29 forum posts
I put this under backcountry in order to point out one of my mistakes, and possibly mistakes that other seasoned folks are making when hiking in familiar territory. Are you leaving common sense at the trail head?
A couple of weeks ago I became lost for several hours in a small county park (700 acres) that I had worked at while in college (a long while ago).
It was early on a Sunday morning and I had made the two hour drive into the city to drop my teenage son off at an event. My plans were to go to the local mall. On my way there, I spotted a sign for the park I had worked at while in college. So I drove the extra 4 miles and pulled onto the park drive. It brought back so many memories and I was really looking forward to seeing the pond where I had spent so many lunch hours. I pulled into one of the lots, got out, grabbed my running shoes from the trunk and headed onto the trail marked with the brown arrow which leads to the pond. It was fairly warm, around 25 degrees so I was only wearing a T-shirt, sweatpants, lightweight down jacket, and thin gloves.
From what I remembered, it was only a 15 minute hike from that lot to the pond. Well, it wasn't, and I came to discover over the course of nearly three hours of hiking, that there were several trails marked with the brown arrow, crisscrossed by service roads, all of which were the same width and stone chipped. At one point I began following the stream which I "knew" lead to the pond, only to discover after several misdirections and turnarounds that the single stream of my youth was now split into three. Finally, the trail crossed the road, so I turned onto the road "knowing" it would lead me back to the parking area. After 15 minutes, it lead me, not to the parking lot, but to a major road, in the opposite direction... and this is not the way to discover your park has a new entrance. So I headed back down the road, got to the other end and discovered it was a turn around. I must have missed the point where the trail intersected, so I headed back up the road, found another lot, found the brown trail marker and started walking, and walking, and walking, while freezing since by then the wind had picked up and the temperature was falling. I tried to pick out trees at points where the trail split, only to discover that they all began to look alike. I could no longer tell if I was doubling back or not (of course the trees really were different, however, by that point they all looked identical). Finally, after 2 hours and 48 minutes of stumbling around, and laughing (it really was funny, here I was with over 25 years of solo, mostly winter hiking/packing experience, naturalist training, basic SAR and EMT training, and several years of work at this very park, and I was lost, and about to freeze to death probably a couple hundred feet from may car), I stumbled by sheer accident onto the lot where my car was parked. On the way out of the lot, I noticed the sign which pointed the directions for all "three" different exits. Just for fun, I drove around, found the nature center and went inside... the brown trail had four intersecting loops of varying mileage, there were 7 service roads, and three park roads.... none of which existed when I worked there ~20 years ago.
I was completely unprepared for all of this walking, I didn't eat breakfast, no cell phone, no one knew where I was, wrong clothing, no compass, no water, didn't bother to pick up a map, nothing... it was going to be a short 15 minute hike on the same trail that I spent hours a day on (many years ago)
Has anyone else ignored the obvious precautions just because it was going to be a short trip in familiar territory?