A 66 year old man was found by sheriff's deputies after having become lost. He wasn't too far off the beaten path. I have to think there were other contributing factors. After all, the guy would only have to keep heading west and eventually he'd find some road, even if he had to walk all the way to 101.
I did a lot of backpacking in my teens and early twenties. I was often by myself and never came close to where I felt I was lost except for once, and I was a bit more off the beaten path than that guy was.
I headed up to the Marble Mountains back in the early 80s. It was still early in the year but I figured I could make it to Monument Lake. That's not too far a walk- maybe a couple hours? I worked graveyard shift that night, then drove all the way up there- past Some's Bar in Hoopa- the next morning.
I got up to the Haypress Meadows trailhead and started in. I'd been there before so figured it's no big deal. Once I got to the actual Haypress Meadows, though, I could see small patches of snow. As I turned northeast(?) from the meadows, there was more and more snow. It got to maybe a foot deep as I made my way toward to trail to Monument Lake.
I'm not sure I was even as far at the bottom of the trail to the lake when I figured the snow was too deep so decided to turn back. I wasn't worried even though I couldn't see the trail. I figured I'd just follow my footprints in the snow. As I started back and crossed a small creek, it got weird.
Where are my footprints??? I thought I'd crossed the creek right there and I should see my footprints on the other side of the creek but they were nowhere to be seen. No worries. Must be just a few feet downstream. I looked around a bit but, nope.
Uh, oh! I looked around and didn't really recognize anything, despite having been there before. The snow was screwing me up. For a fleeting moment I felt the panic we're told to try and avoid when lost.
I told myself to calm down. It was fairly warm out, even at night. I had plenty of food, a compass and a map. Besides, I really wasn't that far from the trailhead, but that didn't help much when I couldn't find my trail.
What probably saved me from really losing it is telling myself if worse came to worst, if I just headed south, eventually I'd hit a river or the highway. No biggie. I'll get out of this, but where the hell are my footprints/
I walked a short distance further down the creek and finally saw my footprints maybe 30 or 40 feet from where I thought they should be. Whew! How did that happen? I quickly walked back to Haypress Meadows where I set up camp for the night and walked out the next morning.
That's my almost got lost story.