Category Archives: Wilderness Skills

So You’re Lost In The Wilderness….Now What?

This has happened to us all before, to some degree, on a hike or even a simple walk into the wilderness.

We had allowed ourselves to get distracted, and we somehow lost the trail we were on, or lost our direction on how to get back to the safety of our vehicle.

As a member of search and rescue, I take interest in learning about and discussing lost person behavior. This knowledge had helped our teams locate lost people more quickly.

It also motivates me to learn about the best steps to take, what things would be the best to do when you get caught in this situation.

While the concept of being lost on the trail or being separated from our hiking companions is terrifying, the actions we take over the course of the first few minutes can rapidly increase or decrease our chances of getting out safely.

First, let’s back up to before you got lost in the first place, and was planning on this particular trip.

Did you….

1. Plan out your trip ahead of time, and check on the weather and any hazards on this particular trail and area?

2. Bring your ten essentials?

3. Communicate ahead of time to someone responsible of the trail and the route you were taking, and approximate time of your expected return?

(Please review the link below if you are new to hike planning, or want to learn more about it)

Once you have become lost, here are the steps, as recommended by the Forest Service, that you need to take to make yourself more likely to be found…

Stop


As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.

Think

Try to retrace in your mind how you got to where you are. What landmarks do you remember, and should be able to easily see? Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step.

Observe

Get out your map and compass, and determine the directions based on where you are standing. Do not walk aimlessly.

If you are on a trail, stay on it. Most trails are marked with signs, where intersections meet and where you may find points of interest. This information could be helpful for somebody to come and find you.

Plan

Based on your clear thinking and observations, think of some possible plans. Think them through, then act on one of them once you are convinced this is the best action to take.

If you are not very, very confident in the route, if it’s nightfall, or if you are injured or you are near exhaustion, stay in place.

Self Rescue

If you are feeling up for a self rescue, here are some guidelines to follow.

  1. Stop and take a breather when your body is telling you to. Don’t expend your energy too early.
  2. Remember to take rest, food, and water breaks, even though your mind maybe racing a mile a minute.
  3. Drink plenty of water, not just on your breaks, but also while you are hiking to find your way back. Dehydration will increase your stress and frustration, while depleting your energy rapidly.
  4. Take the time to deal with small issues while they are still small. If you ignore your body and gear and just keep pushing, the pain, illness, or risk of injury will only get worse and make recovery more difficult.
  5. Avoid hiking, if possible, on highly exposed areas on hot days. If you are on a trail such as this, find a shady spot and stay there until the temperature cools down. Adjust you’re hiking pace to what you can comfortably maintain and rest when you feel necessary.

Hope you find this information useful (or, better yet, never will need it!)

Be safe out there!

Leave No Trace Principles…Are you Bringing These Along On Your Adventures?

As we all know, the 10 essentials of hiking is very important. These essentials will not only make our adventures more enjoyable, but are usually necessary to get us back out of the wilderness safely.

I recently took an online Leave No Trace awareness course, and had become certified. This had helped both educate and remind me how important these principles are.

I always feel that I do a good job of protecting the wilderness when I am out there, but also realize there is a lot more to learn about these very important concepts.

The 7 current Leave No Trace Principles are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces.
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly (Pack It In, Pack It Out)
  4. Leave What You Find.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts.
  6. Respect Wildlife.
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

I had actually made a couple of changes recently to decrease my own impact on the wilderness.

First thing I did was disband my Facebook hiking group.

I enjoyed being a group leader and always enjoy the company of hiking partners, but I also found that I allowed this hiking group to get too big. I was bringing too many people out at once, and realized I was sometimes disrupting or even possibly creating damage to the wilderness areas by doing this.

Now, I simply send out texts to smaller groups when I plan a hike, backpack, or a photo shoot and want company.

The second change that I made, was I stopped sharing photos to the large hiking groups on Facebook and Instagram.

This scenic barn rests in the meadow near Cle Elum.

If you are curious about this, you can read about my main reasons for quitting social media here:

While I initially enjoyed sharing the photos and hikes that I had done, I had realized that instantly sharing these locations to tens of thousands of strangers was not doing the ecosystem any good.

I had included a link below, if you are interested in the Leave No Trace course, and would also like to obtain certification (it’s free).

See you on the trails, and I welcome any feedback in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, and see you next Tuesday!

Now May Be The Time For Adventure Planning

Now that we are all spending time at home, it may be the time to plan some adventures, for when we are able to go out and visit these destinations again.

I thought I would share a hike planning tutorial I had created, and had recently updated.

I’m hoping it may have some ideas you may be looking for, while we have some downtime on our schedules!

What type of adventures are you planning? Is the link above helpful? Please let me know in the comments!

Have a great day,

Mirek

Can You Guess Which Word is the Opposite of “Lost”?

This answer may affect your outlook on the fears of being lost in the wilderness.

Aware.

Yes, constantly being aware of your suroundings is the opposite of being lost.

Sounds obvious enough, but I had never given this any thought when I first started hiking.

Think about it….distractions on the trail, even on a well planned adventure, very easily cause us to lose our bearings.

When I first became a member of Search & Rescue, the first run of callouts that we had received for lost persons in the wilderness were mushroom hunters.

What?

I thought we would only be looking for lost hikers, and lost backpackers, that somehow miscalculated their routes and became lost. I thought that’s really the only type of lost persons in the wilderness that SAR went out to look for.

Nope.

So why were all these mushroom hunters getting lost?

It makes sense now. They get distracted.

They tend to lose awareness, since they are following these amazing patches of mushrooms for hours, until darkness falls and they suddenly realize they are no longer aware of where they are.

Even though we all may plan our adventures well, constant distraction can lead us to lose our bearings, which only gets worse as the minutes tick by.

So I add this concept of awareness to my evergrowing list of 10+ essentials, and I now actually consider this a wilderness skill.

There are amazing vistas, photo ops, caves, and interesting side trails that constantly distract us. They may lead us away from our planned route, and in some cases, allow us to lose track of where we are.

So next time you head out on an adventure, you may also want to consider adding awareness to your wilderness skills, if you don’t do this already.

Do this by periodically quizzing yourself of your current location on your map, especially when chasing that photo op or exploring an interesting side trail.

Happy Trails!