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Max Power
02-19-2006, 11:43
Nothing serious, like other stories we have heard, but still interesting.
http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/wb/xp-53431

Jack Tarlin
02-19-2006, 11:48
It wasn't serious because they were found.

It could have been quite serious.

People that think (or have stated here on Whiteblaze) that the Trail is so well marked that you can't get lost; or folks who think that you can simply bushwhack your way to rescue; or people who think that maps are an un-needed luxury item should take note of stories like this.

This sort of thing happens more often than you think,and there isn't always a happy ending.

Skyline
02-19-2006, 12:31
It wasn't serious because they were found.

It could have been quite serious.

People that think (or have stated here on Whiteblaze) that the Trail is so well marked that you can't get lost; or folks who think that you can simply bushwhack your way to rescue; or people who think that maps are an un-needed luxury item should take note of stories like this.

This sort of thing happens more often than you think,and there isn't always a happy ending.


Exactly right Jack, most of these events whether they have happy or tragic endings could be avoided.

Anyone can get into trouble out there, even the most experienced backpacker or NPS Ranger. But the vast majority of these incidents are rooted in poor preparation by hikers or tourons who could have used a dose of common sense before heading into the woods.

I see a window open here to plug two organizations that provide priceless services under extremely challenging conditions. I'm fairly certain such organizations exist up and down the whole AT.

This type of thing happens so often in Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest that our region has an organized group of volunteers just to deal with it: Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group. Link: http://smrg.asrc.net/PortalVB/DesktopDefault.aspx

SMRG is part of a larger organization: http://www.asrc.net/asrc/DesktopDefault.aspx

If any WBers are interested in participating in S&R on an ongoing basis, both groups are often looking for new members.

Max Power
02-19-2006, 13:58
The article wasn't to clear on how long they were missing before they started searching. I was surprised to here how much effort went into finding them, in what seems so quickly. For that I say the fire department/rescuers and the helicopter crew did a good job at getting out there immediately instead of waiting to make sure they were lost.

hopefulhiker
02-20-2006, 07:53
It's good to carry a map and compass. I hiked off the trail several times last year..Even with the trail well marked...

Smile
02-20-2006, 09:57
Interesting. What is it about this section of trail that warrants caution - bad/hard to follow blazes?

MOWGLI
02-20-2006, 10:52
In the mid-80s I was in a bar talking to a friend who I graduated high school with. His brother graduated the same year with us. I asked my friend (who was pretty lit at the time) "how's Timmy?" To which he responded, "we don't know."

He goes on to tell me that they found his car at a trailhead in Virginia but no one had seen or heard rom him in 6 months. I learned perhaps a year later that a hunter found his skeletal remains somewhere off the trail. Apparently he got lost, disoriented, and died of exposure. He was young, strong, and a great athlete. It can happen to anybody.

Sly
02-20-2006, 10:54
A couple guys going for a walk in the woods and getting lost may happen often but how many times to you hear about thru- or section hikers getting lost for anywhere near 4 hours? And would it be such a big deal? Generally the latter are more prepared, if only mentally.

wildbill4416
02-20-2006, 16:00
When I was about 14, my cousin and I went into the woods behind my house. We grew up in these woods, used to camp, hike and hunt in these woods our whole life. We were very familiar with this area. Well one day during the month of December we were out just messing around and decided to venture a little further into the woods than usual. It didn't seem like we went that far, but I noticed it started to get dark so we turned around and headed back out. It seemed like the darkness just fell on us like a blanket, in no time at all we could not see a thing. We were lost! It is amazing how the darkness changes everything. We ended up in bog up to our knees, got cut up by briars, my cousin lost his shoe in the bog, we were a mess. We ended up finding a big ditch that was dug by the forestry service and just followed the ditch until we finally seen the lights from a house. When we came out we were about 3 miles from where we went in.
I used to wonder how people would get lost in the woods, now I know. Sometimes even the best outdoors type people can make a mistake. That's one reason I always make sure I am prepared for anything, even if I am going on a short dayhike.

