Quick, Sandy, ... what do you do?!?

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Unless you have your notebook with a telelink hooked up, you probabally are not in quicksand right now. So we can take a leisurely moment to present some hints on getting into, and out of, quicksand.



Where to watch out for quicksand:

If you are out hiking along a body of water where there are springs, rivers or streams leading into it, you may stumble into quicksand. (For more information on how quicksand is formed, see Quicksand Facts) Also, if you are walking over what appears to be solid ground and you start to feel it ripple or shift... watch out! There is usually a 1-2 second warning period while the ground changes from solid to slurry. There is probabally a hidden underground spring or water source nearby. Smoothly step back, being careful to distribute your weight evenly on each foot.


Helpful hints to prepare for possible quicksand encounters:

If you think there might be quicksand around, don't avoid the area... it's not that bad, and you'll probabally miss out on some really nice scenery! A few simple precautions will keep out of any danger. Remember, quicksand doesn't "suck you down" or catch you when you're only in an inch or two (see Quicksand Myths. You will float if you aren't carrying something very heavy that makes you sink (just like in water.) Here are some easy, common sense preparation hints:

  • Make sure that you can remove or detach your backpack or anything heavy. If you do fall in deep quicksand, dump this immediately! It's better that it sinks than you!

  • Carry a long stick. Besides making hiking easier, you can use it to poke and prod any suspicious ground. If the stick sinks or makes the ground ripple, look out! Also, if you do fall in, you can push yourself out with the stick (see below).

  • Wear flexible soled shoes when hiking around marshy, boggy areas. Big, heavy boots with flat, solid soles result in a much greater suction force that hinders you when you try to pull you foot out. This is even more so in mud and clay (which, by the way, are much easier to get stuck in!) Tennis shoes protect tender footsies from thorns and sharp objects, and because they are flexible, they can slide out of mud and quicksand easier. Also, if your shoes do get stuck, you can usually slip out of your tennies easier than big, old, logger boots.

  • Going barefoot in mud was fun as a child, so why stop now?!? (g) Smooth skin provides very little suction in mud and if you're going barefoot when you fall into quicksand, it is highly doubtful anyone would get stuck!

  • Carry a beach-ball (inflatable) in your pocket or pack. If you fall into quicksand, you can inflate this and since it will solidly float, you can blow it up and use it for support to pull yourself out!

If you fall into quicksand:

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If this happens... Don't Panic! (O.K. Let's be honest... I've been in quicksand quite a few times, and each time there is a moment of panic!) You will most likely sink immediately to your waist or chest. If you slowly sink only to your knees or so, start to slowly and carefully step back, pulling out one leg at a time. Even if it's slow going, don't switch to the other leg until the first is out (even if the second leg goes in deeper).

Drop to your knees or on your rear to distrubute your weight, if you're in between knee-deep and thigh deep. Trying to "walk out" will probabaly only result in your feet going deeper.

Most quicksand is not very deep. If you are sinking beyond your thighs, lie back and distribute your weight evenly over the surface. Don't lean forward or try to crawl or "swim" out unless you are in really deep! In thicker mud and quicksand, this will only work you in further. Lying back causes you to "backfloat" so that you can slowly and carefully pull your legs free. Once the legs are out, roll over the top and onto firm ground.

Don't frantically struggle. Rapid movements cause further agitation, resulting in more of the surrounding area turning to goo. Slow movements will get you out and leave more solid ground nearby to pull yourself free.

If the ground is already too runny to push against, lay your walking stick or anything else, flat on the surface and use it to push against to pull yourself out. If it sinks deep and doesn't float: leave it. Trying to pull it back out will probably only force you in deeper.

Take deep breaths and keep your lungs full of air. In really deep stuff, this will make you more bouyant, and you'll float at chest level quite easily, allowing you to rest. Exaustion, not the stickiness or suction, is your biggest hinderence to getting free. In fact, with lungs full of air, it is next to impossible to go under in quicksand, even if you try!

Of course, you should always hike with a friend and carry a rope that is at least 20 feet (6 meters) long. In runny quicksand, when you've sank past your waist, hold onto the rope and let the other person pull you out. Don't try to pull yourself out, as this just makes their job harder! If the person on firm ground isn't strong enough to pull you out, have them tie the rope to some firm anchor, or have them sit down and "dig in" to provide a solid support of the rope. The you can pull yourself out. In thick stuff, it's next to impossible to pull someone out, and the mud or quicksand is usually thick enough to push against, so the stuck victim can extract themselves.

The two most important rules are patience and rest . If you are out in the middle of a large patch of quicksand when it breaks up, it may take quite a bit of inch by inch progress to make it back to solid ground (see first hand quicksand account). ... and it is perhaps the greatest aerobic workout ever devised! The mud will weigh you down and make every motion harder, so keep it slow, keep it steady, and when you're tired, fill your lungs with air and rest for a few minutes... nobody's going anywhere!

PHOTO These hints should keep you out of trouble around quicksand-prone areas. Remember that many of the myths about quicksand are not true, in fact, it's usually more funny and embarassing than dangerous! Who knows, you might actually enjoy it!?!

prepared by RobFrank@aol.com.