RVer Safety: You might consider self-protection if wilderness camping

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By Mike Sherman

We have read news accounts of strangers shooting at campers walking on a trail. This story takes a unique turn.

Imagine pulling into your remote campsite. You tell your wife to take the dog to the bathroom while you better position your vehicle to maximize the comfort of your rural, isolated campsite in the wilderness. You love remote. This area is remote, I know it well.

So your wife exits your vehicle and you move around to back into your site in a better position, but when you exit your SUV after 4-5 minutes, your wife and dog are nowhere to be found, even after an hour of searching!


Here is the original story and the follow-up article highlighting the discovery of not only the dog, but the wife, who was found 2.5 miles from their chosen campsite, days later.

This story highlights several areas of concern from a safety standpoint. I advocate the potential use of a satellite communication device (which the husband used) and the aspects of personal defensive weapons because of the potential for attacks by crazy nuts out there.

If this woman’s story is accurate, I recommend you strap on a .38 pistol if you are going to dry camp in a remote environment. She claims a man with a knife chased her down a ravine. Read these news stories and judge for yourself.

Massive search for California woman, dog who vanished near campground as husband parked

Authorities continued the massive search Monday for a hiker whose husband says she and their dog “vanished” from a California campground while he parked their vehicle.

Sheryl Powell, 60, disappeared near the Grandview Campground in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest area of the White Mountains around 1 p.m. Friday, her husband, Joseph Powell, told the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

The couple’s son, Greg, wrote on Facebook on Saturday that his parents “had found a campsite and she got out of the car with our dog to wait in the shade while he turned around and backed up the hill.”

When Joseph returned about five minutes later, Sheryl, along with Miley, a 5-pound Yorkipoo, was gone.

Joseph Powell told investigators he searched for his wife for an hour before sending out an SOS through his satellite device.

Inyo County Search & Rescue and the sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post they immediately began searching for Sheryl.

Greg Powell expressed frustration with investigators who he said refuse to acknowledge the possibility Sheryl was abducted. “They keep insisting she just got lost,” he wrote, adding his mom didn’t have food or water and was simply setting up camp.

He said he believes authorities should be looking into a possible abduction, but, as of Saturday, were only investigating his dad and his mother’s friends as suspects, something he called “absurd.” “My parents have an extremely loving relationship and my dad (who has refused to leave the campsite) is on the verge of breakdown,” Greg wrote.

Anyone with information on Sheryl’s whereabouts is urged to contact the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office at 760-878-0383, option No. 4. (Source: Fox News)

California hiker missing for 4 days is found alive, daughter and investigators reveal

Sheryl Powell, a California mother and hiker who vanished four days ago during a camping trip, was found alive Monday, her daughter and investigators announced.

Farrah Powell wrote on her Facebook page on Monday, “SHES ALIVE!!! This is the happiest day of our lives. We can’t thank everyone enough!!!!!!!” She included a picture of her mother surrounded by her family in the hospital in the post.

Sheryl Powell, 60, had been missing since Friday afternoon. Her husband, Joseph, told the Inyo County Sheriff’s office she was last near the Grandview Campground, in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest area of the White Mountains. He said she and their dog “vanished” from the California campground when she went to take the dog out for a bathroom break while he parked their vehicle.

“After searching for almost an hour, Mr. Powell alerted law enforcement through his satellite device,” according to The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, who referred to Powell as an “experienced hiker.”

The sheriff’s office posted an update on its Facebook page Monday afternoon writing, “Missing hiker, Sheryl Powell was located alive by ground search team members near the Montenegro Springs area (below where her dog was located earlier today).”

Her small dog named Miley was found alive on Monday in an area about two-and-a-half miles from Powell’s last known location, according to an earlier Facebook post.

Powell claimed that she was chased down a hill by a man with a knife while her husband was looking for a place to park, according to her son Greg.

In a post with disturbing accusations on Greg Powell’s Facebook page Monday, he wrote that his mother was threatened by the man wielding the knife who allegedly told her, “you’re going to do what I want or I’m going to take my knife to your dog.” Greg said she then ran away from the man she thought was trying to rape her.

“When she figured she had lost him she also realized she was quite lost,” Greg wrote in the post. “Thankfully she is strong and resilient and knew how to find water (despite no map, phone, or overt knowledge of the area).”

He said his mother traveled at night to avoid dehydration. She told her family she managed to find water and a cactus to eat, but couldn’t walk any further after a certain point. Greg wrote that his mother “still got dehydrated and when she could no longer walk she scooted as far as she could.” He added, “She tried to leave Miley leashed near the stagnant water but she refused to be left alone and broke out of her leash and stayed near my mom.”

Greg said his mother saw the helicopters and tried to wave them down but crews couldn’t see her. “She told us she has started to give up hope today,” Greg wrote. He said Miley’s barking ultimately led search and rescue teams to his mother, who was found about 200 yards away.

“My mom is an amazing human being and she looks pretty good given the situation,” Greg wrote on Monday. “Her first words [sic] to us were ‘I’m so sorry I put you through that, you guys must have been so worried,’ just proving how selfless she is.” He added, “We are overjoyed to be reunited with her!”

The allegation that Powell was chased by a man wielding a knife was not confirmed by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, but in a Facebook post earlier on Monday the office wrote, “The investigations portion of the Powell search continues.”

Searchers described Powell “as resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine, CA.” The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office posted on their Facebook page after she was found.

Powell, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was transported to an area hospital for “medical clearance,” according to the post.

