Guided Backpacking and Kitchen Safety, Part Two

In the previous post we discussed the need for clients to give our guides plenty of working space in the “kitchen area”, in order to avoid burns from either hot water or the campfire. This is important on our guided Yellowstone hikes as well as our guided backpacking treks throughout the Mountain West.

Speaking of campfires, we will often ask our clients to collect and break up firewood. This activity, while fun for most folks, presents a unique set of hazards. First and foremost is the danger of flying projectiles of small wood chips. Look away when breaking a branch, wear your glasses or sunglasses, and break wood in a direction where a flying wood chip will not hit another person! It is also quite possible to break a foot or sprain an ankle in the effort (jumping or stomping on a branch) to break a chunk of wood into shorter lengths. Don’t. It’s not worth it. If the tree branch won’t break without herculean effort, forget about it! It’s probably either still green or is too big for use in a cooking fire, anyway.

Other kitchen hazards: accidentally kicking dirt or moose poop into the cook pot or into the bowl of diced carrots sitting on the ground that the guide just finished cutting. All the more reason to give the guiding (cooking) staff lots of room to work! Providing a meal for a group of hungry backpackers in nearly every kind of weather imaginable is tough enough without folks traipsing through the kitchen and messing things up!

Here’s my favorite kitchen advice and story. Do not drool into the cook pot! I am serious. I am not making this up. We once had a client who was poorly socialized in a number of ways not appropriate to describe in this post. Except for the drooling part. I had measured out the water for dinner and it was nearly boiling when “The Drooling Physicist” (yes, he was a learned man of science) for some reason decided to lift the lid off the cook pot — obviously when I wasn’t looking — to see what was inside (hot water). At that exact moment, I turned around and to my utter dismay watched this fellow accidentally unleash a long filament of drool, which for a brief moment connected the inside of his mouth with the contents of the cooking pot! And yes, for this and numerous other reasons, this fellow is blacklisted.

Of course, I had to clean out the pot and start from scratch. Be assured, though, that such behavior is the exception, not the rule. But it is yet another reason to stay out of the kitchen and give us plenty of space to safely work!

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