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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 12:00 pm 
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Recently I had the pleasure of completing the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park.

My party encountered an interesting situation when we decided to wait a day for the weather to clear, before attempting a long hike back to the campground, and exit, at the end of an already strenuous trip. I admit that this decision has its own problems: There was continuous rain while we faced ascending to and then climbing down The Crack on a hike that ultimately required 10 ½ hours in good weather the next day. There was a higher possibility of becoming injured when it could be difficult for us to reach the objective before sunset.

I knew that there would be a 24-hour grace period, during which our absence would be noticed, and it worked out this way. The park office notified the OPP after finding and identifying our parked car. We also had a campsite reservation that went unclaimed.

We had with us a SPOT, and a working cellular telephone. We tried to phone the park office from campsite H46 on Bunnyrabbit Lake but could not get reception.

So in the end we returned to the campground in one piece, reported our safe return to the wardens, and they cancelled the alarm. Nobody was hurt, and no rescue was initiated. The irony is in our repeated messages sent through the SPOT to family and friends giving accurate locations and assurances that all was well, while we were unable to contact the potential first responders directly. While I am carrying around a button that will send communications directly to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, the local authorities will not know about it.

One thing I shortly realized is that we should have had one of the many day-hikers at The Crack photograph our trail permit and hand carry our situation back to the park office.

As far as I am aware, Ontario Parks does not accommodate the use of SPOT devices in any particular way, as the individual park offices do not maintain e-mail addresses.

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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 12:21 pm 
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Or in your original "float plan" in the family training session leave directions that if you are overdue to contact the appropriate park by phone.

SPOT is not a one size fits all remedy. Often quite a bit of background work has to be done

The other alternative is In Reach which allows you to send text to phones.


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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 12:47 pm 
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Do I have this right........?

You were hiking the entire La Cloche trail and the people at the Killarney Park office went into "panic" mode because you were more than 24 hours overdue? Were they aware that you had a SPOT?

Thinking there could be a problem if you are 24 hours late on a day hike is one thing but being 24 hours late on a week long hike seems a little silly.

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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 2:31 pm 
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I want to be clear that I am not criticizing Ontario Parks or what the rangers at Killarney did. I was at least somewhat aware of their internal procedures and did find that they were followed. The park staff simply reported our absence to the OPP, as we were over due according to the itinerary on our permit.

They sent up the red flag, as I had expected. The police were notified, but no further actions were taken.

We returned to the campground within the 24 hour window. So there was no rescue. If we had not been heard from, I expect that after the full 24 hours the situation would have escalated. I fully admit that I am responsible for having bent the rules because I knew that there would be no consequences so long as we made it back by sunset the following day. We did this successfully.

I am just commenting that it was unexpectedly difficult to let them know the situation despite having a service with worldwide coverage that can send out messages through the GPS satellites.

No, they did not know we were carrying a SPOT, and that is the point actually. The park office apparently does not have any procedures to incorporate this eventuality into their operations. There is no way for me to set up my service and send progress reports to the park staff.

I wonder if this is something that is handled differently in British Columbia.

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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 4:18 pm 
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Here the onus of reporting is on family or a friend at home so we never expect a Park to undertake a search. You can be two weeks overdue and if no one calls a particular Parks emergency number you can die alone...

I appreciate your posting because obviously procedures do differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

I have only seen one instance, in Pukaskwa National Park where you must report the completion of your trip otherwise after the dates on your permit have elapsed a search will commence. I simply did not know that anyone checked dates on the permits in the parking lot and did something with that information.

SPOT has limits. I have had one for ten years and knew the only way I could notify anyone directly would be someone on my email list and they would notify my rescue party if needed.. Or I would specify to my contact that if I were not out by xxx day( I usually gave a two day margin) to activate rescue. Now I will add to that info that if I am late but send them OK to contact the Park if in Ontario and not start a search. Kind of a monkey wrench, right?

In your case the lack was that you couldn't send an "I'm OK but late" to the park staff.

You will have to figure out a workaround like I proposed above to avoid needless search activity.


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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 4:26 pm 
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I'm very surprised to hear that this situation would be 'escalated' after the 24 hour window. Weather, minor injuries, and misjudgment's happen. I think a good percentage of people don't finish that trail in their intended time. Seems like an expensive over reaction.


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PostPosted: August 17th, 2016, 10:11 pm 
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Do you have more than one message option? I've never used a SPOT but my InReach has three preset messages. My first one is always the "I'm OK. Look at the map to see our exciting campsite." My second message is a things went well message like "Come pick us up Mr Float Plane, we're done early" or "We're ahead of schedule and will be at the shuttle pickup early".

