You Will Carry Your Own Weight..

Previous Walk it Off entry: A Good Stick

Tagg’s Law: You will carry your own weight.

This one’s a bit of a play on words and has a few different meanings. If you read that as an admonishment, it’s not. It’s truth, pure and simple. The story that inspired it actually comes from my honeymoon.

You see, on the eve of my honeymoon, I was packing my back packs with clothes and gear. We were going to do the first half of the week in Monterey and have a few stops down in Big Sur. Second half of the week we were going down to Disneyland. But because we were going to rompy in some wild areas, I packed gear as normal for me. I packed MY own weight, and when my wife saw me stuffing my rope log into my pack she tsked at me and asked what I really thought I was going to need a rope log for. Admonished, I took it back out, explaining that it’s habit. We were going to a state park, I pack my normal gear. She told me I wouldn’t need it and I then left it out of my pack.

Fast forward to a bit later that week as we were on Highway 1 heading north back toward Monterey from Julia Phiefer-Burns state park. There was a little old lady that was flagging us down. Her husband was standing by the edge of a coastal cliff when the cliff side gave out from under him. He was being held on to the cliff by the barbwire fence that had gone along the edge of the cliff and a bit of a branch from an overhanging tree. If I’d had my rope log, this would have been an easy rescue.* As it was, we were out of cell phone signal, and the nearest fire department/rescue team was a good fifteen minutes of white knuckle driving back up the windy two lane coastal highway. There was no way this guy was going to hang around for another thirty minutes.

To give my wife credit where it is most deservedly due, she was the one that came up with the idea to use battery jumper cables in lieu of rope. We pulled the old man up off the cliff with a bit of help from another tourist from Germany that was also flagged down, and I treated the old man with my first aid kit. To this day, when I go to throw my rope log into my pack, my wife says not a word. It’s my weight to carry.

Carrying your own weight means more than just how much your pack weighs. It means that if you have additional training and you’re in a spot to help someone, you help. About a year ago as I write this, we were walking in Auburn State Rec area when we ran into a couple who was asking us where the water fountain was. Short answer, there wasn’t one. It was a hot summer day and they were carrying very little water. I was carrying three liters in my bladder, my wife had another two, and she’d brought along a few extra bottles of water. We gave the couple who was working quickly to dehydration the extra bottles that we had. If you have something you’re carrying that helps, that’s your weight. You help. If it’s a first aid situation, you help. If it’s something as simple and life savingly important as getting to an area with cell signal and calling in the Calvary, You Do So.

Also in my case, I went camping about a year ago with a friend of mine. They’d gotten to the camp site the day before and set up shop, and when I rolled in to the site, they asked me if I had a first aid kit (I did) and I dug it out of my ruck. My friend was de-boning chicken the evening before and had sliced the tip of his middle finger rather impressively. He and his wife had tried their best to dress the wound, but they didn’t have a really good kit with them and had no antibiotics. I stripped the old dressing off, cleaned the wound, and re dressed it properly with antibiotics and wound sealant. When asked why I carry such an overstocked first aid kit, it’s from my Army days. I wasn’t a combat life saver in the Infantry. I have a severe dislike of needles and couldn’t see myself letting someone practice an IV push into me. But when I went to go work range, I carried extra supplies for the medics. Why? I saw my company have a helicopter wreck while conducting a training scenario. I thought it would best to be prepared. Later in life, that would serve me well. My friend still has his finger.

And so you pack that gear when you go. Are you a comms guy? Bring your radio gear in case you need to call in that nine line to dust off a medivac bird. Photographer? You might see the neat wild animal, and you might see the idiot poaching it. Shoot the poacher too, and turn it into the park rangers. First aid/paramedic? Bring your kit. Ex 101st Airborne infantry grunt? Bring your rope log. You never know, you may just need it. And leaving it at home? If you Do run into a point where you need it, you will bitterly regret not having it. Is it extra weight? Yeap. But is it worth it if you get to do some good? Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like rescuing a total stranger off a cliff with a Gerber multi tool, a first aid kit, and a set of battery cables on your Honeymoon. Not. One. Damned. Thing. If you’d asked me how much my pack weighed about then, it wouldn’t have been one ounce.

But in addition to gear, it’s more than that. It’s also carrying the person who wants to learn to a place of knowledge. It’s in gently reminding someone to pick up after themselves and ruck out their trash. It’s in reminding people politely that this is not a trail that allows pets. It’s not a get in your face sort of guardianship, but it’s not turning a blind eye to things either. It’s in picking up trash when you find it on the trail. It’s in Leave No Trace ethics. It’s teaching the next generation how to care for the world that you’ve brought them into and will be leaving them with. The weight you carry is also the weight of the world you live in and walk. Yea, that’s a lot, but would you rather have it, or not?

* Kids, seriously, Do Not attempt a cliff side rescue unless you have/are one of the following:

  1. You are a member of a fire department cliffside rescue team and you have rappelling training.
  2. You are a member of a SAR mountain team and you have rappelling training.
  3. You are a member of the Coast Guard SAR and you have rappelling training.
  4. You are a 101st Airborne vet and Air Assault School graduate who has Rappelling Training.


If you’re sensing a theme there, you get a cookie. If you’re wondering which one I am, it’s the last one.. And yes, I’m used to hanging around like that. See for yourself.   That’s me with a J-rack and harness going down Moaning Cavern for my birthday. It was *ahem* not as fast as I’m used to going down a rope, but it was fun. Air Assault!

Then there's me...  Just hangin' around...

Then there’s me… Just hangin’ around…

Next Walk it Off entry: Waypoint: Armstrong Redwoods