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Been Lost Long?

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Been Lost Long?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:11 am

"Remember that trip when we were lost?" M asked me.

"What? We've never been lost!" I replied.

"Yes we were," she said. "And we couldn't find that lake."

"Oh, you mean Grouse Lake. We weren't lost. The lake was," I clarified.

To be very clear, we have never been lost on a hiking trip, at least by my definition. My definition of "lost" is not knowing where you are, and not knowing how to get home.

By that definition I have never been lost--not even when I was six and became separated from my family in a huge department store in an unknown city. I simply went to the door we used to enter the store and waited. I knew they'd be back through that door, and I'd meet them there. I wasn't worried. They apparently were.

But there are certainly other definitions. And by those, we have wandered at times.

>> We have not known exactly where we were. In fact, on one memorable occasion, we didn't find out until we came home and posted photos.

>> We have not found what we were looking for, even though we were clearly very close to it--sometimes within 100 yards, as it turned out later.

>> We have become separated and only found each other by using whistles to find out where the other one had gone. (Do NOT underestimate how important whistles are in this situation---we couldn't hear each other's voice, but we could clearly hear the whistles!) But while we haven't been lost, we have been unsure.

Now bear in mind that we don't use a GPS--mainly because we don't like the cost, and don't like the fact that the batteries won't last long enough for many of the trips we take. What we do use is a compass, lots of topo maps, signs, trails, and dead-reckoning. And yes, we have been unsure:

>> We once hiked to Heart Lake near Lassen National Park. There is no trail, and the topo map showed lots of logging roads. But the area had been logged after the topo maps were printed, and so the roads were completely different. We never did find the lake. But we will next time.

>> We once hiked to Tangle Blue Lake in the Trinity Alps, following directions from a local, who had only ridden horses there, and told us about a short-cut that by-passed the first few miles of the trail. After a couple of delightful (more or less) hours wandering through alders and manzanita, we gave up. She later told us that she had forgotten one key point in those short-cut directions...!

>> We've hiked through the forest out of Tuolumne Meadows towards Mariolumne and Mendicott Domes, only to find ourselves at the foot of Fairview Dome.

>> We once hiked up from Fremont Lake to Cinko Lake, by-passing Chain of Lakes to hike up Walker Meadow....because we never did see the trail to Chain of Lakes.

>> We once hiked DOWN the East Fork of the Carson River to Murray Canyon because we cold not find the trail that hiked UP the Carson River to connect to the PCT. We later learned that trail had not been maintained for nearly forty years, according to the ranger.

>> We once hiked around the west end of Milk Run Meadow for an hour and a half because we could not find the trail that leads up to Peep Sight Peak.

>> We once hiked cross country over snow covered creeks and up near vertical slopes because we could not find the trail to Broke-Off Mountain in Lassen. We did get to the top. We got back. But not via the trail.

>> And yes, we once hiked across the southern part of Yosemite National Park towards Grouse Lake, where we were going to camp the first night. We could not find it. I was quite frustrated, and finally hiked down into a little valley to see if I could find a trail up to the lake. After staring up the valley for a good five minutes, O turned around to find the lake fifty yards away in plain sight behind me.

But we've never been lost.
Balzaccom

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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby oldranger » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:42 am

When about 15 hiked in to Polly Dome Lake when there was still fish., but from the east completely off trail and without a map. The lake was lost, not me, and we easily returned to the road and the car.

In the cascades on an overcast and foggy day I tried to follow a compass bearing over rough terrain. After following the bearing long enough that I felt I could have passed the lake I reversed course and returned to my camp.

In the central and southern Sierra the terrain is so dramatic that I can't imagine getting disoriented as long as I have a map. I seldom pull out my map anymore in the Sierra other than to estimate how long it will take me to from point a to point b.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby Broot » Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:18 pm

Last July I had a trip planned around the glacier divide starting up Piute pass and returning down Lamarck col. There were 7 of us. The first night was spent at Muriel. A storm started to roll in just as we got to the lake. So myself and two others went one way to look for a decent site for 7, while 4 others went another way. We ended up calming in separate locations for that night because we all set up our tents to get out of the hail.

