Lost: On a Mountain in Maine

This blog is neither about: 1) the culmination of one of the most talked about TV shows ever, or 2) a classic survival story about a young boy missing on Mount Katahdin. It's about a hiking hat. A hiking hat lost on a trail in Maine.

I am completely responsible for losing said hat on Thursday (if you're curious, it was a Tilley with Insect Shield I was testing). I wore it while hiking up Mount Blue, but after my kid, from her perch in the child carrier, yanked it off my head for the umpteenth time, waved it in my sweaty face, then dropped it, I lashed it onto the kid carrier, where it stayed securely all the way up the mountain and some unknown distance partway down the mountain. Sadly, once we returned to the trailhead, it was gone.

We ran back up the trail a ways; no hat. I came back and hiked the trail again today; no hat. I called the State Park office; no hat (though the lady I spoke with sounded genuinely sorry for me; I reassured her that I would be okay).

While it was a very nice hat (and I can report that the Insect Shield does work!), it was not an item of great personal value, nor was it irreplaceable (if it had been my grubby Trailspace hat, that would have been another story). It's my own fault for losing it. What bugs me is that someone came across a practically-brand-new hat on the trail, a hat that was not theirs, and decided to keep it.

The rules for dealing with lost items on the trail seem to be unwritten and situations can be highly variable and require a judgment call. So, here are my own basic suggestions for obviously lost gear:

  • For most non-valuables, like hats, lone gloves, a water bottle, I'd either leave them at the trailhead (assuming you know from what trailhead the owner came) or on the trail or a trail junction in a prominent spot, near where you found them, in the hope that the owner will return.
  • For valuables, like a camera, GPS, or wallet, I would take them and either contact the person directly (easy with a wallet or labeled camera) or hand them in to park authorities to do so, if applicable. If the owner was unidentified, I'd leave a note at the trailhead and with whatever organization oversees the trail to find the owner and hopefully return the item.
  • You should use common sense and some judgment. No one needs to pursue a wild goose chase to reunite a fellow hiker and his or her lip balm. But consider what basic level of action (or non-action, i.e. don't steal) that you'd want someone to take if the situation was reversed. At the least, give a fellow hiker a chance of getting back their own gear.
  • If you're not sure whether something was lost or left on purpose, leave it there, in case it was stashed for future use. If you're unsure and concerned there might be a lost hiker, you can always notify authorities.
  • Oh yeah, and label any gear you'd like returned to you (this only works if honest hikers find it first).

This is the first piece of gear I can recall personally losing (we won't count the ice axe a friend left in the snow on the top of Mount Washington). So I've had a good run. But, I can't help thinking that there is someone out there hiking around with a size-7 3/8 hiking hat that doesn't belong to him or her. I'd like to imagine it's a raccoon or moose enjoying a reprieve from Maine's black flies and mosquitoes.


Filed under: Gear News

Comments

noddlehead
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263 forum posts
May 23, 2010 at 10:56 p.m. (EDT)

Hummmmmmm?? 7 3/8" would fit quite well on this bean of mine.


I used to be a gopher........... Oh, that's not right........... OH! I mean a golfer. I had the same happen with a $150.00 dollar wedge.

trouthunter
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May 24, 2010 at 12:24 a.m. (EDT)

Alicia,

I can sympathize, somewhere on Waldens Ridge TN. there is a fairly expensive knife I lost, sheath and all! Well, probably someone has found it by now, that was ten years ago. It did not have my name on it and I can only hope it was found by someone who was in need of a nice knife. Hopefully someone who could not afford a knife like that at the time.

I had taken my pants belt off because my packs waist belt was uncomfortable with the two of them riding in about the same spot. I then stowed the knife in the water bottle pocket of my pack. Upon taking a break I realized the knife was gone, after retracing the trail for about a mile or better I gave up. Sometimes it takes a little while for the brain to accept the loss of an item. I'm still waiting for that to happen.

I do agree with your thoughts on lost items, there are few things more noble or rare these days than a little honesty, and doing what you can to help a fellow human being get a lost item back in their possession.

Maybe there should be a hikers lost & found website? It could also include trail angel and shuttle info.

f_klock
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762 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 7:50 a.m. (EDT)

I once found a nearly fully equipped (inexpensive) day pack along a trail in Hickory Run State Park, near Boulder Field. Full water bottle, snacks, camera, trail map, bug spray, and inexpensive binocs. I called out, blew my whistle, and left a note on the way in. On my way out, hours later, the pack was still there. As a SAR person, I took measures to ascertain if there were any missing or overdo persons in the park - there were none. Sooo, I picked up the pack and kept it.

NO, of course I didn't! I took it to the park office and gave it to the desk clerk. One of life's little mysteries I guess.

