Putting First Aid First

Since our thru-hike in 2017, we’ve refined many pieces of our standard gear setup, but we’d been neglecting our First Aid kit, which we were keeping in a cheap stuff sack and not regularly replenishing. An upcoming multi-day backpacking trip was a convincing reason to change our approach to safety and First Aid.

The caption below describes what we’ve assembled.

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I put together a new First Aid kit! We’d been carrying supplies in a small stuff sack, which was convenient enough, but clumsy in practice, and too easy to miss which supplies needed replenishment. After forgetting much-needed ibuprofen on a recent overnight, I realized I needed to revamp our approach to First Aid. The pouch is just a makeup travel case. I wanted something see-through, to quickly find what I need and to see at a glance what I’m missing. It’s also (reasonably) waterproof. In the kit: -alcohol swabs -four large waterproof bandaids, four blister-sized -three waterproof blister covers (the cushy alternative to Leukotape- much beloved by hikers but I’m not a fan) -tube of hydrocortisone cream -tube of triple antibiotic ointment -Pepto Bismol tablets -ibuprofen -antihistamine pills -aspirin -antacid tablets -tweezers Medication goes in labeled pill pouches, which means you can buy in bulk and replenish as needed. You could save weight on smaller foil packets of antibiotic ointment, but it creates more waste, and it’s something that gets frequent use, so I think it’s worth carrying more. This whole kit weighs only 5.8oz, by the way! With this kit, I can treat blisters, cuts, and abrasions. Bandanas and trek or tent poles can be used as slings and splints. I carry a reflective emergency blanket when I don’t have overnight gear. Beyond that, we always carry a GPS beacon device to call for a rescue in a real emergency. What do you guys carry with you for emergencies? What would you add or remove from this kit?

A post shared by Betty And Tim Cameron (@bettytimhikes) on

I actually made two of these kits! Tim and I usually hike together, and so we’d been sharing a First Aid kit, but this also encouraged our negligence in keeping it properly stocked- neither of us took responsibility over it the way we would our individual gear. It also meant one of us would be without First Aid resources if we ever split up in the backcountry for any reason: getting water, hiking at different paces– it was not a huge risk, but certainly not a necessary one.

Now we each have a small, durable kit we can take with us anywhere, ready for the next adventure!



Thru-Hiking as Science Fiction

IMG_3128What makes us human? That’s the central question of all science fiction. To answer it, remove a human from all familiar context: isolate them in the far reaches of the galaxy. Force them to interact with aliens. Pair them with an artificial intelligence so convincing that it seems indistinguishable from a real person. Away from the familiar, we can begin to see what is innately “human”, rather than what is an expected response to common stimuli.

In undertaking a thru-hike, I imagined I was doing something similar to myself. If I hurl myself into the unknown, away from my work, my home, and away from everyone I knew except my husband, what would remain? A science fiction story is a kind of experiment: a theory, a combination of known and unknown factors, setting things in motion to see what happens. I wanted to test myself in the same way. What makes me Betty?

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150 Homes, Part 11: Passage to Washington

Mile 2144 to 2407

The fires continued to dog us as we crossed the Bridge of the Gods from Oregon into southern Washington. Trail was closing behind and ahead of us, forcing us to skip a total of two hundred miles.

However, our greatest antagonist was not the fire, or the bears, but the mice. They worsened dramatically as we ventured north, growing far bolder. The little buggers ate through almost all of our tents in this section, leaving us paranoid about any hint of rustling in the night.

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150 Homes, Part 10: Oregon!

Miles 1715 to 2144

Our flip-flop of California concluded, we drove a rental car from Lone Pine up to Ashland to continue our trek North. Oregon is in a sad state this year: much of the trail was on fire when we got there, and more would close behind us. We ended up skipping over 100 miles of this beautiful state, and the majority of our time was spend wading through thick smoke.

Our camp sites were usually deep in the woods. Oregon is known as the “green tunnel” of the PCT; conifers and lakes make up most of the scenery. Some excellent town stops (Bend, Portland) ensured that the repetitive forests didn’t become annoying.

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150 Homes, Part 9

Miles 1407 to 1095

We haven’t updated for a while due to the need to hike longer miles and take fewer zeroes in order to keep to schedule. Northern California saw many of the driest and wettest areas of trail so far, with Hat Creek Rim a particularly dry section. We ran into snow again around Lake Aloha, but we were seasoned pros at this point, and nothing could compare to the terror of the Ashland-to-Etna snow walls.

Since we had flipped north, this section was a period of building tension before we reached the Sierras. Would the creeks still be impassable? It was important to focus on the lower-key beauty around us and not dwell on trail we hadn’t reached yet.

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150 Homes, Part 8

Miles 1598 to 1407

Halfway to the Sierras! Again! We are still journeying south through California, and we’re now passing through the bubble of northbound flip-floppers. It’s surreal seeing people whom we left behind weeks ago, with the knowledge that we’ll never see them again. They will reach the northern terminus way ahead of us, and some will then travel back south to finish the Sierras last.

The scenery has finally started reverting to desert, though we have been treated to many dank forests and even the occasional bear. Shasta was a constant companion in this section; we’ll see her again when we flip back up to Oregon.

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150 Homes, Part 7

Miles 1715 to 1598

We faced a hard decision when we reached Lone Pine. The Sierra route was approaching peak melt in a year of unprecedented snow levels, which made for perilous and exhausting creek crossings. After much deliberation, we decided to flip to Ashland and tackle California from the north. This would hopefully give the Sierra time to melt before we got there.

Our new chapter started a few miles north of the California / Oregon border. Our camp sites here have been mainly under trees, but the thick vegetation and steep slopes have reduced the number of viable spots. Water is never an issue thanks to the dozens of unmarked snowmelt streams that we cross every day. We don’t need to carry more than two liters each.

Progress has been slow due to the thick snow that still blankets north-facing hills above 6000 feet, but the day temps have been in the 90’s so the remaining snow is doomed. We should hit our 20-mile-per-day stride soon.

Flipping has been surreal and disjointing, but also exhilarating: the trail is almost deserted out here, and it feels like true wilderness.

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150 Homes, Part 6

Mile 652 to 744

This is it. The start of the Sierras. And also the end of them, because we are skipping north to Ashland. The record snowmelt this year has made the Sierra creeks dangerous to the point of recklessness, so we are tackling the rest of California from north to south: this will give the worst rivers time to subside. Once we’ve arrived back in Lone Pine, we will flip north and continue our northbound hike from Ashland.

The camp spots in this section began in arid desert, climbed up to forest at 10,000 feet, then descended back down to desert in Lone Pine. Things will be very different next week as we flip a thousand miles north. We have no idea what to expect. All we know is that we’re committed.

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