Did you ever forget where you parked for a hike?

2:52 p.m. on March 3, 2015 (EST)
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This might stir some stories and memories and incidentally make me feel better all at the same time.

Last weekend I drove to my trailhead in the dark. It was a GSMNP road that was gated due to snow and ice but had multiple parking lots along the way (that are fairly identical as it turns out).

I had mistakenly brought two sets of keys with me, and not wanting to carry both, left one set in the console of my car under some junk. I remember thinking, "hmmm, probably should not have left a set in the car" but this thought only occurred after I was miles away on a trail.

So when I came out last Sunday afternoon, my stomach flopped when I arrived to an empty parking lot. I started running through the things I needed to do: call the local police and file a report, call my wife to come get me, change all the locks on our house (yes I had left house keys on the ring), try to remember what all I left in the car, etc....

Luckily I didn't have cell signal at that spot so I kept walking towards the road entrance at the main highway. Lo and behold my car was sitting all alone in a parking lot that looked just like the one I became depressed at. lol

On one hand it was a harmless way to learn a lesson, but on the other it was unneeded mental trauma!

Am I the only doofuss that will admit to this? :)


3:24 p.m. on March 3, 2015 (EST)
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I was told my "...car was left at South Lake -- or was it North Lake. Uh, it was dark - ya know?"

Bishop/Piute Pass trail head area, Bishop CA.

Returning from Roper Route, message passed on verbatim from ranger who was told I'd probably ask where it was.

7:41 p.m. on March 3, 2015 (EST)
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It happens man.

I hiked out to an empty parking lot once, I did freak out for a moment but I saw a sign that said: "Parking area closed - Use new parking at next turn off."

I had parked at the new parking area, but somewhere on the hike back out I had veered onto an older trail that led to the old parking area.


Many years ago (that makes it less embarrassing) I made a mistake hiking back out of the Chattahoochee NF in NE Georgia.

On the way in I had counted the number of streams I crossed, including a line of high voltage towers. I had only made two turns and those were both at streams and because I had to find a good place to cross.

I don't know what went wrong, but when I headed back out I ran into a long sandstone cliff that I hadn't passed coming in. I had to go right or left, I went right and hiked for about 30 minutes before I climbed up a long slope and over the cliff.

Found the power lines and was relieved, but when I finally walked out of the woods onto the gravel road where I parked on the side of the road, there was no truck.

I went left, I went right, no truck. It got dark.

Some very nice hikers gave me a ride to my truck, they had passed it a mile back down the road and stopped to ask if I was okay.

11:17 p.m. on March 3, 2015 (EST)
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Does losing a canoe while on an island count?

i did lose my car one year after a grateful dead show at deer creek----parked way way way far away through a few fields and after show thought it was closer in.......and was convinced that they had towed it away as it was late and thought it would be weird that I was the only one towed.......

10:47 a.m. on March 4, 2015 (EST)
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Not lost my car, but twice I have absentmindedly missed passages leading back out of caves, which, in turn, led to some interesting questions of 1) where am I? and 2) how do I get back to the surface?

11:05 a.m. on March 4, 2015 (EST)
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My biggest anxiety is when I get to the trailhead and realize that I forgot my parking pass but decide to risk it anyway.  Returning to the TH I always expect a ticket but I have been lucky the two times I did this.

10:16 a.m. on March 5, 2015 (EST)
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I used to work in the field all the time, and left vehicles in places where there was no help and no signs. We had no cell phone service.  The first thing we learned was to put the vehicle in a place where you can find it from a long way away.  I never lost track of a vehicle once, and in the open country I could often see it from 5-8 or more miles away.  Sometimes we would get back to the vehicle in the dark especially in winter, and it was imperative that we be able to find it. I drove white trucks for a long time because they showed up so well even in low light conditions.

11:15 a.m. on March 9, 2015 (EDT)
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I have left my white vehicle on a nondescript ridge, planning a circle route in unfamiliar territory.  It was a foggy day, with-more coming, so I took a GPS reading, before leaving.  Good thing too....

3:09 p.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
andrew f. @leadbelly2550
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I have returned to find my car marooned in an igloo-sized mound of snow.  it's a buzz kill getting to your car with dreams of a greasy slice of pizza or a steaming plate of eggs & hash, then realizing it's going to be at least a half hour with a shovel to get out.   

3:42 p.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

I have returned to find my car marooned in an igloo-sized mound of snow.  it's a buzz kill getting to your car with dreams of a greasy slice of pizza or a steaming plate of eggs & hash, then realizing it's going to be at least a half hour with a shovel to get out.   

I think that's why they say you should always bring a shovel with you on winter trips :p Imagine getting back to the car and having to dig out by hand or with a snowshoe.

3:57 p.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
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Good stuff everyone thanks!

A couple of years ago I was the last car on a road that closes for winter; the Rangers closed it early due to snow and ice and left a note on my car telling me where I could get cell signal to call 911 if I couldn't drive out..... and if I could drive out, to lock the gate behind me. :)

7:42 p.m. on March 20, 2015 (EDT)
Bill S
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One of the favorite places to take Scouts snow-camping is parking the cars alongside the road just below Dodge Ridge ski area and heading up to Aspen Meadows or a ways beyond. We have returned after a few days in the backcountry to find the cars trapped behind a wall of ice, where the snowplows have piled the snow pushed off the road into a snowbank that turns into an ice wall - no fun digging that out.

