- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

HANOVER, Pa. (AP) - Chances are, the massive snow-squall pileup on Interstate 78 that stranded occupants of 64 vehicles overnight in Lebanon County last month would have been but a minor inconvenience for Eric Bowman.

The emergency medicine doctor from Hanover, York County, who gives lectures on winter car survival, would have popped his trunk.

Among the 140 items inside would have been kitty litter for tire traction, a week’s worth of food, water, a cooking stove, extra clothing, tow straps to haul vehicles out of snow banks and a toilet seat that could be snapped onto a bucket for when nature called.

It’s just one clue that this is an extreme outdoorsman whose personal mantra is “find adventure.”

And one who has become a driving force in spreading the specialty practice of wilderness medicine.

At Wellspan York Hospital, where Bowman works in the ER, he has started and directs a wilderness medicine section that has outdoors-oriented residency candidates from all over the country knocking on the door.

And his annual three-day conferences, held entirely in the outdoors on his wooded property, have become go-to events for anyone wanting to be prepared for any curve the outdoors can pitch.

“It’s geared for any type of health care worker who has a passion for outdoor environments and knows they will be relied on for skills if something happens,” Bowman says.

Certainly, the 48-year-old knows stuff happens in the outdoors.

While whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon, his group experienced dehydration, exhaustion and what Bowman describes as “monotony that led to personal conflicts.”

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, he helped those with altitude sickness and himself got food poisoning after buying an “alpaca on a stick” from a street vendor.

He’s had panicky feelings and vertigo scuba diving. Once, diving in the Bainbridge Quarry in Conoy Township, he almost vomited in his mask.

He’s been bitten by snakes many times, though not by poisonous rattlesnakes or copperheads that he briefly picks up with a hooked stick to photograph.

But in just one example of the need for a specialty such as wilderness medicine, Bowman figures he and fellow ER docs handled 16 copperhead bites at York Hospital last year. He has handled several lightning strike victims.

In one of his best true outdoors encounters, Bowman talks about how he came across a grizzly bear while mountain biking near Big Sky, Montana. When the bear came closer, he slowly backpedaled - almost into the massive antlers of a grazing bull moose.

He’s had a wolverine in Wyoming hiss and bare its teeth at him. In Olympic National Park, he was charged by a grumpy mountain goat.

Two months later, he read that a man had been gored in the groin and bled to death by almost certainly the same goat.

He uses the encounters in mammal attack lectures he gives around the East Coast.

For the last 10 winters, he has been National Ski Patrol volunteer at Liberty Mountain Resort in Adams County.

Thirty years ago, the idea for wilderness medicine was created with the formation of the Wilderness Medical Society. Bowman completed the society’s fellowship program in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.

Eventually, Bowman hopes to get wilderness medicine established at all of Wellspan’s hospitals, including Ephrata Community Hospital, and have more people and hospitals with training around the country.

The overarching goal is to have more people out there not only able to take care of themselves but others in austere environments.

Bowman grew up in a row house in inner-city York. When he was 9, his parents took the family on a nine-week barnstorming tour of national parks west of the Mississippi. He was hooked.

In 2010, he and his wife, Katherine, took their four sons on a 46-day excursion of 30 national parks. The only thing Bowman remembers missing from back home was sweet Lebanon bologna.

Even now, he says, “Once a month, I have to get somewhere where I can have a campfire and smell the smoke and stare at the embers into the wee hours.”

Each fall, he hosts one of those campfire experiences with his Pennsylvania Wilderness Medicine & Survival Skills Conference. Its goal: “To provide you the education and the tools to be prepared for the unexpected when you seek out your next adventure.”

Though primarily those involved in medicine attend, the conference, to be held Sept. 16-18, is open to anyone. “These people are thirsty for some of the skill levels that have been lost,” Bowman says.

Everybody sleeps in tents, regardless of weather. Participants are well fed and there’s a pig roast. Dozens of experts lead training.

“Eric is not afraid to think out of the box,” says Cathy Stauffer a registered nurse from Mountville who has spoken several times at the conference on preparing for group travel in a foreign country.

The conference is capped at 200 and for the past few years, there has been a waiting list. To register or for more information, see Bowman’s website here.

“For most people, wilderness medicine is not needed. Most people are urbanites,” Bowman says. “But for any of us that go out and seek adventure, and to a degree everybody should be a little bit more knowledgeable about their own survival.

“The problem with society now is that it is complacent and reliant. Like Katrina, people were waiting for their government to help them. Why don’t people help themselves?”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1TB4NWw

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Information from: LNP, https://lancasteronline.com

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