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Lost in the Woods (It Can Happen to You)!

spiritualized67

Western PA, US
3178 posts

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spiritualized67 Silver Member Nikonian since 01st Mar 2007
Mon 22-Apr-13 01:51 PM

BREAKING NEWS…Landscape photographer missing in woods for 48 hours. In other breaking news, black bear spotted in area with ripped Lowepro backpack.

This being the landscape forum- I thought it was an appropriate place to post this.

Have any of you ever got turned around in the woods (e.g. lost)?

It happened to me for the first time about a week ago – and was quite a frightening experience.

Was hiking in Cook’s Forest (also called Black Forest) in Western Pennsylvania.

The dirt trail (if you call it that) was covered in leaves – although I was able to make out the slight hiking depressions on the path – which helped keep me on track. Trees were not marked and sign-posts were few and far between.

A few miles into the trail, I diverted away (a few hundred yards) to photograph some interesting trees.

When I went back to find the trail, it wasn’t there any more (the sun was going down and the slight depressions were no longer visible). This was a somewhat remote (and high-difficulty-rated) trail, so I didn’t expect to find any people.

I tried finding some visible landmarks (a few large rock-outcroppings I had noticed on the way in), but the more I hiked in any given direction, the more things either started to look the same or looked new - “hey, I never noticed that mud puddle before,” I thought to myself.

After about 30 minutes of scrambling in all directions (I was sort of worked up by then, and didn’t care that I had scratches up and down my legs from downed branches, dense brush, etc.). First rule is, keep your wits about you!

Cell coverage was not available, so I left my phone in the car by the trail head. I didn’t think to take my small GPS tracker. And I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I also didn’t have my flashlight or any fire starter.

Cook’s Forest is relatively small, so in all likelihood, I probably would have found my way out. Worst case, it would have been a cold, dark, scary night in the woods alone.

I pride myself on being directionally sufficient, but in this case, I epically failed. I did nothing to prepare for this type of eventuality. Just because it’s a short day hike doesn’t mean you can’t get lost.

The moral of my story is this. It is easier to get yourself turned around in the woods than you think – and had this happened in the desert or in a much larger forest, it could have been a lot worse. Lesson learned!

~Dan
www.danielstainer.com

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