The next morning I went over to the other 4 and said that myself and the other two were going to check out lost lakes for a few hours and we would be back down around 9-10am. They said they would head up after they finished breakfast. Well, we were up there till 9 or 10, and decided to head back down to meet up with them since they never showed up. When we got to their campsite they were gone. We had all talked about going to lower golden trout lake for lunch that day, so we headed there. Nowhere to be found. The plan for that night was to camp at packsaddle, so we went there. Nope, don't know where they are. By that time it was too late to run around looking for them. Figured we would head back that way in the morning.

So we wake up, and find out that my buddy has a pretty serious case of hape. So we had a backup plan to head out towards Florence lake and took him out. It took one day to hike him out, and two more to get back up there. So at that point they had been missing for like 3 days. We knew they were alright, just not where we had planned so we went along with the trip as planned. Turns out they headed around Muriel up to Goethe to check it out, and we got in front of them on the way to golden trout lake. Don't know why they never showed up to packsaddle for that night though.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Mar 21, 2016 2:36 pm

I'll bet that was in early July last year. We bailed a day early on a trip in Pioneer Basin because of the weather, and over the next couple of days we heard some pretty good stories about hail...
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Mar 21, 2016 3:10 pm

Longest I was ever "misplaced" was three days. I did have a good excuse. It was the late 1960's and the map I was following was a 1906 30-minute map with major drainages shown flowing the wrong directions! We finally figured it out and met up with the rest of our group just before they were about to start a search for us. The clue for us was once over the key "pass" to the west side of the Continental Divide, the rivers were still flowing east.

Many times I cannot exactly locate myself, but never for more than a few hours. Most often I think I am farther along on my route than I actually am. Often I think I missed a key turn, almost ready to turn back, when I then bump into it a few minutes farther.

Last summer I had anxious moments off-trail between Maxwell Lake and Emigrant Lake. I swore I was lost, but in retrospect I was mostly on route. I cliffed out at one point and had to detour via horrible bushwhacking. Do not know why the terrain did not look like I thought it should. I did miss the exact pass I wanted to take but was not more than a few hundred yards off.

I do not use a GPS- just old fashioned map and compass, and often not even a compass.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby tarbuckle » Tue Mar 22, 2016 6:34 am

My son. me and his friend were hiking from Paines lake in the Russians to Albers lake.When I got to the lake they were absent. They were ahead of me and must have kept going straight on a switch back.They were gone for hours until they figured out how to get back. Scared the heck out of me.

In the Marbles we veered off the old , forest fire ridden trail. Ended up down a 1000 ft and several miles off our trail before we figured it out. Added a whole day to the trip bush whacking through an old burn to find the trail again. We used triangulation on a topo to find our position.

Hiked past Russian Lake in the Russian wilderness for I about a mile before I realized I was a mile past the lake

Recently bushed whacked several miles up a canyon only to realize miles later that the trail was on the other side of the creek. We just figured since it was a old unmaintained trail, it had disappeared. When in fact we missed it where it crossed the creek.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 22, 2016 8:02 am

"Recently bushed whacked several miles up a canyon only to realize miles later that the trail was on the other side of the creek. We just figured since it was a old unmaintained trail, it had disappeared. When in fact we missed it where it crossed the creek."

The easiest place to lose a trail is at any creek crossing. No matter how the first person crosses it, the second person will find a better route...and pretty soon you have ten different routes, some marked by cairns, to get across. And then finding which one on the far side will actually connect to the trail...that's an issue.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby dave54 » Tue Mar 22, 2016 9:56 am

I do not get lost. I just have unplanned adventures. :)

Getting lost is how you find those secret hidden treasure spots you return to.
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Log off and get outdoors!
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:03 pm

I can't really say I've ever been lost. Only taken slight off routes in one way or another. I once while climbing Mt. Banner for whatever reason decided to drop my pack before making the final push to the top. But on the way back down I couldn't seem to find it and finally realized I was in the wrong chute and had to climb into the next one and back up a bit to find my pack.

I've never really understood how people have no sense of direction. I always seem to have a compass built into me and when I wonder off into the forest even at night I never have any issue going right back. When I started cross country travel I never had any issues finding my way. My training was in dealing with the terrain physically and mentally. Once where I used to be in total dismay at climbing through bushes or endless talus now it's just like a normal day and you just know what to expect and how to handle it.

