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a couple of high profile stories recently about people lost in the wilderness in Hawaii and California resonate for me. I have spent most of my life hiking in some form or another and have lost my bearings enough to understand the risks. Fortunately, the situations i'm thinking about this year had happy endings, but it doesn't always end well.
A few observations:
-it's easier than we think to get lost. A stroll in well-known woods or on 'easy' trails, a quick divert off-trail to relieve yourself even. Having a map and compass and knowing how to use them, or a portable GPS with spare batteries, can make a big difference.
-planning for the worst is a good idea in terms of weather, water, food. Especially if you're in a place where you can quickly find yourself in extreme conditions. An unhealthy share of hiking tragedies involve dehydration, hypothermia, and falls for people who are in over their heads.
-Don't panic, remember your experience, if you find yourself lost or off-trail. This has gotten me out of multiple difficult situations.
-the weather and the terrain are the boss. Even the best-prepared people need to remember that sometimes, you just have to turn around.
-I like hiking with a partner or with groups. Though it's mostly for the company, having someone to talk with about a sticky situation has helped me assess and avoid bad decision-making more than once.
PS - someone recently published a book about a situation in 2013 when an AT through-hiker got lost and perished - closer than anyone would like to the trail. i haven't read it but recall reading about it at the time. https://www.amazon.com/When-You-Find-Body-Disappearance/dp/1608936902