For the last nine days, I have been knee deep in my almost-annual emergency wilderness medicine education. The Wilderness First Responder certification is something that is required of us kayak guides, and is a good idea for anyone who spends much time outside the bounds of civilization and beyond the timely reach of the 911 system. We have been sponsoring this course for four years now at Skamokawa Center, with curriculum and instructors provided by Wilderness Medical Associates.

Topics range from basic CPR to anaphylaxis, snakebites, altitude illnesses, major trauma, patient assessment systems, improvised litter carries, hypothermia, extended patient care in wilderness settings and much more. Time is divided between classroom work and lectures, drills complete with moulage and acted out problems, to several full-blown simulations that are set up nearby in an appropriate outdoor location. The simulations are designed to be as realistic as possible and the acting and stage makeup is enough to get everyone’s adrenaline pumping, and to test the limits of our “cool”.

After about eighty hours of this, everyone graduated successfully, which doesn’t always happen. I’d be willing to bet that most of my fellow students are still recuperating; I know I am. I took a lot of pictures, although I didn’t get very many good ones of the big simulations, as I was either a “patient” or a rescuer.

Here is Amy, Josh and Katie, sporting some fancy head lacerations, on day one:

head lacerations

Practicing litter carries:

litter carry

Heading out to the second simulation in Skamokawa Vista Park:


After our successful graduation, everyone headed over to Levi and Becca’s house for the best meal of the week, prepared by Becca and Jarrod, and from there a few of us headed over to the nearby Oasis Tavern for more beer and a few games of pool. Here’s Josh at the O:

Josh at the Oasis Tavern

This course will be held every February/March here in Skamokawa. If this looks like fun to you (it is!), please contact me for more information.

Next up: another day kayaking on the Columbia River.

1 Comment

  1. Hey Mark,

    Great pics and Hurray for WFR!!!!

    I’ll be by to Kayak and hang out soon!

    Can you relay other’s emails~ I miss everyone already!

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