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
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May 24, 2010 at 8:41 a.m. (EDT)

As a SAR person, I took measures to ascertain if there were any missing or overdo persons in the park - there were none. Sooo, I picked up the pack and kept it.

NO, of course I didn't! I took it to the park office and gave it to the desk clerk. One of life's little mysteries I guess.

Ha ha! You had me for a second there, f_klock!

That pack is a mystery. Maybe someone tried hiking and decided it wasn't for them...

One thing I've noted about this issue is that the more expensive or attractive a lost item is, the less chance people believe there is of getting it back. In my mind, that's a bit backwards. If you come across something expensive and/or important that someone else lost in the woods, on a golf course, or wherever, shouldn't you feel more compelled to help someone get it back? Shouldn't it be harder to rationalize keeping it? Gee, do you really think someone doesn't want that $150 golf club back?

I don't care too much about this particular hat. I have others. I have no personal attachment to it. But, I really thought it would be at the trailhead, or hanging off a tree limb on the trail, when I went back yesterday. It's not a very busy trail and the trailhead is 6 miles in on a dirt road, so you don't get random passersby.

My husband said it would be gone when I went back, but I thought it was worth a shot. I was wrong. Oh well.

GaryPalmer
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4,071 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 10:08 a.m. (EDT)

I once found a down jacket in Yosemite one morning as I was walking along the valley trail. It had a passport for some guy from Finland, along with 1800 dollars in unsighned American Express travelers checks, his own wallet and 20 pin joints ofpot. I left it on the trail where I found it and when I returned two hours later it was surprisingly still there. It had been tucked away in a rock crevice and I left it laying on top of a boulder. I took it to the NPS lost and found desk, but removed the joints figuring a foreigner didnt need the hassle from the PS apon getting his jacket back.

In the Parunuweap canyon outside Zion NP I lost a leatherman knife. I had sat down to cut some cheddar cheese, laid the knife down and when I got up to leave couldn't find it. I brushed the dirt aside and still it had been swallowed up by the ground somewhere. An hour later I met a couple who had caught up to me and was telling them about loosing the knife. Apon hearing me the woman produced the leatherman saying they had found it back on the trail. Somehow I must have pushed it down away from where I had been sitting and dint look for it where it laid in open view. I was so reieved cause I had just bought it but a week before the trip and had no other knife with me.

tommangan
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415 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 1:38 p.m. (EDT)

I still want back that ThermaRest LiteSeat I lost at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve west of Palo Alto, CA, about three years ago.

I had a Dana Designs day pack with long zippers and forgot to zip up one side and somewhere it fell out. Seemed like too much trouble to go back looking for it, at the time.

Bill S
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May 24, 2010 at 3:25 p.m. (EDT)

Where in Monte Bello, Tom? (there is some discussion about whether it should be Monte Bello or Montebello, since both are used - but on the official website it is Monte Bello and on the USGS map it is Montebello).

Yesterday, Barb and I were hiking in Windy Hill OSP (for some reason, some are Open Space Reserves and others are Open Space Preserves), when we spotted a fold-up dog watering bowl hung on the post of a trail gate. Lots of dogs on the trail, so no way to determine which dog was thirstiest.

I rarely lose things that do not turn up later in my pack or were left at home. The worst are black objects lost in the bottom of a black pack. Then there was the time on Kilimanjaro when my GPSR that I was using to track the trail used on summit day demanded new batteries. I knew I had put spare batteries (AA) in my parka pocket, but they weren't there. After summiting and returning to camp to pack up the gear, I found them - in my pocket, under the spare camera battery.

tommangan
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415 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT)

Bill: somewhere on the trail up to Skyline Ridge OSP, I suspect. I was parked there and did a really long loop. Last saw it somewhere around that trail junction where the Nature Trail ends.

gonzan
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May 24, 2010 at 4:03 p.m. (EDT)

If you come across something expensive and/or important that someone else lost in the woods, on a golf course, or wherever, shouldn't you feel more compelled to help someone get it back? Shouldn't it be harder to rationalize keeping it?

I completely understand this thought! But I realized some time ago that a large percentage of people don't feel that same regard for others. When I find an expensive item I feel quite anxious for the person who lost it, and do everything I can to get it back to them. But experience tells me that all too many people will take the opportunity of picking up something new, literally, when they find a lost item.

Last summer I found a cell phone and a $1,200 Nikon 2.8 300mm lens sitting on a rock at a trail junction. Now, I am a Nikon guy, and would LOVE to have such a phenomenal lens, but my first reaction was "Oh my god, they must be sick with worry over losing this!" I rang a couple people in the call list of the cell phone and one of them was a member of the hiking party who left the lens and phone. They were SO relieved and amazed that someone had found it and hadn't run to the nearest pawn shop with it!

