Take a Hike: Steps to Take If You Get Lost

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In the third part of my Take A Hike series (click here part 1 and part 2), let’s discuss something every hiker fears: getting lost.
There are several reasons for losing your way on a hike: purposely deviating from the trail, incorrectly reading the map (or not having one at all), or relying on technology for directions, only to lose service (which, I’m sure is becoming more of an issue).
Walter and I got a bit off course on a recent hike at Devil’s Den in Connecticut due to an unexpected downpour (not pictured: the photos in this post were taken while we were hiking at Cape Perpetua Hike in Oregon with Walt’s friend Matt). Fortunately, everything turned out OK because we followed the steps below, and took precautions before we left the house. The morning of the hike, we researched the mountain and its trails, and notified our friends and family (via Twitter) of our plans to hike at that location.
If you ever find yourself lost and overwhelmed,  my first piece of advice is to try to remain calm. Secondly, consult your map again (calmly, and if you have one) and look for familiar landmarks to orient yourself (you may want to head to higher ground to get a better look of the terrain).
If the above suggestions do not improve your situation, it’s time to implement the S.T.O.P. principle (stop, think, observe and plan), and try to return to your last known location on the trail, if it is within a reasonable distance.
If you still can’t find any familiar landmarks by backtracking, or it’s too far of a hike, then stay where you are. If you have a whistle, blow it in timed intervals to signal rescuers or other hikers who could lead you back to the trail, and hopefully, you’ll be on your away again.
I hope these tips will help you avoid common hiking mistakes. Remember: always stay calm, do your research before you go, pack the right gear, notify loved ones about your whereabouts, and always have a map on hand, and you can avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Happy hiking!

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