Thursday, April 10, 2014

Getting Lost

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.


At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Jacoby Creek watershed, it's just not all that large an area, and if you just keep heading downstream pretty soon you'll be at Jacoby Creek Road. So there would be no need to hike west all the way to Hwy 101 (or even Old Arcata Road, which you'd hit before you got to 101, if you hadn't already hit some other road).

But many people are understandably reluctant to leave the trail or logging road they're on and going off-road, dealing with uneven ground, steep terrain, etc.

The logging roads and trails snake around all over the place up there, with plenty of forks and dead-ends, so if you hiked in without knowing the network of roads and trails reasonably well you could easily get confused on your way back out, take a few wrong forks and not really be sure which way to head to try to get back out.

So while it may seem a bit weird to be "lost" in such a small area, it's not all that hard to imagine how it might happen. Fortunately it doesn't happen all that often. Thankfully this incident had a happy ending. But it's a good reminder to pay close attention to your surroundings -- if you're hiking into an area you don't know very well, and plan to hike back out the same way, it's helpful to turn around and take a good look behind you whenever your trail or road has joined another one. Note some specific landmarks that you will recognize on your way back out. And, at the very least, carry a compass.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sheriff's Dept. press release suggests that hikers should carry "a cell phone, map and GPS" but oddly enough they don't mention a compass. Cell phones and GPS are great, but sometimes don't work around here, so no one should rely solely on those technologies. And a map can be quite useless without a compass to tell you which way to hold the map.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People tell me to get lost all the time

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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