A year or so ago my brother accidentally left his laptop sitting on the roof of his car after unloading several other items as well as his kids from the car. He realized his mistake just minutes after he got inside the restaurant, but someone had already stolen it when he went back outside. >:(

whomeworry
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2,276 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 10:16 p.m. (EDT)

Oh, what to do?

One time my girl and I disappeared off the trail for a “interlude,” leaving our day packs and a trail of clothing behind. When we returned to the trail, all of our stuff was gone. We waited for dark (burrrrr!) then hiked back to the car, discovering our stuff, including our discarded clothes, hanging on a trail entrance sign. Was this the act of a Good Samaritan or rouge?

When I find stuff in the back country that lacks an identity, I leave it very close to its original location, in a more conspicuous stance if possible. My logic is the person will discover the article missing at the road head or next camp, and will double back to retrieve it. I believe that is the best case scenario for repatriating article to their owners. Returning items to the trailhead is a crap shoot, since many backcountry locations have multiple trailheads. Likewise park service lost and founds are haphazard at best, each generally only capable of fielding queries for articles returned to their specific station location.

If something is located very close to a trailhead, I will return it to the trailhead on my way back out, or leave it as described above, if I am through hiking.

The problem with doing anything with a discovered article is it may have been abandoned on purpose. Climbers and anglers purposefully stash equipment, retrieving it on their return trip. Such stashes may not be self evident. We once stashed a kit of ice axes, crampons, rope and anchors, in an obscure remote location, when we determined our objective would not require these implements. While we were gone, however, our gear was removed, perhaps ending up at a different trailhead, or some unknown ranger station, or adopted by their discoverers. In any case the finders took considerable effort to move the equipment since it was ten miles from the nearest trail head and weighed over fifteen pounds. I was not happy over this loss; it was all good equipment, and the rope was brand new.

I lost a great trad design caguole two years ago. Something you can’t easily replace, here in the states. It was my favorite foul weather garment. In my age I have grown to accept these losses in a more circumspect manner. The first thought that came to mind when I discoveresd it missing was “I hope it found a good, caring, new home.”
Ed

OldGuyInTheWoods
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4 forum posts
May 24, 2010 at 10:22 p.m. (EDT)

I have read all the inputs and can understand... I am a Metro Parks Trail Patrol Volunteer and you "would-not-believe" the items found on the trails and turned in, either to one of the volunteers or a Park Ranger... most of the people found on trails are a "cut-above" (in my opinion) compared to the couch potatoes... {can I say that?} :>)

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
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May 25, 2010 at 8:46 a.m. (EDT)

Many good points above, a lot of it comes down to common sense and good judgment (doesn't it always?).

Like Ed says, I would only take something back to the trailhead if I was certain it was lost and it came from there (a single out-and-back trail for example, like where I lost my hat). Otherwise, I'd leave it in a conspicuous spot on the trail (with the exception of wallets, cameras, and maybe cell phones, non-essential gear, that is still highly valuable and liable to be stolen by someone else).

And if there was any possibility the gear was stashed on purpose I'd leave it be. I'd hate to think of someone out there looking for their gear. If I wasn't sure, I'd report it to someone after the hike. But, in most cases, you should be able to tell the difference between an item accidentally dropped on the trail or left at a rest stop and gear purposefully stashed out of the way.

Common sense, good judgment and good intentions are essential.

To the honest folks, I think what goes around comes around. I also think most people, especially outdoorsy people, are good at heart.

GaryPalmer
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4,071 forum posts
May 25, 2010 at 10:13 a.m. (EDT)

Another time in Yosemite in 1980 I lost a wool balaclava hat. I was told by a ranger I could go to their lost and found and ask about it. When I did the ranger in charge told me to look in their shed, he said "if you don't find your take another one". Inside the shed it was packed top to bottom with tons of lost/found gear. I didnt even think it was organised it was so full. I did end up taking another wool hat that was simular to mine.

arcana1973
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11 forum posts
May 25, 2010 at 11:57 p.m. (EDT)

This past weekend while backpacking in the Alleghany National Forest I came across some pokeman toy. All I could think about was how some poor kid probably brought it along on their hiking/backpacking trip but dropped it, thus ruining their downtime at the campsite. I ended up placing it on a marker that thanked all the people who helped in the building of the trail. That way on the way back they might be able to see it and take it back home.

Thought I was doing myself a good dead. But the gods didn't seem to think so. When I arrived home and started unpacking, my Oakley sunglasses that I had left in a case attached to my strap was missing a lens. Somehow it must've popped out, although I can't imagine how since the thing was closed shut. Now I have to buy a whole new pair of lenses for them. Oh well, at least I still had the frames and now one extra lens incase the other one breaks.

Maybe when I hit that trail again I might find it!

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