Tinker
02-20-2006, 16:22
While section hiking the AT through the White Mountains in New Hampshire, hardly a weekend went by when I didn't run into someone trying to get down to the road, an hour away, with 15 minutes of light left and no flashlight.

Casual dayhikers don't seem to have as much respect for the wrath of nature (especially understanding the dangers of hypothermia and dehydration [that's another thing which I've seen with greater regularity, hikers out for a trip they know will take all day, with a 16 oz. bottle of "yuppie water"]) as overnighters, weekenders, section hikers and, especially thruhikers, who often walk the thin, high, balancing wire of "how much is enough, and how much is too much?".

I never go out on a trail without a flashlight, at the least, and, if in hilly country, a map and compass and rain/wind protection for an unplanned bivouac. (I hike alone, generally).

The Solemates
02-20-2006, 16:28
I got lost going to the privy one night at the shelter just before Kent, CT (cant remember the name). I didnt bring my headlamp with me, it was a new moon that night, and it was pitch black under the cover of many large trees. The privy was a good 100 yards or so away from the shelter and there was no established trail to it. I made it there, but upon returning to the shelter, it took me nearly 15 minutes to find it, all the while calling my wife's name for some guidance, who slept like a hibernating bear through the whole thing. "Why didnt you answer me?" I ask. "What are you talking about" was her reply. I was yelling very loudly.

Almost There
02-20-2006, 18:05
I always carry my headlamp...on my head at night...and a spare set of batteries in my pack. It's amazing how people will keep trying to go after dark...when prudence would say pitch your tent and crawl in until daylight...even if you have to do it in the middle of the trail, better than suffering exposure/disorientation.

vipahman
02-20-2006, 20:22
Map, compass and light with spare batteries are your best friends. Darkness in the forest can be intimidating to anyone who isn't prepared. I have been guilty of hiking without a light myself in fading light. On a recent impromptu trip to Acadia NP, i decided to hike up to Cadillac Mtn late in the evening. While it was a calculated risk and I timed the trip up to figure out my turning point, I still made it back only because of a lot of trail running. I remember exiting that trail in almost total darkness. All I can say is that I got caught up in the emotion of hiking instead of making an intelligent decision.

Crazy Larry #1
02-20-2006, 20:41
i forgot the name of the lake between kincora and damascus but it was at that shelter sometime in early spring of 2001 that i got lost......i was doing one of my many zero days and i had went behind the shelter looking for more downed timber to cut up for fire wood.......it was thick with rhododendron........after i collected a good bunch i started heading back in the direction i thought i had come from...........it was a cloudy day and i was unable to find my way.......i panicked a bit and started yelling, no one was around..........all at once i just calmed down and prayed for someone to come walking down the trail that i could hear.........about two hours later i heard voices and waited for them to get nearer then i yelled..........they were able to guide me to their voices and where i came out at was about 4/10's of mile south of the shelter...........anyone can get lost, especially on a cloudy day....

AbeHikes
02-21-2006, 00:11
The first time I ever finished a hike at ASP, I hiked the last mile with a headlamp shining straight down at my boots. It was about 7 or 8PM and foggy as London. LED's shining into the mist are like high beams in the fog. I'd never been on the trail before and could barely find the blazes. That last .5 mile of switchbacks was maddening.

Sly
02-21-2006, 00:35
Map, compass and light with spare batteries are your best friends. Darkness in the forest can be intimidating to anyone who isn't prepared.

If lost, I'm not sure a map, in the forest, in the dark, even with a flashlight would do you much good without a GPS. For the most part, don't you need distinguishing landmarks to even know where you are on the map? And since the AT maps don't have latitude and longitude, a GPS wouldn't do you any good either.

Best bivouac and wait for the morning....

