Before you go any further please read this story from CNN about a couple of hikers that got lost.
Who was it that said luck favors the prepared mind? Pasteur? In some cases it apparently favors the not-so-prepared as well. In the story two young – 18 and 19 year old – kids decide to wander off the path they were hiking and got completely lost. Let me just say right now these Darwin Award Runner Ups are very lucky to be alive.
Apparently they started hallucinating after walking off the trail. Check this out:
She hallucinated she was being eaten by a python, she tried to eat rocks and dirt, and thought that tree twigs were straws from which she could suck water.
And then this statement:
“I honestly didn’t even know I was missing, I didn’t know I was gone, I didn’t know anything was going on,” she said. “I just thought I was in a big dream.”
Jack was plucked by helicopter from a tiny rocky outcropping on a near-vertical cliff Thursday, after searchers followed her cries for help across a canyon and up several dried-up waterfalls. She was severely dehydrated, could not move one arm and complained of shortness of breath and pain in her chest and legs, rescuers said at the time.
Her mouth was so full of dirt the first man to reach her was afraid she would choke if he gave her water.
And it only gets better from here.
The hike started out well but things quickly went wrong when they left the trail, she recalled.
“We just saw a good place and we were like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to scale the mountain here,” she said.
They realized as darkness fell that they were lost and nowhere near the mountaintop and Cendoya called 911 twice on his dying cellphone.
In the second call, he and Jack can be heard having a tense conversation as the operator tries to determine where exactly they are in the 720-square-mile national forest — a vast wilderness that runs smack up against the suburban comforts of southeastern Orange County.
“Yeah, we wandered off the trail. We wandered off the trail,” Cendoya told the operator. “I don’t even know if we’ll make it to the morning because we have no water.”
Jack said Monday that she panicked as the darkness closed in around them. She tried to climb a tree and use her lighter to provide a signal for rescuers, but she dropped it. She thinks she remembers fighting off some type of animal with Cendoya before the two began to slip in and out of consciousness — but that, too, could have been a dream.
“I started to get like an anxiety attack and I started throwing up and I just lost it. I just went in and out of consciousness after the 911 call,” she said.
- Make sure you don’t tell anybody where you’re hiking. Check.
- Enter the forest with no basic wilderness survival skills whatsoever. Check.
- Ensure that you have no gear or proper clothing. Check.
- Use up your water and then suffer hallucinations because you’re dehydrated. (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.) Check.
- Once you realize you’re lost… panic. Check.
- Climb a tree with your lighter at night to make a signal for the rescuers and drop it. Check.
- Make sure your cell phone is dying and that you don’t have another one as a backup or even a compass and map to shoot an emergency azimuth. Check.
Ok, you get the picture. Should I lighten up on these young folks? Maybe, but I’m not going to. They are old enough to know that if you venture off a trail totally unprepared that you can die. It’s that freakin’ simple folks. You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon (anybody know where I got that saying?) to figure that one out.
So what should these young folks have done?
STOP! Sit. Think. Observe. Plan. Follow this link for an earlier post about what to do when you discover you’re lost in the wilderness. Ensure that you’re adequately equipped for your hike. That includes having enough water and a way to clean water if you run out whether that’s a filter, iodine tablets, or even a pot to boil water in. A small pack with minimal emergency gear can make the difference between dying or merely an uncomfortable night in the wilderness.
Keep track of where you are. Even if you’re not using a map and compass stop once in awhile and look back to see what the turn you just came around looks like from that perspective. It’s not like you’re walking along city blocks that have street signs. Terrain in the forest can be radically different or look very much the same depending on where you are. It’s your responsibility to keep track. When I’m walking through new woods I’ll often look back to see what the land I just came over looks like because I’m already planning on coming back that way. Situational Awareness will do wonders for keeping you alive.
Make sure you’re carrying enough gear and have the knowledge to use it if you get caught out over night. It happens and when it does you don’t have to nearly die because of it.
Let me elaborate on the Think part here a little. I understand they were hallucinating at this point. There’s only three things I can think of that could cause hallucinations: 1.) Illegal Drugs 2.) Dehydration 3.) Magic Mushrooms
The first one could be alleviated by not taking drugs if that’s what they did. I’m just pointing out that if you take drugs and go out in the woods eventually bad things are going to happen to you.
The second issue – dehydration – could have been avoided by bringing enough water or having a way to filter your own.
The third one, which is eating the magic mushrooms accidentally, could be avoided by not eating anything you’re not sure of.
I’m going to let you take a turn now. What else could they have done different to not end up in this situation in the first place or once there, to survive without nearly dying?
I’m glad they’re alive and I assume they’ve learned a valuable lesson from their experience.
Sound off below!