Ever feel lost in the wilderness? Here's a true story of how NOT to respond:
During one early winter afternoon in the mid-1980s, two friends drove for miles on a Forest Service road in Montana. Far from a paved road, their vehicle became stuck. The pair elected to hike into the forest rather than retrace their entry route. They eventually concluded that they were lost. Wandering along, they came across what they believed to be an abandoned ranger station. They decided that they should do something that could attract attention from afar. Their idea? Set the cabin on fire.
It turns out the cabin had been designated as a historic structure. The hikers, discovered not long after the cabin was set ablaze, were cited for destroying public property.
Better options exist for handling such a situation. These hikers, for instance, had actually found an excellent survival shelter, yet in their panicked thinking they destroyed it. In the process, they endangered the surrounding forest as well.
We hope you never become lost. If it happens, though, be prepared to calmly respond to the situation. It would have been much better for these two hikers if they had a backup plan in mind before they started making bad decisions.
What follows is an assortment of advice we have gleaned from experienced navigators and search-and-rescue educators. Consider making a printout of these tips and carrying it with you on your next backcountry trip.
Remember an acronym favored by the Emergency Response Institute of Olympia, Wash.: S-T-O-P. Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.
Rick Hood, director of Navigation Northwest (www.hoodcs.com), a search-and-rescue education service.
Bob and Mike Burns, authors of Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter and GPS (The Mountaineers).
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: Thu Aug 16 11:41:56 PDT 2012
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