Mouse
02-21-2006, 09:29
It can happen very easily.

In GSNP I made a wrong turn and found myself atop LaConte Peak, five miles away from the AT. By then it was late afternoon and too late to get back that day. I was lucky, there was a lodge and shelter on the summit, but it could have turned out differently. Early someone else made a wrong turn in the Nantahala Wilderness and it took him four days before he finally reappeared, before the end of which it was said over 200 Search and Rescue workers were out looking for him.

Newb
02-21-2006, 14:19
Just this last weekend I was fishing in the Washington National Forest at Cub Run. There is a prominent dirt fire road, a noisome creek and no vegetation on the trees. Yet, I walked about 50 yards back into a draw to answer a call of nature and actually had a moment of disorientation when trying to pick my way back.
The "trail" I had followed appeared to fork around a small hill and I for the life of me couldn't remember or recognize which way to go...

I'm just saying....you think you got it all straight and then mother nature intervenes.

RockyTrail
02-21-2006, 14:42
Nothing serious, like other stories we have heard, but still interesting.
http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/wb/xp-53431

Maybe it was that dude talking on the cellphone not paying attention to where he was going:D

D'Artagnan
02-21-2006, 15:27
One of the things I think a lot of folks unfamiliar with mountain area backpacking are surprised by is just how fast the sun sets in the evenings. You can't assume that sunset is the same time of day it is if you're a flat-lander. Once the sun sinks behind a hill, you'd better know where you are or be prepared with an artificial light source. Everything looks different in the dark. I'm glad this story didn't end the way all too many of them do.

Hikerhead
02-21-2006, 20:06
There's been a couple of crazy instances of people getting lost on the trail around here the last couple of years. I think it was last year another day hiker got lost on Dragons Tooth. Instead of going back down the rocks toward the parking lot on 311, he kept on walking south. Walked 5 miles to Trout Creek, CROSSED THE ROAD, and was walking up Brushy Mtn towards the Audie Murphy monument when they found him. He passed within 100 yards of a house with other houses around and still went back into the woods and kept on going. What I can't understand, how can they forget about the hand over hand climbing that it took to get up on top. After walking about 15 minutes on a nice ridge walk, seems like something would click and say Hey, I'm suppose to go down a real steep rocky area. I don't know where they found this last hiker but I would guess that he did the same thing. And there is a big sign post there pointing the way down. What a book some of these stories would make, "How I got lost, true stories of lost hikers." I hope I never get lost so that I won't have to eat all of this....

Alligator
02-21-2006, 22:21
...And since the AT maps don't have latitude and longitude, a GPS wouldn't do you any good either.

Best bivouac and wait for the morning....
Some of them do and some of them don't. I looked at a few with mixed results. Having a coordinate system on the map that can be tied to the GPS reading will certainly improve the utility of the GPS.

Burn
02-21-2006, 23:01
I was hunting in Arkansas one time many moons ago and when i missed the only buck that showed cause i didn't carry a p-bottle and got caught looking dead eye to eye with the buck, i was pissed and decided to hike back into the cabin and chill and try again the next day. well i was hunting on 40 acres on a square plat more or less. I came to another house at the fence line 3 times, a road to nowhere 2 or 3 times, the deerstand any number of times, but no matter what i did, i could not do anything but walk in circles. I laughed and said, ok i am not going to hike to the cabin on this try, and sure enough, after 3 hrs of the former fiasco, i went straight there cause i didn't want to get there....odd, but true.

also lost my wallet and didn't discover it gone till i had driven 2 hrs away, i had to go back and sure enough, was right where i didn't expect it to be....went right to it. this time i was well equipped at not finding my truck that i didn't want to redrive back to TN in....made it first try.

the trail is the 6-18 inch deep gully....the rocks with no moss or traces of mud only, the white thingies on trees and when in doubt, follow the maintainance...by the time you hike a few miles, you understand that the pressure treated waterbars don't grow naturally like that out there, someone didn't believe in leave no trace and put arsnic all over the woods....sheez. oh, the trail is also the open space that has been deforested 4 ft wide so trees can blow down in the way so you can go around them and extend the length of the trail another 15ft per tree blown down per year.

