Glass Half Full: Safety first at Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Glass Half Full: Safety first at Lake Tahoe

Ruth Glass
Special to the Bonanza

Admit it: Most of us who live in Incline Village consider ourselves somewhat invincible. I say “somewhat,” because those of us on the older end of the spectrum recognize at least some measure of limitation, though we likely were categorized as dare devils in our own youth.

Part of the appeal of an extended community such as ours is precisely that freedom to make our own choices, explore our own boundaries, and resist others’ fears.

We love making last minute plans and heading out into the mountains or the lake, unencumbered by traffic or crowds.

There is little more exhilarating than a strenuous bike ride, hike, or ski run with no hordes of others competing for our space. We count on returning safely, and, mostly, we do.

Mostly. In the last three weeks, I am aware of two acquaintances — both experienced outdoorsmen, both properly equipped with safety helmets and top quality bikes — who are recovering from significant accidents, the outcomes of which could have been far worse.

In both cases, the men were riding alone and somehow skidded in sand and went over their handlebars. One can’t actually recall what happened.

Both were knocked unconscious and discovered by hikers. Both had to be evacuated, one with a mild concussion and the other with two cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder.

The fact that both their phones worked was somewhat of a miracle; in one case the hikers were able to contact the man’s wife because his phone was not password protected.

Meanwhile, she was at home preparing for their daughter’s big birthday party, beginning to wonder why her husband was not yet home. You can imagine her response when she answered the phone.

Fortunately, in both cases, while the scare was huge, the ultimate damage was minimal. That said, all of their friends were left a bit shaken and definitely feeling less invincible.

Personally, I believe in seatbelts. I don’t expect to be in an accident — the word “accident” always suggests the unexpected.

I once was, however. In college, the driver of a car in which I was a passenger slipped onto the shoulder, brought the car back too quickly, and we went through a guardrail and down an embankment.

I was ejected and rolled over. Fortunately, no harm done but a few bruises. That was when I recognized my fallibility. I wear my seatbelt.

Over the last few weeks, I have come to believe that riding mountain trails with a companion is the equivalent of wearing a seatbelt. Does doing so add a restriction to our adventures? Probably.

What I know is this: Had there not been hikers who happened along at just the right time, one of the victims might not have made it through the night. The other, at the very least, would have disrupted an important birthday party.

None of us is invincible. We needn’t stop exploring or challenging ourselves. Just do so with a friend.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.