Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 11, 2021

Lessons From Failed Adventures

I love adventure.

Over the years, I have participated in amazing adventures from the Lone Star State to the ends of the earth. I not only enjoy adventures that make my heart race, I also like everything about researching, planning, making lists, packing gear, and every little thing associated with preparing for a grand adventure.

I also love shared adventure.

For the past several years I have met with a small group of men dedicated to embracing God’s vision for biblical manhood. We call ourselves Band of Fathers. In addition to meeting weekly to study together, we also enjoy serving others together and sharing adventures.

We consume lots of books about fatherhood and manhood written from a biblical worldview. We also read and discuss books about explorers and adventures.

We recently completed a sobering book entitled “Death in Big Bend: True Stories of Death and Rescue in Big Bend National Park.” In reality, only two of the stories are about guys who survived their respective adventures gone awry. The rest were not so fortunate.

Our purpose in reading this particular book was to glean lessons about the things that can get men into trouble — deep and often deadly trouble. The outdoor stories recorded in this book serve as metaphors for how men fail, fumble, or fall in their everyday lives.

What follows are lessons we gleaned from these stories. Heeding these simple lessons can help men survive and even thrive when things take a turn for the worse.

Alone is dangerous.

I confess that I have adventured alone, many times. Adventuring alone, however, can be dangerous. Doing life alone can also be dangerous. An old pilgrim writer cautioned that Satan is a pirate looking for a vessel without a fleet.

Adventuring alone is the most common reason the men in the stories got into trouble. With only a few exceptions, all of those who died ventured out alone. They made decisions without anyone to offer an alternative suggestion or to push back on what they were thinking — and when things subsequently started to unravel, these adventurers were vulnerable because they had no one to help them in their time of trouble.

Pride is deadly.
More than one person in the stories got into trouble because they were too proud to accept that they were in deep weeds. As a result, they made choices that led them deeper into trouble rather than considering options that could have saved their lives.

Don’t overestimate your abilities.
The vast majority of the adventurers who died or had to be rescued were physically fit. Many had a good track record of outdoor accomplishments. However, they put too much confidence in their physical abilities. As a result they failed to adequately prepare for possible factors that might compromise their safety or sap them of physical strength.

Don’t underestimate the environment.
The other side of the overestimating-your-abilities-coin is underestimating the environment. Big Bend National Park is situated in the Chihuahuan Desert — a hard and unforgiving place that can quickly bring the most seasoned adventurers to their knees, or worse. When things turn bad nature most often wins, defeating even the toughest guys.

Listen to those with more experience.
Some of the saddest stories in the book are about guys who failed to consult or to take the advice of those with far more experience. Whether failing to listen to those with greater experience about gear or the terrain or other factors, the failure to listen cost more than one of these weekend adventurers their lives.

Be prepared.
Many of the men in the stories died because they failed to follow the old Boy Scout adage to be prepared. Several ventured out without adequate provisions or any kind of contingency supplies for emergencies. Something as simple as a ninety-nine cent space blanket could have saved more than one of the guys who met an untimely end.

Think clearly.
Failing to think clearly resulted in the deaths of several in the book. Many who found themselves in trouble made wrong choices that resulted in things unraveling just a bit more — which led them to make another wrong choice until this cycle resulted in their death.

Live to adventure another day.
This should be the mantra of every adventurer. Sometimes you have to make the hard choice to turn around short of your goal and go back home — and then return to try another day.

In 1908, Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton made the hard call to turn back when he was within reach of the South Pole. After assessing his situation, he determined that if he pressed on he and his men would run out of food and die on the way back. He later wrote to his wife, “I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”

Whether your adventures take you to Big Bend or other locations, I recommend reading this book. If nothing else, the stories will cause you to reevaluate your planning and to take a second look at your gear, your route, and your preparedness. I remain committed to careful planning lest I become the next story of death or rescue in Big Bend or elsewhere.


  1. Well said Brother.

    Thank you

    Barry Beaman
    Houston Methodist West Hospital
    Stationary engineer.

  2. Omar, I love how you have summarized the book in a few bullet points. I’ve enjoyed both the outdoor adventures and the book studies. Thanks for your leadership in guiding so many men to become better fathers to their kids and better husbands to their wives. Blessings and looking forward to the next adventure!!!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Selim.

  3. So much wisdom in this!

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