Trail Dog
02-22-2006, 07:56
the wife and i got sorta lost here and ended up in a parking lot 2 miles from the trail crossing

saimyoji
02-22-2006, 11:53
I encountered a couple in the parking lot at Dunnfield Creek, they had lost their way. They had parked in the overflow lot a hundred yards or so past the main lot. To get there you have to hike through the woods a ways....it was still early afternoon and they had no gear. I guess they just forgot which way they came...I do that all the time at work. :cool:

bearbait2k4
02-23-2006, 12:24
It's easy for anyone to get lost in the woods. During my hikes, I heard many stories of other long-distance hikers, and even thru-hikers who walked half a day in the wrong direction, or down another path that intersected with the AT. I've even missed turns to shelters, or from shelters, or walked out the wrong way because I was tired and didn't recall the way I came in the night before. It happens to everyone.

It seems like some of these hikers who make the news just go down a different path, assuming that there would be another - perhaps an easier - way out. Climbing up the tooth, then heading back down and realizing, after maybe 10-15 minutes, even half an hour, that you're going the wrong way may not seem like a lot of time and effort lost for someone who's out there for 3-6 months, but for someone who headed out for the day - that may be a while or a lot of effort, and the person may think that the path they are on has to lead somewhere, and will probably find another road. And - in that area, most of the road crossings pre-and-post 311 are empty roads.

It's always a good idea to have maps and a compass.

trine
02-23-2006, 12:40
I have yet to get seriously lost, but after Little Laurel Shelter (Between Hot Springs and Erwin) the snow had fallen so thick that there were no contours of a trail and the blazes at times seemed few and far between (probably because when no snow is present the trail is a lot easier to follow). darkness was falling quickly and suddenly I was no longer sure whether I was on the trail or not. I kept looking around but no direction seemed an obvious one. Dropped pack and walked back to the last know blaze, showed straight ahead, but I had taken a turn, which looked right but after scraping several trees still no sign of a blaze. I decided it was best to stop for the night right were I had left my pack and continue tomorrow in better light, with more energy, and a fresh head. Next day I went back again to last known blaze and contiued from there - past my campsite, and tried several directions from there, which was rather frustrating at times since the snow was knee-high. Eventually I found the trail again - the turn was right. But the best decision I had made was to stay put and make sure I knew where the last blaze was. That will allow you to try a few directions. If I still hadn't found the trail after a few hours I would probably have gone back to Little Laurel Shelter to wait it out for a day or two to let the snow melt a little or maybe another hiker would come by. Stay put if you get lost - In most (not all) serious cases the hiker would have been found had he/she stayed put.
I am not a freaked out scared hiker, but I know things can happen really fast out here in the winter so I always wear a necklace with a whistle (for help), a lighter (can always get warm and a frozen lighter in a pack does not always work), and lipbalm (for easy access). This gives me just a little safety should I get lost or fall or get separated from my pack.
Safe Hiking to Ya'll - Red Dane:cool:

Fiddler
02-23-2006, 14:13
I am not a freaked out scared hiker, but I know things can happen really fast out here in the winter so I always wear a necklace with a whistle (for help), a lighter (can always get warm and a frozen lighter in a pack does not always work), and lipbalm (for easy access). This gives me just a little safety should I get lost or fall or get separated from my pack.
Safe Hiking to Ya'll - Red Dane:cool:
I agree with this bit all the way (except lip balm, that stays in the pack). Even though I've never got lost I won't go anywhere on a hike without my whistle, lighter, and a small compass. Not even to the privy or ten feet off trail for whatever reason. Some can call me a wussie if they want, but maybe someday I'll be glad I've got these items.