My dad on the other hand is a bit different. In 2007 we set out to do an easy trip up to the Cottonwood Lakes, over Army Pass to the Solider Lakes and back around. It was like a 5 day trip. He decided to bring a homeless man that he sometimes worked with along for the ride. I had originally insisted on getting to the permit station before they closed so we could go sleep at Horseshoe Meadows and be on our way in the morning but after waiting for 6 hours beyond our scheduled departure time the two of them come stumbling in to pick me up with no explanation at all as to why they were late. We ended up at Horseshoe Meadows at about midnight. So come morning we drive off the mountain, get some breakfast, a permit and head on back up. When about a mile away from the trail head my dad says "oh crap I forgot sinus medication" which apparently he cannot do without. So he wants to drive all the way back down to buy some. This was not something I was about to do so I tell them well drop me off and i'll meet you at the planned camp at lake 3. So I hike in set up and come night fall no sign of them. Morning still nothing. I decide to take off and attempt Langely myself which I failed to summit. Back at camp at the very last light my dad comes huffing and puffing into camp with no sign of the homeless man. Turns out some how the two of them had driven back up and hiked in the wrong trail to Cottonwood Pass. Keep in mind my dad had already hiked to the Cottonwood Lakes a few times. They hiked into the night and gave in camping somewhere random. Then in the morning they figured out their error but at some point along the way homeless man freaks out yelling "I CAN'T HIKE ANYMORE!!" And takes off randomly on his own and hadn't been seen since. My dad says well he is probably at the trail head and that we should go get him. My attitude as mean as it may seem was "**** em". I'm not hiking all the way back out and in to retrieve some random homeless man you dragged up into the mountains. So my dad goes back and finds him and they both stumble into camp once again at last light two days behind schedule. Well the rest of the plans for the over all loop went to hell because of it all.

But in the end I knew how it happened. The two of them spent the whole trip fighting with each other. Both of them on meth fighting non stop they argued all the way to the trail head and argued as they got their packs on and argued their way across the mountains until waking up in the morning in a strange place dumb founded.

Say no to drugs kids mmmkay?
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby paul » Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:36 pm

The times that really drive me crazy are when the map shows the trail wrong. So you are pretty darn sure where you are, the terrain is what you think it should be, but the trail is not where it is shown on the map - or worse, it's made a big swerve and is going in the opposite direction from what it seems to be on the map. Or a junction that you expect in about a half mile shows up early, leaving you wondering whether you are wrong or the map is wrong. And of course there are those faint trails that are on the map, but not maintained anymore, and have just enough tread left that they tempt you into trying to follow them when it would really be easier to just forget the trail and treat it as off-trail navigation.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 27, 2016 1:22 pm

Be sure you know the date of your map. I am not sure this is something that is easily determined on a GPS. Each paper map has a date. You will notice that a lot of maps are 30+ years old. The trails on the maps may have been there at the time the map was made, but not maintained, or re-routed. I find that the Forest Service maps, although not of a scale that is useful and they do not show topography, usually have the most recent trail locations and generally only show trails that are maintained.

In certain areas the USGS map is so off that you really must buy the map produced by the agency managing the area- for example, Henry Coe State Park - they put out a map that is really necessary to have.

In other areas, trails are generally "maintained" by those who use the trails - primarily horse packers. They sometimes re-route the trail to make it easier for horses. Soon it can get quite a bit different than what is shown on the map.

It has been my experience that some people have an "internal compass" and others simply do not. For those who do not, I have never even been able to "teach" them orienteering. I think it is an aptitude, just like a knack for music or art. And it does not seem to have much to do with intellectual abilities or IQ. My husband is super smart, intellectually, but gets incredibly lost all the time. He can do all those "spatial relations" puzzles but cannot orient himself without the GPS. I have another very smart friend who cannot even go into the bushes to pee without getting lost. And another friend not only has an internal compass, he is a super-spotter. If you loose something he is the first to find it. He worked on Search and Rescue many years and was always the first one to spot evidence from the air. That, too, is an aptitude.

I can relate to that story of stashing your pack, doing a side-trip, and then not finding it right away. Sure makes your heart skip a little beat. Thankfully I have eventually always found my pack within a fairly short time.
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Re: Been Lost Long?

Postby balzaccom » Sun Mar 27, 2016 7:32 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
In certain areas the USGS map is so off that you really must buy the map produced by the agency managing the area- for example, Henry Coe State Park - they put out a map that is really necessary to have.


They also have a copy of that map at some of the trailheads, Daisy. We took a photo of it before we started our hike there a few years ago...and later found ourselves delighted that we could zoom in on the photo and read the map---because paper map was clearly not enough!
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