(Accidentally) Lost in the Wilderness
My ego will take a hit, but I will share with you a recent escapade, when I got lost in the Red Mountain Wilderness. I was completely prepared for a full day hike, with a good amount of water, some snacks, and a couple of maps. I had, on the other hand, forgotten my cell phone in the car and my hiking partner had left the GPS unit behind.
We swiftly walked down a well trampled sandy path for a few hours when it abruptly disappeared. We knew our placement on the map from point A to point B and the general direction we should take, but apart from that, there were absolutely no indications of other human passage. That is to be expected in Wilderness, I know, but we anticipated to at least catch glimpses of footprints scattered here and there (a common mistake). Nothing.
We are atop of a mountain and just see other mountain tops as far as the eye can see, but we know that there is a way back down closer than the four hour return trip. So, we march on—up and down steep cliffs and deep sandy channels between the brush, getting our hopes up at every potential opportunity to just as quickly feeling betrayed by Mother Nature and fearful that we might have to spend the night a la belle etoile.
As the sun was threatening to fall, our pace quickened and our spirits dampened. Were we really going to have to sleep up here? My legs started to numb as I repeated in my head, like a mantra, “you will continue on, you will continue on…” The sky darkened and thunder rumbled above the not-so-distant Beaver Dam Mountains. After what seemed like an eternity, we came across some teenagers who were familiar with the area and pointed us in the right direction: down a steep rocky mountain side—which I do not recommend doing, even in broad daylight! With the help of my hiking partner’s phone flashlight we managed to make it down with just a few scratches and bruises, and immediately vowed to be way more prepared for our next adventure!
- Don’t skip the planning stage! What are the area and weather conditions?
- Always bring the 10 essentials: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid kit, fire starter, multi-tool or knife, food, water (one gallon per person per day), and an emergency shelter.
- Tell someone exactly where you are going, with whom, and when you will return. If your plans change, let them know. This can save valuable time in case of a search and rescue operation.