Another time, I had a similar incident to Patman - middle one October, I was well up on one of the Sierra passes, parked and headed into a nice camping place on my skis, when a Highway Patrol officer stopped and informed me that, due to the big storm due that night, the gates on the road over the pass would be locked in a couple hours. He told me they would not be unlocked until the Spring thaw. He said "your choice, but if you can't drive out, you will have to hike to the gate, no tow trucks, no snowplows, and that's about 15 miles. And we won't come out to unlock the gates." I decided that discretion was the best choice and drove down to the parking area/SnoPark just beyond the gates to spend the night and do a bit of touring. Glad I did, since I got 2 feet overnight, plus snowing hard the next morning. The plow operator was kind enough to clear the road into the SnoPark parking lot., though I did have to dig a bit to let my 4WD get the 3 car-lengths to the cleared road.

4:42 p.m. on March 21, 2015 (EDT)
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I never had a car to forget where it was, but once about 25 years ago I was here in Tucson and biked to the trailhead and locked my bike and went hiking. After a 3 miles walk on the trail I realized I had dropped my bike keys somewhere. I turned around, rushing down the trail to look for them. I walked all the way back to where I locked my bike at the visitor center area and there they were laying on the ground beside my bike. I had been gone for over an hour, yet no one had picked them up or noticed them, I guess. I turned around went back on my hike but went a different way being I had already hike 6 miles on the route I had.

9:22 p.m. on March 21, 2015 (EDT)
John Starnes
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Its not a matter of remembering where I parked but where in the heck am I and were I was intending to go.

9:13 a.m. on March 24, 2015 (EDT)
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After 5 memorable days of hiking and fly fishing on the clear, emerald Pelorus River (New Zealand’s South Island), two friends and I returned to the trailhead hoping to see our ride. We had another friend planning to pick us up, but for the life of us, we couldn’t remember if we had agreed upon 2pm or 3pm. We arrived at 2pm, with no sight of our ride. No big deal. Thinking it must have been 3pm after all, we simply sat, waited, and like many guys do, found things to throw rocks at for an hour (sorry, I have no idea if ladies do this rock-throwing thing too).

Come 3pm, still no sign. By 4:30 or so, we decided that it wouldn’t kill us to start walking toward the main road. Because the trailhead was 5 miles down a farm road from the actual road, we knew there was only one way to the trailhead and it would be impossible for our ride to drive past us.

Halfway back to the main road, a farmer and his kids spotted us and graciously gave us a ride to the main road - albeit with a mean dog in the van and with a pre-teen child aiming a BB gun at us from the front seat. Back at the main road, where we finally had enough cell reception to call our ride, they informed us that they had dropped the transmission in their car and that we were on our own to get home. They didn't forget us after all and we quickly realized that they were in more of a predicament than us.

The trip ended with us hitchhiking back home, and having the coolest pseudo-Rastafarian Maori semi-truck driver pick us up. First time hitchhiking and first time in a big rig. 

9:58 a.m. on March 24, 2015 (EDT)
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In the 1970s and later it was easy to hitch hike in the US. I used to go backpacking with my dog and do loop trips. In one trailhead and out another one. People were good about picking up bpers on lonely roads then.  That is how you get rides with a car load of Indians in a 56 Buick with no backseat, or one of Ken Kesey's friends on the way to the Rainbow Festival or the Bend in the River Festival.  There was no car to keep track of, and all strangers were potential friends.

10:35 a.m. on March 24, 2015 (EDT)
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I understand that it’s somewhat of a different era now, but man you can’t count on hitching around here. It’s even hard to get a ride in the GSMNP these days.

Last year some nice fellows got in trouble with a ranger for giving me a ride because of where they pulled over to let me out at a trailhead (not fully out of the roadway); I felt terrible and I bet it’s the last time they do that for anybody.

I don’t plan routes that have road walks that I’m not willing to do fully anymore; just can’t count on someone stopping these days.

I'll pick up just about anyone with a backpack; that's my people after all. :)

10:37 a.m. on June 18, 2015 (EDT)
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It is still easy to hitchhike on the back roads with a paddle in your hands.

6:48 p.m. on June 18, 2015 (EDT)
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I must have missed this thread the first time...two stories from my early ventures to make you feel smarter. Took my college roomate and his brother on their first backpacking trip and we parked one car at an unmarked trailhead area that looked right on the map when we got there. Turns out after two days of difficult hiking for newbies that our unmarked trailhead was different from the one we parked at. Ended up hiking another 4 miles along gravel roads in the hot sun. I bought the beer that night!

The other one is not losing a car, but losing the water...paddled a canoe out to an island in an estuary area for the first night. We got up early the next day as we had a long day of paddling ahead to keep to plan. However the tide was at low ebb and there was about 200 ft of salt marsh muck between our canoes and the water. Took over an hour for us to drag them through the muck to the water as every time we kept sinking. We were covered in mud and needed a good swim to clean off. Had a hard time moving the canoes and later paddling because we were laughing so hard...I learned to pay more attention to a tide chart after that.

8:16 a.m. on June 19, 2015 (EDT)
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"I never get lost because people are always telling me where to go."

July 12, 2020
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