Vi+
02-23-2006, 14:15
I have experienced similar disorientation as Red Dane (Post #27) where wind, which was strong enough and changed direction enough, had packed snow completely about every tree. No blazes were visible. In a bit I realized water runoff ditches are virtually indistinguishable from the trail with new snow covering everything.

There are many instances where people have left their pack to take a short trip, then want to make short extension, then again, and became lost. Red Dane mentions things can become serious when you become separated from your pack. I would caution either NEVER leave your pack or always take things with you which you will need to stay the night.

Sly advises in Post #16, “If lost, I'm not sure a map, in the forest, in the dark, even with a flashlight would do you much good ... you need distinguishing landmarks to even know where you are on the map ...”

[I edited his post and may, thereby, have changed some of what he was saying to emphasize a point.]

Several times, I’ve helped distance hikers, embarrassingly enough, who were trying to find their location on the wrong map. Guiding them to the correct map hasn’t been of great assistance. I have usually had to point to our location on their map.

If you don’t know generally where you are on a map - which is the definition of “lost” - a map isn’t going to be very helpful without some unique feature (oddly shaped mountain) or very dominant feature (distinctive water formation) to help determine your location on the map. The scale of ATC maps is such that, for most areas, the terrain looks the same, i.e., you’re not going to find a lot of distinguishing features.

To know where you are, when using such a map, you must continually update your changing location on the map. When you can locate your last position on a map, and it was known not long ago, and you know the nominal compass direction you were heading, it’s not difficult to “re-find” yourself.

I have come to believe many people who carry ATC maps use them as security blankets, giving them an unwarranted warm and fuzzy feeling.

irritable_badger
02-23-2006, 14:23
I got slightly confused (never lost :) last weekend in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area. They had 9+ inches of snow Saturday night. On the hike out Sunday the trail was completely obscured and windblown snow had covered up all the blazes on the trees. I never had trouble following a trail before but a night of unexpected snow later; I had learned a valuable lesson.

I actually had a similar discussion on another thread recently about maps on the AT. I didn't see the point as it was a trail but with some great examples of uses for the maps (Jack Tarlin I think) and my recent experience I don't think I'll go trail hiking without maps anymore.

ed bell
02-23-2006, 14:42
I got slightly confused (never lost :) last weekend in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area.

Don't feel bad about that. Some Kilmer/Slickrock trails are TOUGH to keep up with. Snow doesn't help either.:sun

LuTotten
02-25-2006, 20:50
I had an experience too, never even left the trail but its amazing what doubting yourself can do. Had the 2 boys I take care of (then 8 & 10) with me about 2 miles south of Blood Mtn. never saw the turn- offs for the shelters, I was tired, they were tired and it seemed like forever between blazes. Sure doesn't help having an eight year old reminding you every 30 seconds that we haven't seen a blaze in a while.

Ridge
03-06-2006, 19:45
One can easily miss a turn and head in the wrong direction. The art of turning around and going back until you see the first white blaze is what you do. You don't keep going in the same direction for miles especially without seeing a single white blaze. I know its hard to admit missing the turn, but it happens to anyone who hikes a lot on marked trails. A big problem with day and section hikers, they don't carry lights, matches, extra food etc when they go out.

ed bell
03-06-2006, 20:35
A big problem with day and section hikers, they don't carry lights, matches, extra food etc when they go out.
Day hikers, I can see your point. Section hikers? I don't buy into that. Are you saying that backpackers often don't carry lights, matches or extra food? It's been my experience that short haul backpackers are often heavier on provisions, and more focused on the route since the time spent on trail is short. Am I missing something here?:confused:

SGTdirtman
03-06-2006, 20:55
I guess it can and does but day hikers generally just carry water, maybe a snack and thats it... If your a section hiker even if you intend to hike for a couple days you still need to bring shelter, food, water, cooking supplies, a light for night time and so on. Section hikers usually carry close to the same crap thru-hikers do, often more because they dont intend on needing to re-supply as much if at all.

