Our local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, published a brief article on Tuesday regarding a resident of Roseville who had to be rescued by helicopter after he fell over the edge of Eagle Falls near Lake Tahoe.

The man—who had apparently been a frequent visitor to Eagle Falls in the past—stopped to take photos at the edge of the falls. Unfortunately, he chose to stand on rocks covered in algae that were under a couple of inches of water. When he turned to leave, he slipped and fell. Rescue workers rappelled down the falls to the man, and determined that given the difficulty of the terrain, a helicopter rescue would be necessary.

The helicopter rescue was successful, and he was transported to a Reno hospital for treatment of his serious injuries.

Eagle Falls, where the local Roseville man was injured this week. Image adapted from photo by Joe Parks, licensed via CC BY 2.0.

Eagle Falls, where a local Roseville man was injured this week. Image adapted from photo by Joe Parks, licensed via CC BY 2.0.

Northern California’s Many Natural Attractions Require Caution and Care

As we make our way towards the autumn season and our weather mellows, many people will be venturing out to enjoy the great outdoors, especially at popular national parks, such as Yosemite, Redwood National Park, Kings Canyon, Lassen, and Point Reyes.

However, with fall comes wet weather, meaning conditions will be less predictable, and accidents such as that at Eagle Falls will become more frequent. Even experienced park visitors and nature enthusiasts can fall victim to complacence. As the Sacramento Bee article noted, the Eagle Falls victim had visited the falls many times in the past. And just last week, a National Park Service employee died in Yellowstone when she fell over the edge of a canyon.

Anyone who listens to our radio show All Things Legal on Money 105.5 (every Thursday at 8 AM) knows that we love the great outdoors. But nature is unforgiving, and requires respect and caution. Ashton & Price has handled far too many injuries related to tragic accidents marring what should have been a great day outdoors (boat accidents on Sacramento’s many waterways are incredibly common).

We want you to stay safe. So the next time you head outdoors, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Never Travel Alone

If you are injured while hiking, or slip and fall off of a trail and land somewhere out of view, it may take hours or days for someone to find you. Always have at least one other person with you. And if someone in your party is injured, unless they can easily get to you and assist you, the first priority has to be to get help. Don’t try and be a hero.

Respect Trails and Guard Rails

Trails and guard rails are designed for your safety. Always stay on trails, and never climb over guard rails. Lee Whittlesey, the author of Death in Yellowstone, underscored in an interview posted on Yellowstone Park’s website that visitors to Yellowstone and other parks tend to think that nature areas are like Disneyland. They are not. Paths and guard rails are intended to keep visitors in the safest areas of a park, and away from areas with hazards that might not be immediately evident.

Use Common Sense and Carefully Evaluate Current Conditions

While some areas may have trails and guard rails to help confine you to safe areas, many natural places lack these features. In this case, you have to use your best judgment to determine the best course of action. In the case of Eagle Falls accident, a more cautious visitor would likely have determined that standing on (a) slick rocks (b) that are underwater (c) at the edge of a waterfall might not be the wisest choice to make.

Don’t rely on the judgment of others.

Don’t Hike or Wander Around in Nature Areas after Dark, or Under the Influence of Alcohol

Even relatively pedestrian areas can be a hazard when you’ve been drinking, or after the sun has gone down. Sacramento County banned the possession of alcohol in some areas of the American River Parkway, after multiple altercations and deaths occurred in previous years.

In reports of the aforementioned death of the park worker at Yellowstone last week, it has been noted that the accident occurred late at night, at 3 AM. Not only were conditions inherently dangerous due to the late hour, but the fact that she was out at night with friends suggests that alcohol may have been involved as well.

Nature is unforgiving. Don’t test it by venturing out when it’s dark, or when you’re in no condition to be wandering around.

Always Have Basic Safety Gear With You When You’re Out in Nature

We’re not talking about wearing crampons when you’re walking down a paved trail, or carrying an ax over your shoulder. Basic day-use safety gear includes:

  • An extra water bottle
  • Granola bars or other snacks
  • A sweatshirt or jacket
  • A cell phone, preferably with an extra battery or battery pack

Nature is unpredictable. Minimal preparation allows you to be prepared for the unexpected, such as a sudden storm, an injured friend, or discovering another visitor who is injured.

As long as you take some basic safety precautions, then odds are that your travels this autumn will be memorable for all the right reasons.