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National Park Quiz 32: Survival

What if you were lost in Death Valley and had just one quart of water? Mila Zinkova.

1. You’re backpacking in Sequoia National Park and a furious rainstorm confines you to your tent. After dinner you light your candle lantern and read for a while. You suddenly realize that you’re in a dangerous situation because the flame in your candle lantern is
a. yellow
b. blue
c. red
d. orange

2. While hiking with a friend in Great Smoky Mountain National Park you lag behind, stray off the trail, and lose your way in the forest. You’re not carrying a signaling device. What’s the best way to try to reestablish contact with your hiking companion?
a. Shout “hello!” or “I’m here!” at 20-second intervals.
b. Shout “help!” as loudly as you can.
c. Whistle as loudly as you can.
d. Leave personal items behind to indicate your direction of travel.

3. You’re hiking along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. You know there are rattlesnakes there, and that has you concerned. One good way to reduce your risk of being bitten is to
a. walk as quietly as you can
b. travel only at night
c. avoid using maintained trails
d. make a lot of noise with your feet

4. You’re lost in the wilds of Olympic National Park. You’ve run out of food, so you decide to start eating plants. What’s a good guideline or rule to follow when you’re trying to decide if an unfamiliar plant is safe to eat?
a. Carefully examine the plant’s berries; if they’re red or black, it’s OK to eat the plant.
b. Watch the birds; if they eat the plant’s fruit or berries, it’s probably OK for you to eat them.
c. Put a little of the plant on your lower lip for 5 minutes; if you feel OK, try a little more.
d. Mash the plant up and mix it with water; the water will neutralize toxic chemicals.

5. It’s a very hot day in Death Valley. Unfortunately, you’re not sure that you can find your way back to your car, and you suspect you could be lost for days. You’re very thirsty, and you’re carrying only a quart of water. The smartest thing you can do is
a. ration you water carefully, not exceeding a cup a day
b. pour a little water on your head each hour to help keep you cool
c. drink what you need, when you need it
d. drink only at night, and very sparingly

6. You’ve wandered off-trail in Bandelier National Monument, and now you’re lost. You’ve run out of water and are very thirsty, so you decide to try digging for water in a nearby dry stream bed while you’re waiting to be found. The best place to dig is
a. at the shallowest place in the stream bed
b. at the extremity of a bend in the stream
c. anywhere there is sand or fine gravel
d. near the plants and trees on the bank

7. You’re lost in Carlsbad’s backcountry, but determined to walk to safety. You follow an arroyo that offers drinkable water and a little shade from the brutally hot sun. It looks like a thunderstorm is brewing in the distance. Where’s the best place to hole up for the night?
a. Near the water.
b. At least ten feet above the bottom of the arroyo.
c. Atop a debris pile at the bottom of the arroyo.
d. In a sheltered spot outside the arroyo.

8. You’re returning to your campsite during a cold night in Yellowstone. Your flashlight begins to fail and you’re not quite sure where you are. You ought to
a. continue on in hopes that your flashlight will last
b. put the batteries under your armpits to warm them
c. shine your light for brief intervals and then turn it off
d. reverse the position of the batteries in the flashlight

9. You have to cross a river in Gates of the Arctic. The current is swift and the bottom is rocky. To increase your chances of getting across safely you should
a. cross with your boots and pack on
b. take off your boots and pack
c. take off your pack, but leave your boots on
d. carry your boots and pack on top of your head

10. While crossing a swift-flowing river, you should look
a. at the bottom of the river
b. straight across the river
c. downriver
d. upriver

Extra Credit Question:

11. If you run into a grizzly bear at your campsite in Denali National Park and Preserve, you should
a. climb a tree
b. run as fast as you can
c. get into your tent
d. stop and be prepared to slowly retreat

Super Bonus Question:

12. You get lost while hiking off-trail, then get your bearings and become confident that you can find your way to safety before nightfall. You’ve arrived at a rock face covered with slippery moss. There’s no way to get around it without running the risk of getting seriously lost and spending at least one night in the wild. You believe that this rock face is the last significant obstacle between you and the road you are headed for, so you decide to climb it. To increase your chances of making it to the top safely, you ought to
a. climb barefooted
b. climb with your socks on, but not your boots
c. climb with your boots on, but not your socks
d. use your knife to clean off as much moss as possible


1.  a -- A yellow flame indicates incomplete combustion and the presence of carbon monoxide. Every year people die in tents, cabins, RVs and other places with inadequate ventilation.

2.  a -- “Help” is a good word to shout, because your companion or anyone else within hearing will know the situation. Don’t make sounds that might be confused with natural sounds such as those made by birds or animals. Staying where you are is the smart thing to do in situations like this, so don’t plan to wander about leaving personal items behind.

3.  d -- Like other snakes, rattlesnakes don’t care for the presence of humans. Making a lot of noise with your feet is a good way to reduce the likelihood of a surprise encounter. While snakes don’t have ears, they are very good at detecting vibrations.

4.  c -- The color of a fruit or berry tells you nothing about its edibility, and you shouldn’t have confidence in what birds eat because their digestive system is a lot different than yours.

5.  c -- Drink what you need when you need it. Once the process of dehydration begins, your ability to make rational decisions is impaired. Hikers heading into a desert should drink lots of water beforehand and carry plenty of water with them. One quart is way too little to carry in these circumstances.

6.  b -- The bend extremity (meander) is the deepest part of the stream bed, and the deepest part is the last to dry up.

7.  d -- Spending the night in an arroyo, especially near the bottom, would leave you dangerously exposed to a flash flood. Near the top of the arroyo you would also be exposed to wind and lightning. In these circumstances it would be best to spend the night in a sheltered place outside the arroyo. Don’t just plan to hole up for the night, though. Plan to stay put until you're found! Be sure you're as visible to searchers as possible.

8.  b -- Flashlight batteries weaken when they’re cold. Warming them under your armpits will restore their energy for a while. Of course, the best idea is to avoid traveling at night in a wilderness.

9.  a -- It’s best to cross with your boots and pack on. (Using a sturdy staff or walking stick can be helpful too.) Having your boots on will make it easier for you to deal with the rocks in the riverbed. Wearing your pack helps you maintain your balance, and you certainly don’t want to risk dropping it and having the current carry it away. Since your pack can act as an anchor in the water, loosen the pack straps, undo the waist belt, and be prepared to get rid of it in a hurry if you fall. Did you remember to seal important items (sleeping bag, dry clothes, etc.) in plastic?

10.  b -- Looking upstream while crossing the river is the worst option. It’s best to look across the river with your gaze focused on the place where you will leave the river. Be keenly aware of your footing, which you will need to maintain without constantly looking at your feet.

11.  d -- Grizzlies usually show little interest in humans. It’s food that they want. If a grizzly approaches you, be prepared to retreat slowly, talking calmly to it. Don’t try to run away. Grizzlies are quicker and faster than you are, and fleeing may trigger an attack.

12.  c -- Your boots can get pretty slippery when they get wet. If you really must climb this rock face, wear your socks, which will give you some protection against the sharp edges of rocks. Stop and think before you begin climbing. You could be seriously injured. Wouldn't it be better to just stop and wait to be rescued?

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.

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