Hiking and Risk Assessment

hiking way - escursionisti

Image via Wikipedia

 

I recently hiked a stretch of the Appalachian Trail  in Maine known as the “100 Mile Wilderness” with my two sons; and even being literally days from the office, and days from cell coverage or other reminders of “civilization”, I had an epiphany about personal risk. 

While insurance and public safety measures are importants tool for reducing the effects of risk on our personal lives, it does change our everyday assessment of the risk we are all willing to bear. 

When you’re miles from any kind of help descending a trail littered with boulders, roots, and deadfall trees, every single step is deliberate and cautious.  The risk of losing your footing – anywhere on the trail – carries dire consequences.  A compound fracture coud be life threatening; even a mild sprain could mean you have to lay off your pack with a week of food, clothing and shelter to your two companions (assuming you’re traveling with companions).  

Back here in civilization, we go to great lengths to minimize risk to the public when they pass by or into our office.  The sidewalk is repaired each spring after winter’s snowplow damage; concrete filled steel posts are anchored in the sidewalk to protect us from vehicles parked outside; we have non-slip rugs; and have moved our commercial operation to our basement to provide a conference room for customer privacy.  All these are good steps for providing a safe and hopefully risk-free environment to the public.   But it changes our personal assessment of risk 

The downside of this is in how it changes some people’s perception of real risks.  We talk of “risky behavior” by teens when they drink and drive, or take drugs: the only risk they may perceive is getting caught by their parents or the police and losing driving privileges.  They’ve been so insulated from “the trail” that my sons and I walked on, that they risk their lives and the lives of people with them and around them when they speed down a residential street drunk and high.  

We all make risk assessments in so many decisions; and reducing risk in all public places allows us to carry-on and focus on things important to us.  But occasionally, a walk in the woods where the environment hasn’t been safety sanitized, can be a good re-set for our perception of the world. 

Our journal appears at http://gordon100wild.wordpress.com/ 

Geoff Gordon 

www.agordon.com 

Advertisements