“We are beyond grateful for the continued support from her family, local residents, visitors, and the media,” the latest post from the sheriff’s office said. “We also cannot thank our assisting agencies enough for their amazingly hard work in difficult terrain throughout this 4-day search.”

Earlier on Monday, Farrah said on “Shepard Smith Reporting” that she and her brother had been searching six miles a day on foot for their mother in a rescue operation that included dogs and a helicopter.

“We’ve been tracking everything using different apps,” she told Shepard Smith. “We’ve given all of our tracks to search and rescue – covering areas that they haven’t covered. We are doing everything we can out there.”

Search and rescue teams began looking for Powell and her dog immediately after authorities were notified she had disappeared on July 12. The search included trained ground and dog teams from all over the state, as well as aerial reconnaissance provided by a naval air station and the California National Guard, according to the sheriff’s office.

Challenges included “multiple gullies, shale slopes, low shade, direct sun, and rattlesnakes.”

On his Facebook page, Greg thanked all those who helped with the rescue efforts. He said the Powell family will be refunding all the donated money as soon as they can.

(Fox News’ Nick Givas, Nicole Darrah and Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.)

BISHOP, Calif. —
A woman missing for three days after disappearing from a remote campground in California’s White Mountains on Tuesday described a man she says chased her with a knife as a burly, bald “big guy” with tanned skin.

Sheryl Powell, of Huntington Beach, California, detailed what it was like to be missing and what she remembers of the man during an appearance Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show. Powell, 60, said she was told to do what he said and he would refrain from using the knife on her and her small dog. She said she was able to run away from the man Friday, and survived by drinking water from a small spring. Search and rescue teams found her and the dog, Miley, on Monday. “I’m happy to be here to tell my story,” Powell said.

Her husband, Joseph Powell, said he was moving their Jeep while she walked their small dog, when they both disappeared without a trace. He searched for nearly an hour for them, and then contacted authorities. “Yesterday I was the saddest man on the planet and today I’m the happiest man on the planet,” Joseph Powell said Tuesday. “It’s a miracle. I got my wife back.”

There has been no sign of the man and the Inyo County sheriff’s office is actively investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance but can’t release any other information, said spokeswoman Carma Roper.

“Now that we have transitioned from active search and rescue into an investigation there aren’t a lot of public details we can release,” Roper said.

The White Mountains lie east of the Sierra Nevada range and northwest of Death Valley National Park. Grandview Campground is at an elevation of 8,600 feet (2,621 meters) near the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

It is prized by star gazers for sky vistas far from city lights, according to the Inyo National Forest. The nearest civilization is a 16-mile (25.8-kilometer) drive to the town of Big Pine down in Owens Valley.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest has trees that are more than 4,000 years old, the oldest in the world. (Source: KCRA-TV Sacramento)

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

Read more RVer Safety articles here.

##RVT906


8 COMMENTS

  1. When we park in the back country, which is rarely, I strap on my pistol, and no one goes out, until I can go out. We also don’t have pets, so exercising, or relief stops are not necessary. I use the inside facilities always, never going to outhouses unless in the car. We also never camp in CA, it’s just nuts there in my opinion.

  2. Reading this is exactly why I am petrified of camping in BLM lands unless there are others camping near me. I know, in my head, that this is a rare event. At least, I hope it is a rare event! I won’t ever carry a firearm. That means I will have to get myself some bear spray, I guess.

  3. Just a note to share a concern: When I see the word “wilderness” used in conjunction with RVing I cringe as most RVers don’t realize the difference between “wilderness” (RV camping in the back country) and federally mandated “Wilderness” which prohibits the use of wheeled vehicles (RVs) within its boundaries. Many in the RVing community support more Wilderness as they falsely believe it will lead to more opportunities to camp in their RV in a beautiful setting which couldn’t be farther from the truth. With an increasing number of RVers competing for a limited number of places to camp we can’t afford to lose more land to Wilderness designations. Thanks for listening and understanding.

  4. Carrying a gun is not the only alternative in a situation like this. If this woman had simply been carrying bear spray (or a similar chemical deterrent such as wasp spray) she could have easily immobilized her assailant and left him justifiably suffering and possibly even incarcerated. Yes, she wasn’t in bear country, but strapping on a can of bear spray is just as easy, and in more areas legally viable, than strapping on a more rightly regulated lethal weapon.

  5. I have a cwp recognized in 36 states. The other 14 I attempt to avoid. If I must pass thru I’ll fuel before hand and never stop. I have carried nearly 50 years and no one has ever known.
    Ever notice the places like Chicago that fear your right to protect yourself are some of the most dangerous places on earth? Even if you have HIV in CA you can shoot drugs on the sidewalk and just drop your needle anywhere without repercussions? Heck, you can even stoop and poop on the sidewalk and that is ok, just don’t be prepared to protect yourself!
    I carry and always will be able to protect myself and others.

  6. Unfortunately, my interpretation of the “ handgun laws of the 50 states “ indicates that even a California resident would find it difficult to legally possess a handgun.

    • As it should be. Getting a Concealed Weapon Carry Permit in any state is, at the least, expensive. Wisely, in my opinion, many states require at least minimal training in the use of and responsibility for carrying a concealed weapon. Even in California a permit can be acquired although without reciprocity with other states. In some areas rules may even vary by county or city. Rather than listening to us tell you like it is (maybe) … go to your local gun shop and get all the information you need for your particular locale.
      Also, many gun shops have access to a shooting range and training to help you become very familiar with whatever type of self defense you plan to have.

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