Going Into The Wilderness Alone?

Since I started photography I’ve always wanted to photograph Jefferson Park Wilderness in the Central Oregon Cascades. Jefferson Park is one of the most stunning places to see in Oregon. Ever since I saw the images from other photographers, I knew that I would have to visit this place someday. Every summer for roughly 2 weeks a year this area fills up with wildflowers. A few years ago I had signed up for a photo tour in Jefferson Park but due to weather the venue was moved to the Three Sisters Wilderness. So my dream would have to be put on hold for the time being. As every summer approached I anticipated getting up there but for one reason or another people could not join me; Jefferson Park Wilderness is one place that should not be traveled alone. In past years I had tried but by the time I made my move up there I was too early or too late. So this year I figured it would be the same thing and somehow I would miss my open window. This year has been on odd year for wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest with everything almost a month behind. The night before I get a phone call from fellow Photo Cascadia member Adrian Klein mentioning he was going to do the 11 mile round-trip into Jefferson Park. Here was my chance to visit this place that had seemed to have eluded me until now. Hesitantly I asked if I could join and concern came up whether I could make it because of my replacement hip. I told him I would keep my backpack to 20 pounds and hike slow. Needless to say the very next day I found myself at the beginning of the trailhead everything ready to go. For the first 5 miles, we casually hiked while we reminisced about the past year. Just as we were coming to the top, something had gone terribly wrong with my hip. After further walking I had realized my hip popped out and I was 5+ miles from the car. After hobbling the last half-mile to the campsite, I told Adrian to go ahead and scout out some possible locations. I could not move at this point and decided to lay out in the dirt as I could not muster the strength to even put my tent up. In past similar experiences a few hours of doing nothing helped my hip but not this time. As sunset neared I asked Adrian if he could just carry my camera and tripod roughly 100 m to the first spot I could find flowers near the campsite. I ended up firing away a few shots and waited for Adrian to finish. Hobbling back to my camp I decided to turn in early. I went to bed assured that I would feel better tomorrow as long as I got a good nights rest. The next day I woke up and I could not even put any pressure on the leg or hip. I was not going to be able to shoot sunrise at the very minimum. Realizing we had no cell reception and no spot messenger to call emergency services, I would now have to hike out of here on my own two feet. After a discussion with Adrian about what to do next we decided he could carry a good portion of my camping gear; so we made some makeshift crutches for hiking poles and began the journey back down. In the end, I made it back to the car after a full day getting back, which should have only taken a few hours. If it had not been for my friend’s generosity and backpacking skills, I could have been in serious trouble. The ten essentials that Adrian always carried in his backpack came in very handy. The point of this story is that when traveling in the wilderness you should always travel with someone. You never know when something might happen that limits your mobility and puts you at risk. I also learned another lesson to expect the unexpected and always carry the ten essentials when backpacking. I will never forget this outing to Jefferson Park wilderness.

~ by kevinmcneal on August 31, 2010.

20 Responses to “Going Into The Wilderness Alone?”

  1. Great story Kevin and incredible photography as usual.

  2. These are both gorgeous images Kevin! And thanks for a good wake up call. I usually go on my trips alone but I’ve been carrying the SPOT with me which gives me some sense of security. Hope your hip feels better and it won’t affect your future trips!


  3. Good story and good lesson. I often go off alone when I get frustrated at not being able to find someone to go along. I’ll have to think hard about that in the future. You photos are breath-taking, in any case!! Simply stunning.

  4. Kevin,

    So you went ahead and had your hip replaced. You said you thought you’d do it within 10 years. Thank goodness Adrian was with you! Did the repair require surgery? Take it easy on yourself, okay.

    Mary in Seattle

  5. Kevin,
    I’m glad you posted this story. I’m glad to hear you made it out alive and without any permanent harm to your or your friend. Hopefully your readers will take this advice, because it’s a real danger most of us weekend warriors ignore.

  6. Hi Kevin, You are one amazing person. I was very glad to meet you at the Tetons/Yellowstone workshop. Hopefully, I can participate in another. I hope that your hip doesn’t impede you from taking such breathtakingly beautiful images. You are a very gifted passionate instructor. Be well, my friend. And, your words of wisdom are welcome.

  7. Dude, you HAVE to learn how to use paragraphs if you’re going to be posting blog entries and telling stories that are this long. Please, for the sake of the English language!

  8. I can’t even imagine the pain you must have experienced. And now, to mingle the memories of that pain with the pleasure of doing something you’ve always dreamed of AND to get these perfect photos, must make for some heavy duty lessons and reflections.
    I’m curious, what ARE the ten essentials???
    I thank you again and again for the joy your photos bring with their beauty.

    Suzan in San Diego

  9. Magnificent pictures …. elegance in composition and light control is only possible by his vision of photography.
    I wish him a speedy recovery.
    Thank you very much for sharing your work.
    A greeting.

  10. Wow, your a tuff dude Kevin! I can only imagine how difficult that was, it’s hard enough hiking with blisters on your feet! I am blown away by your beautiful images, nice work. I was just in the park on 8/21 and it really is a special, special place. I also have been waiting to see/shoot these wildflowers for a while, and boy was I stoked when I got to the top. If only I had time to camp over night and also would have loved to have a GND filter to help my images out. I really learned a couple things once I saw your images compared to what I ended up with. You are a truly talented photographer, and I want to thank you for providing a steady stream of inspiration through your images and hard work. You and all the guys at Photo Cascadia just ROCK! Thank you!

  11. An incredible story Kevin. I’ve been tempted so many times to go it alone in fairly remote areas, to include the Wind River Range in WY, but my fears of what could happen while alone persuaded me not to. You certainly capture some wonderful shots and thanks for reinforcing my concerns about not going in alone. J. Patterson

  12. Glad to see you made it out alright (and even managed to get a few incredible shots.) Sounds like it was a very difficult challenge to say the least. Hope you recover well.

  13. Wow, what a story! The hip replacement must be frustrating. The second photo is awesome!


  14. Kevin, you left us hanging! What are the “TEN” essentials.
    Jim Atkin

  15. Thanks Jim for reminding me to link the ten essentials. It is now linked to a great site on what everyone should have when entering the back country

  16. Those are two gorgeous images Kevin, I’m hoping your hip is alright and doesn’t need a revision due to that. I’m always in awe of the tonal range you achieve, it’s a delight to my eyes.

  17. Great images for being in so much pain. I sympathyze, my knee has never worked properly since surgery either.

  18. OMG, Kevin. You sure push your luck at times going out on a limb for your photography as I have witnessed. Glad you made it back despite the pain and thank God for Adrian being able to help you get you and your sorry hip out of there. Fabulous photos, for sure, so maybe it was totally worth it. (Easy for me to say).

  19. Kevin, you captured some wonderful images from Jefferson Park, despite your physical situation. Congrats! I hope your hip gets and stays better.
    Mike Putnam

  20. Thank you for this fascinating story, Kevin. A very wise tip especially for me, always travelling alone. I tend to get so entranced by the scenery I’m in, that I don’t always watch where I’m going and wanders off alone. I am a great admirer of your work, even more so now after reading this blog. Keep up the wonderful work!

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