Can You Get Home?

Living rural is a wonderful thing. It’s quieter, more relaxed, a way to be more in tune with nature. But it has a drawback. Eventually you have to head to more populated areas to restock food, supplies and to run errands needed. Where we live, it is a 50 mile long island. The majority of the island is rural, with the north end hosting the one large town and a military base. For us, if we leave home, we drive at least 30 miles one way to shop. If we go off island, it is 50 miles one way at least, and involves crossing another island and 2 bridges to get back via the north end. The other end is a ferry ride.

Now let that sink in.

We are 30 miles from home, just to get groceries. Our children are at home, with their Uncle. But we are far away. It doesn’t feel far away of course, because we drive it often. In a vehicle. Where the miles fly by at 50-55 mph.

What happens if we are out shopping on a Tuesday night, after work, when the fault line that crosses the island rips open? I was working in 2001 on the island, with a young child at home, when the Nisqually Earthquake hit. We were fortunate it wasn’t worse. Roads were OK. We live 2 miles from the fault line now, and having felt its power, I respect that it will happen again, and when it does, we have no idea how bad it will be. However, the local gas station went out and jacked up the gas prices to over $6 a gallon (it was $2.50 or so then). This same horrible place did that on 9/11 as well. I was also at work, with my son at home, 15 miles away from my work for that event.

But if the single highway home were to be ripped up? What would we do? (And that is important – do you only have one way home where you live?)

How long does it take to get home? For strong people that will take 2 to 3 days to get home if you had to walk 30 miles. For those not, it could be 4 to 5 days. When we lived on the mainland Kirk worked that far away and took the bus to work, into Seattle. The fastest route home involved the massive bridges over Lake Washington. For him it could have been a 4 to 5 day walk home though urban hell nearly the entire way.

And you have to think about what would your disaster in your area. Earthquake? Volcanic explosion? Sudden flooding? Social unrest? Forest fires? Sudden winter storms where people pull over and leave their cars on the highway? Where we live all of those apply.

Are you prepared to get home?

It seems simple, right? Just start walking. But before that, you need to consider things. Have a bare plan thought out. The mental game is a lot of it – staying focused, not giving up. Knowing routes home. Mental mile markers that show you how far you have gone.


If you are leaving your home to go anywhere, and are wearing flip flops, or worse, heels, do yourself a favor. Carry an extra pair of shoes and socks in your trunk. Just leave them in the back and forget about them. You won’t get far in poorly supportive shoes and worse if it is winter and you have thin useless shoes on. You might make it a couple miles till you are in absolute pain. Walking barefoot is even a worse decision.

The Bug Out Bag.

I could lecture this one all day. If you have to find your way home, you need to have gear on you to survive. People tend to become less civil when things go wrong. They won’t help strangers. They are likely to want to hurt you. And you will be thirsty, hungry, you will need to use the bathroom. You will need to sleep.

That doesn’t mean you need a literal bug out bag (a backpack), though it is better if you do have something dedicated that is on your back for ease in moving. Just as with shoes, toss a lightweight backpack in your vehicle.

If you read up on prepper sites, you will end up with a military style backpack and it will be loaded up heavily with gear. Do you need that? Well, it could come in handy. But no, you don’t. Even if all you do is fill up your pockets with gear, or fill up a shopping bag, and start walking, that is better than nothing.

What to walk with?

As get ready to abandon your vehicle, go through it, if you have time (and it is safe to do so). Having a backpack already loaded makes it easier, safer and quicker.

  • Backpack
  • Water bottles. Water is heavy, but you NEED it to survive. And 30 miles hiking you will need a lot of it. Take as much as you have on hand. But be mindful how little you have. How to drink less…I will discuss that below.
  • Snacks – keep in your backpack individual snacks, granola bars, meat sticks, jerky, nuts, candy. You can survive a long time without any food, but you will do far better if you have something to eat. I’ve hiked 19 miles in a day on 900 calories. It sucked. A lot. I was stumbling near the end.
  • Other food – whatever food is in your vehicle, take it with you.
  • Glasses – if you wear prescription glasses/sunglasses, make sure you grab them.
  • Keys for home.
  • Hat and gloves – think seasons, sunhat for summer, winter hat for cold months.
  • Any warm clothing you have in your vehicle, or a blanket. Even in summer take it.
  • Toilet paper or napkins – carry zip top bags in your backpack to put it in to keep dry.
  • A mylar emergency blanket.
  • First aid kit. Most of us have one in a car, gut it and take most of it, especially pain killers and stuff for foot blisters.
  • Grocery shopping bags – in rainy seasons you can line your shoes with them, for mostly waterproof shoes. If it is bad out when you start, do this first. So you don’t end up with wet feet that are going numb and risking frostbite.
  • Umbrella – sounds odd, but if you have one, take it. It can provide shade, block rain, wind and cover you while you rest


How and when you walk can depend on the weather. Your desire will be to plow straight though, to get as far away as you can. But you have to pace yourself, but also pay attention to the weather.

It’s summer? Walk as the sun settles (5 pm and after) until deep dark. Then rest. Get up and start walking as soon as first light occurs, as soon as you can just see enough to be safe. Walk till it hits the hottest part (often around Noon), then find shade and rest. If you can walk at night, and feel safe doing it, it will be the easiest, as you won’t deal with heat, and neither will you have to try to stay warm when it is the coolest. And often at night there will be fewer people out. But if it is in an area with wild animals, such as bears and cougars, this may not be safe.

It’s winter/fall/early spring? Is it raining? Snowing? Walking in daylight will be more limited. It will be warmer during daylight hours, and less risky on ice/snow in daylight.

Other threats:

Will it be safe walking in the open? Or do you need to be careful? In an urban setting it may well feel unsafe to out in the open. Walking on a highway may also not be safe. If you are a female, or a smaller man, will you feel safe? Carrying something for self protection is a good choice, even if all you have is a multi person tool you find in your car’s glove box. But as well, what time of the day you walk will depend on how safe you are. Staying in shadows at night can be good if you need to slip through. It will be up to the situation.

I will say this: Daily carrying, so you are used to it, goes far. I think you can figure out what I mean.


You will need to stop and rest at some point. You will want to take your shoes off, air your feet out, check for blisters, and such. But think about where you stop. Look for somewhere out of the elements, but that is safe where you won’t be seen. This could be a building, a barn, even into a forest. Stay out of sight of others and remember, a fire shows others where you are.

If it isn’t safe, walking non stop may be your best choice. If cold, moving may be how you stay warm.

The key is: stay strong mentally, have a plan, and just keep moving. Pity parties only slow us down.