Ridge
03-06-2006, 20:58
Day hikers, I can see your point. Section hikers? I don't buy into that. Are you saying that backpackers often don't carry lights, matches or extra food? It's been my experience that short haul backpackers are often heavier on provisions, and more focused on the route since the time spent on trail is short. Am I missing something here?:confused:

An experienced hiker will go with a light, matches, water, food, etc even if its a day hike that could turn into an all night thing. Some section hikers, are really day hikers who hike to their cars, but do the trail in sequence, some car camp, some do several or more days on the trail using their tent, hammock, or tarp. I consider a "Day Hiker" one who is not attempting to hike the entire trail, but just out for the day. The majority of "lost" hikers or really those who have gotten caught by bad weather or by miscalculating their ETA. They sometimes forget a flashlight and the other stuff needed to stay the night, or to travel in the night.

Rough
03-06-2006, 21:24
On our Long Trail thru hike in 2003 my wife and I were sitting in Rolston Rest Shelter around 5 PM, when two hikers came by and asked us if they were on the AT. Rolston Rest is 4 miles past Maine Junction where the AT splits with the LT and heads east towards New Hampshire. Turns out they somehow missed the split at MJ and kept following the white blazes (the LT is blazed white also). They were heartsick when we explained where they were on the Long Trail. I wondered if they hadn't met us how far north they would have hiked.

Ridge
03-06-2006, 21:29
Speaking of the Long Trail in Vermont, I've heard the snow has actually gotten deep enough to cover the blazes. And, a good point about the same size and color blazes that the AT has. I can't remember the intersection you're talking about, but it must have been marked pretty good when I came thru.

ed bell
03-06-2006, 21:53
Some section hikers, are really day hikers
Thanks for the clarification. I thought that's what you were talking about.:sun

Ridge
03-06-2006, 22:15
Theres been a lot of discussion on this site and others about the use of cell phones. Over the last couple of months I've been reading about hikers from around the country on various trails that have used a cell phone to call for help. I can say this, a cell phone should be carried for that medical emergency that you hope never happens, to yourself or someone else. To carry one because you are lost, well, if you have to pay for the rescue, maybe you'll be a little more prepared next time. I recently read about the minister who was solo hiking out in Wyoming several years back and got trapped by a bolder. He lived for well over a week with the food and water in his pack. If he had a cell phone, with reception, he could have been saved. It's these type of situations that really make one think when solo hiking, with or without a cell phone. As long as a cell phone is carried for an emergency, it's no problem, just like all the other modern equipment we carry, its just one more thing. I also have read where several rescue groups and organizations are beginning to charge for rescues. A trend thats surely to continue.

Peaks
03-07-2006, 10:18
Speaking of the Long Trail in Vermont, I've heard the snow has actually gotten deep enough to cover the blazes. And, a good point about the same size and color blazes that the AT has. I can't remember the intersection you're talking about, but it must have been marked pretty good when I came thru.

I wish the snow were that deep. The entire week long ski of sections of the Catamount Trail was changed to either hiking and a couple of back country skis at Mount Mansfield Ski Touring Center. Most cross country ski areas in Vermont have been closed for most of the February.

Maine Junction: Not only is it clearly marked, but what impressed me was that clearly the beaten path followed the AT west to Hanover, and the Long Trail continued north as a lesser used path.

squirrel bait
03-07-2006, 10:43
I could see how some got lost in this area. There is a very good size pasture and a field next to it north of the old Four Pines. It's the one where you cross the stile and a small bridge. I came south through here and had trouble figuring out the trail in broad daylight. Night time would be tough. For anyone heading that way the WhiteBlaze is on a telephone pole in the middle of the field. And I agree with HikerHead, they must have been going southbound and how did they forget the handholds they used getting to the top. I don't remember handholds on the southside.