An outdoor vacation such as hiking can be a terrific getaway. Vacations like hiking are far different than other vacations which often require you to make travel reservations and find hotel accommodations. However, some hikers like to make a hike part of a larger vacation and rent a house by a lake. This is a great idea. But, hiking does require some extra precaution unlike other popular getaways to the beach or popular tourist attraction.
Getting lost is possibly the most potential problem for those new to hiking. A few steps off the trail can result in a few additional yards in the wrong direction and, eventually, you are far away from your trail and lost. Or, sometimes hikers misread maps and find they are on a different trail than planned. The point is that however it happened, you are lost. Here is some advice to help you avoid getting lost and what you should do if you do get lost, though hopefully you avoid it in the first place.
It is important to heed to some simple guidelines. Always travel with an experienced hiker. Remain on the visible, clearly marked trails. Use a navigational tool, whether a map, compass or GPS device, but keep in mind that GPS devices do not work everywhere.
If you do get lost, remain calm to help you think clearly. Try to re-trace your steps to the last point in which you knew your location. Look for certain landmarks, such as streams, hills or large rock fixtures that you passed. It is important to pay attention to such landmarks as you hike not only because you want to enjoy the scenery and make note of you surroundings, but also because it will be useful if you become lost. Landmarks can act like a mental map and help you re-trace your steps.
Water runs downhill in any sloping area. Trailheads usually do not start at the beginning of a river, but rather where the river bends to find a large, flat open area of ground. Trailheads usually begin at what this could be referred as to “bottom.”
If you are hiking from a high spot, try using the view to look below for campsites or trails. Also, make a note of which way the sun is moving. Remember, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Don’t hesitate to shout out or whistle in an attempt to find a nearby hiker. The last thing you want is to stay overnight without water or food. If the daylight is setting, use your flashlight if you have one to wave it up toward the sky and then in front of you. Learning the Morse code for S.O.S. wouldn’t be a bad idea in the event you do find yourself lost.
Finally, be sure someone at home knows when to expect your return. If you do not return, they will know to contact someone and search-and-rescue can begin searching for you. Don’t worry. Even experienced hikers have become lost.