Over the Memorial weekend, we organized a small group of Hikers and did a special place that does not get much maintenance. The Trails were overgrown, and in many places, non-existent. At one point during the Hike, were the group of 10 of us were actually Bushwhacking and taking pictures, three of us wandered a bit away from the main group.
We decided to circle back to where we left the group and connect back up. I lingered for a moment to take some further pictures and then discovered I was alone with no Trails. I attempted to continue to circle and follow what I thought was the route the other 3 Hikers had taken to reconnect to the main group.
After about 15 minutes, I stopped again and realized I could not hear or see either group. I started to use my Boy Scout whistle. It is a frequency that cuts through almost everything, to carry for over a mile. Normally. But with the very thick foliage everywhere, it apparently was not getting through to anyone. I yelled a few times in-between my whistle blows in every direction. No response.
So I headed back to where the smaller group had originally broken away from the main group. I found the spot and no one was there. I continued to blow my whistle and yell in every direction. I listened……Nothing.
So now, it had been over 45 minutes since I last heard or seen anyone from the group. I made my way back to what was our original Trail into the area. It was only kinda like at Trail. Still very overgrown. As I walked back down this Trail to our starting point, I would blow my whistle and listen constantly. Still nothing in response. At the car, I re-hydrated, took a short rest and listened carefully back into the confined area we where Hiking in. Not a human sound to be heard.
I headed back down the original trail and was going to cover the exact route we had taken earlier in the day. About 1/2 mile down the trail, I run into the entire rest of the group. About 2 minutes before we re-connected, I could hear them yelling. I whistles back. When we met a couple of minutes later, No one in the group had heard my whistle, just minutes before up the trail. Apparently the deep/heavy foliage was trapping the sound and it was not traveling very far.
We stopped there on the trail and compared notes. The group had been doing similar things that I was doing. Blowing whistles and yelling in every direction. I did not hear them and they never heard my calls as well. So what are some of the lessons here?
1. Even though this was a special hiking group, made up of all experienced Trails individuals, “I” should have never left the main group, being the leader of this Hike. NEVER. That is what started the entire situation. Just a bit of lax behaviour that got way out of control.
2. The main group should never have split up again, even after it had lost the leader. For a short time there was the danger of having a second person or persons, also disconnected from the main group.
3. Although this was a very experienced group of Hikers, and everyone eventually figured out just where they were, and the problem of being Lost was not an issue. The bigger problem of not finding one of the Hikers, and having that lone hiker hurt himself while being alone, could have turned this small problem into a nightmare. Injured and alone, “I” could have laid in the thick foliage, off of any main trail, for over a day or so to be eventually found by a search party. And that is what it would have taken to find me, if injured in this thick/dense area.
***It gets very easy for even the most experienced of Hikers, to forget the basic Rules of Group hiking. ALWAYS Stay together. Even with one member lost, the group needs to remain together rather then multiple their problems by splitting up. ALWAYS make arrangements for a meeting place out on the Trails or especially while Bushwhacking in dense Forest terrain. ALWAYS carry a whistle. If the group all had their own whistles, the odds of the lost member hearing one of the calls increases greatly. ALWAYS carry a Compass.
Just like the importance of carrying extra Water on a Hike, just for occasions like this one. Or that stash of additional Insect Repellent.(the area was so thick with foliage that the SKEETERS where, at times, in swarming mode. This can be very distracting) Some additional things MUST be added to your regular Hiking gear and routine, when you will be Bushwhacking. Thick forest foliage, intense Insect behaviour, and the ease at which the entire Group can get turned around, increases tremendously in a Bushwhacking scenario.
Never figure that you know so much about the outdoors that there is no need for discussions with the rest of your Group. Emergencies happen. And when they do, those advanced discussions can be the saving Grace. You NEVER know to much and you NEVER can remember it all.