The third message is for when something went wrong. Things like, "We're behind schedule and late for our pickup" or "Oops, something went wrong. We're OK but need you to arrange for float plane pickup at this location".

You could easily program a message to a family member or friend that says "Notify parks that we're safe but late getting out of the bush. 1-800-ONTARIO. Many 'tanks".


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PostPosted: August 18th, 2016, 8:04 am 
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SPOT has limitations which is one reason I just ditched mine.
The three things that can be sent are
911
Help. I am OK but need assistance.. call xxxx
Third OK. I am here

The underlying reason I got rid of them is I find their billing and contract practices shady.. Unless you scream at them several times not to renew they automatically renew you.


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PostPosted: August 18th, 2016, 11:27 am 
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The new Spots have a fourth option of a custom message plus you can also add cell phones to the contact list as well as emails.

I suppose you could also give the park the URL of the spot web page showing your location though I'm surprised they don't have a system where they contact a "next of kin" anyway before starting a search.

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PostPosted: September 2nd, 2016, 10:09 am 
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My 2-cents worth is that you handled the situation well, and in the end made the right decision when taking personal/group safety in to consideration (which if you had continued to hike through the adverse weather, could have led to a *real* emergency).

Two options that I consider when going on a trip: one, provide next of kin with appropriate contact info (in this case, the park office), and note that if there are any delays that family/friends are aware of, to contact the park accordingly. Two, allow a 24-hour leeway on the back-end of your trip (i.e. if you plan to come out Tuesday, tell family/friends that if they don't hear from you before Wednesday afternoon, not to panic). Although this latter point doesn't necessarily apply to your situation.

Anyway, I also see it as good on the park staff for paying attention and being diligent.


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PostPosted: September 4th, 2016, 8:49 am 
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I know of a Provincial Park that has a backcountry area (not as busy as Killarney) and they don't closely monitor your backcountry schedule. They tell you to "tell someone who loves you". That person would let the park know if you are behind schedule.

I switched from SPOT to inReach several years ago. The 2-way communication is valuable for more than just emergency communication (marine weather updates can be useful). The inReach can send messages to email addresses, not just to phones.


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PostPosted: September 4th, 2016, 9:05 am 
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JCooper wrote:
I know of a Provincial Park that has a backcountry area (not as busy as Killarney) and they don't closely monitor your backcountry schedule. They tell you to "tell someone who loves you". That person would let the park know if you are behind schedule.

I switched from SPOT to inReach several years ago. The 2-way communication is valuable for more than just emergency communication (marine weather updates can be useful). The inReach can send messages to email addresses, not just to phones.

I suspect I know..the one I just travelled in.. Your thunderboxes are unique in that they often have a perch... Thanks. Even if its not you Thanks
The same policy applies in the National Parks and the local waterways I paddle that are under some sort of government jurisdiction.

Its always a plus to be self reliant and look out for your own well being.


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PostPosted: September 29th, 2016, 6:05 pm 
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Thank you for the comments.

JCooper wrote:
The inReach can send messages to email addresses, not just to phones.


I think you may have this backwards, and that was the true origin of the problem, if it was not already clear. We were carrying a unit that sends out e-mails, but Ontario Parks does not maintain e-mail addresses at the park offices. If we had been able to place a phone call, the situation would have been better.

I guess I am promoting for inReach.

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PostPosted: September 30th, 2016, 3:45 pm 
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Why would you want to confuse your rescue?

Forget the park. Let them do whatever they want. You follow their rules if you choose to.

As far as your own rescue... have someone responsible taking care of you trip plan and make sure to execute accordingly is what you want to save your life, know what's going on, or to avoid possible embarrassing moments.

Spot has one 911 option and 3 customizable messages that can tailored to suit your trip.
Our spot device has served us very well for 10 yrs (?) plus.

People should practice staying disconnected so these bugs can be worked out.

Just my two cents.


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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2016, 5:14 pm 
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Once I was late to return a rental canoe to Temagami Outfitters.
They called OPP.
OPP asked a patrol car to check whether our car was still at put in near Montreal River bridge.
That's it.
I suspect that this is a standard OPP procedure in case of one day delay.
As soon as we were within cell phone coverage, I called this outfitter and they called OPP.
So not a lot of extra efforts are spent in case of one to two days delay.

By the way, do you know when they start real SAR in summer?


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