate the travel in twos guideline. Choose follow her.
  • Get Gear Ready—Protect essential gear by putting important items in waterproof bags and place them in your backpack. Loosen your pack so you can get out of it if you fall.—No problem here. No waterproof bags available.
  • Bare Legs—Long pants increase drag in the water. Roll them up, wear nylon shorts, or cross in your underwear.—We happen to be wearing shorts so that’s good. She might get wrong impression if I asked her to remove her clothes.
  • Footwear–Keep your shoes on or wear sport sandals, water shoes or camp shoes.—I don’t usually carry sport sandals for river crossings unless I had a previous warning about a forthcoming apocalypse.
  • Bear Rope—Attach your bear rope to your pack.—Really? What is a bear rope?
  • Floatation Device—Wear a floatation device if deeper than knee level.—Really? I don’t usually carry those things around with me.—Really?
  • Face Upstream—Makes it easier to confront moving water and keep your balance.—Cool, I can do that.
  • Two Points of Contact—Shuffle both feet along the river bottom and use a trekking pole or hiking staff, or make one from a branch.—Good idea but don’t have time to find a stick since she’s already stepping into the river.
  • Prepare to Fall—If you fall get out of your pack as soon as possible but do not risk drowning to save it.—I am prepared to fall…check.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Turn Back—Crossings can deepen in the center of the river. If you can’t find a shallower path, turn back.—Are you kidding? And face a horde of flesh eating zombies.

river crossing

This is a public service post.

If you do plan a backpacking excursion, or just want to cross a river for fun, these are a few sites offering good information on river crossings:





I am a fiction writer, but research topics and provide posts like the one above for enlightenment and entertainment. If you liked it, please take a look at some of my other posts and my home page, R. A. Andrade. This topic was prompted by the following passage in my novel, The Field Trip:

“We cross here,” said Jay.
Watching branches of various sizes race by in the rainswollen
water, he said, “I think it’s too dangerous. And we
don’t know how deep it is.”
“I think it is no higher than my waist. It will save a
minimum of two hours.”
Oswald sounded a short trill, as if signaling agreement.
Ross looked again. The river was only about three car
lengths across, but he could see no visible evidence of
depth. “Trust me Jay, it’s a bad idea.”
“I will cross here,” she declared. “I no longer need your
Looking at her face and hair, both highlighted by the
reds of the setting sun, his shoulders slumped. “Lead the
way, fair maiden.”

Which Way Do I Go?

Which Way Do I Go?

Did you ever ask yourself, “Which way do I go?” What is the best way to find your way around? If trying to drive around town near your home or to an unfamiliar destination, a navigation app on a smartphone is very cool. If you didn’t have one and someone dropped you in the middle of a forest, maybe not so cool. Moss on the north side of a tree doesn’t work very well.

Our ancestors found their way around by known landmarks, nothing like Golden Arches on a corner, but by natural features just as familiar to them. Traveling to new territory required navigation by the sun, moon, and stars. The Chinese invented one of the first navigation aids about 200-265 AD. They mounted a movable pointer in the form of a doll or figure with outstretch arms to their two wheel chariots to point to south. The pointer would be manually moved to point south before a journey and through a set of gears, would approximately retain the same direction as the vehicle traveled and made turns in the process. The system was essentially a directional dead reckoning, certainly prone to errors that grew greater the more distance traveled.

which way do I go


The compass, also invented by the Chinese sometime between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, was initially used fortune telling. It wasn’t until sometime between the 9th and 11th century that they applied the compass to navigation. Recorded appearance of the compass in Europe was around 1190 and 1232 in the Muslim world. The compass became the standard navigation tool for civilization whether traveling across land or sea.

which way do I go

The invention of the radio allowed the evolution of another navigation technology, a radio direction finder (RFD). The first experiments for this technology were actually carried out in 1888, but it eventually became a key factor for position location since World War I.

Then a guy named Ivan Getting with a degree in astrophysics who worked at Raytheon developed the first three-dimensional, position-finding system at the request of the U. S. Air Force and Navy. That became the basis of the future GPS. In 1983, GPS ended it existence as a military system and was declassified by President Ronald Reagan as a result of a civilian Korean Airline flight getting lost in Soviet air space. That plane was shot down by Soviet fighters. Full operation was achieved in 1995 with the completion of a system of 24 satellites. Since then, GPS capability has continued to improve with more satellites placed in orbit.

which way do I go

So now back to the opening of this post…if someone dropped you in the woods, should you have a smart phone or a hand held GPS? Or if you’re planning a trip by car, is your phone good enough or is a nav system better? Smartphones with apps for maps and navigation have evolved to the point where the convenience of using a phone for navigation outweighs the few minor advantages of a dedicated vehicle navigation system. Apart from a few small areas, the smartphone is a least as good, if not better. But what about the forest thing? If you are going to walk in a park or take a short hike, the convenience and capabilities for GPS using a smartphone is probably more than adequate. But if you plan serious hiking in remote areas, the benefits of a handheld, dedicated GPS device should be considered for the following major reasons:

  • Durability—Handheld GPS devices are waterproof and shockproof. A smartphone screen will crack if dropped and many of you have probably had some experience with smartphones and water. Sometimes putting them in rice overnight helps.
  • Battery Life—Many handheld GPS devices will go 15-20 hours and you can pop in another pair of AA batteries for revival after that point. Smartphone may give you 3-4 hours used for navigation if you’re lucky. Then you need to find an electrical outlet on some tree to charge it .
  • Accuracy—Good handhelds will have accuracy to 2 meters whereas a smartphone may be 15 to 20 meters off in heavy forest.


This topic prompted by the following passage from the novel, The Field Trip:

With the morning behind him, he now faced the broiling effects of the blazing sun and rising temperatures. The air was heavy with humidity. Oppressive. Unwilling to continue to endure the sauna-like conditions imposed by the poncho, he stopped for a lunch break.

Snacking  on a dried apricot, he pulled the GPS from his pocket and laid it on the ground to determine his current location. Following  the apricot, he brought out dessert and began gnawing at a chunk of freeze-dried ice cream as he turned on the device.

A shadowy silhouette momentarily darkened the screen. Then vanished….

The Arizona Trail

The Arizona Trail

This post is a result of a comment on The Long Trail post that I thought might be of interest…so it is not in keeping with the general theme of my posts. Anyone reading the posts on this site may be thinking, “What the hell…I don’t see any theme.” Well there is and the first person who identifies the theme will win a free copy of The Field Trip or another book by Selladore Press, Darkness by Erin Eveland.

The Arizona Trail began with the imagination of Dale Shewalter who envisioned a cross-Arizona trail. While working as a Flagstaff schoolteacher in 1985, he began to explore the possibilities of such a trail. Evaluating  which existing trails could be interconnected by new trails to traverse Arizona’s diverse landscapes, the journey to today’s Arizona Trail began in earnest.

The Arizona Trail became one of the premier long distance trails in the country. The 800 mile trail was completed at the end of 2011. It is designed as a primitive trail that highlights the wide variety of mountain ranges and ecosystems of Arizona.

I found a nice description of the emotional feel of the trail from an individual who posted this on the “Earn Your Bacon” website in 2016:

“The Arizona Trail is a feast of nature. Meager deserts stretch out for miles and all of a sudden change to pine forests. Grasslands rise and disappear behind the next mountain. Rarely lakes reach to the trail and give you a deceptive security, due to the constant lack of water. Canyons open up in front of you and close behind you. In the same time of the year, at its lowest point, the heat will make your sweat run, while you might get snow on the mountaintops or at the North Rim.”

More information can be found with the Arizona Trail Organization.