Lost on memory lane

7:11 p.m. on March 1, 2009 (EST)
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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?

11:36 p.m. on March 1, 2009 (EST)
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440 forum posts

Yep. Not me, of course. But I've seen it happen to er, uh--a "friend". I've never suffered anything more than a moment's confusion about direction, but I expect most of us have pushed the envelope when we think we know the address, the post office, and even the local postmaster.

It may be useful here to note that I also try to cultivate the habit of noting general direction of travel as often as possible and making a mental note of easily-recognized landmarks, etc. Another useful step is to stop occasionally and look backwards. Trails, roads, and what-not never look the same from the other direction.

11:42 p.m. on March 1, 2009 (EST)
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20 forum posts

Holy Crap! Good thing everything worked out ok. One time I went fishing with my Uncle and my friend in the Everglades. We lauched the boat at about 5 am and headed back into about a 50' wide canal. We fished all day long catching sea trout and redfish. It started getting late so we decided we would go ahead and head home. Well we went to start the motor and the battery was dead. It was a newer boat and the factory had wired the trolling motor to not only the trolling motor battery but the engine battery so we had a dead battery. We then realized that our GPS was dead too along with our VHF radio. We had no cell phone service so we had no idea where we were. It took us about four hours to get where we were by trolling motor so we figured we were about 10 miles away from the canal opening. We had not seen a boat all day. So we started to worry. We didnt have any jackets, long pants or bug spray so we sat and brainstormed. We knew we wernt going to try and swim because the alligators and there was no dry land in sight so we decided to figure something out. We sat there for about 2-3 hours and by this time the no seeums and mosquitos went from bad to worse so we decided we were going to try and pull start the motor. We poped off the engine cowling and used some tools my uncle brought with him to access a way to pull start it. We got a rope wrapped around the crank shaft and we all three pulled. We pulled and pulled and pulled. Finally after about 20 pulls we got it started. The only problem now was we had no steering because our hyrdaulics was out. So we opened the hyrdaulics valve and manually pushed the moter in the directon we wanted it to go. About two hours later we arrived safely back at the dock. It was about 9pm but atleast we made it home safe and sound.

5:58 p.m. on March 2, 2009 (EST)
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29 forum posts

Perry Clark, like your point of view, maybe I should have posted how my "friend" got lost in the woods. The post office reference sounds too familiar, and when it happens, I always blame it on the dogs waking me up at 4:00 AM... must be fatigue (not a "senior moment", too young for that)

Mountainfitter, my brother lived in Florida for 10 years, the mosquitoes in the Everglades are the size of small birds, your experience with them reminds me of something out of a Hitchcock movie.... luckily you were able to fend them off, and get the motor started before the gators got you. I've heard those gators are huge and eat small dogs, children, and men stealing their fish (gators, usually don't eat the boat, too much fiber)

11:24 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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40 forum posts

Laughingbear and Mtnfitter-I'm glad all worked out for ya both.

I've only got, how did Daniel Boone say it? 'bewildered' twice.

The first time is too long of a story to tell here tho I will say it was in such familar territory it was like my backyard and to this day I swear I was in another time but the same place that I knew...and I was completely unprepared to stay in the woods that night and fortunately didn't have too.

The other was in the dark in an area just as familar.

I left my car and headed off into the woods. A half later hour I looked through the fog and saw a car and I remember my first thought' When the hell did they build a road back here?"

It was my car!!:)

Oops! But two in so many years ain't so bad. Funny now, prolly wasn't then.

August 21, 2014
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