Outdoors Column: Lost Without a Clue

While enjoying outdoors activities, there is always a chance of getting lost. It seems impossible, and rather humorous, unless you happen to be the person lost. There are several degrees of being lost from “I am somewhere in the timber on the South place” to “I am in the mountains, forty miles from the nearest road without a clue where camp is, and I am going to die out here.” Lost in a forty-acre timber is not a serious problem as enough wandering about will eventually lead to somewhere. That is not the case in the mountains of Colorado. A person could die in the wilderness, or at least inconvenience large numbers of people that must spend their weekend looking for you.


If you start out prepared to be lost, you most likely will not. The first step in preparation is being observant of your surroundings. Notice any landmarks visible from camp and your direction of travel. It does do a person much good to figure out what direction is north if you do not know what direction camp is. As you move away from camp, stop and look back occasionally. Things will look more familiar on the return trip. I carry a compass, GPS, and cell phone on any trip where there is a possibility of getting lost, which is almost everywhere. The cell phone has a built-in compass until the battery goes dead, in which case, the old-fashioned kind works better.


If you are hunting or camping in the middle of nowhere, always program your GPS with your camp location and way points. I have, so far, only programed mine to home, Lake Wapello, and Ray’s Long Branch in Drakesville. While all these are nice to know, it could be a long walk from western Colorado to Ray’s.


Always carry enough supplies to make it through the night, in case that becomes necessary. When hunting in the wilderness, I have a backpack with a space blanket, extra socks, lighters, water, and several thousand calories of some sort of food. A person could live off eating those annoying little pine squirrels, but it would take a lot of them to make a meal after shooting them with a 7 mm magnum.


If a person is lost enough to not make it back to camp before dark, stop and make a temporary shelter for the night. Wandering around in the wilderness in the dark is only going to compound one’s problems. A person is most likely not going to find camp in the dark and might break something they will need the next day, such as a leg. It is better to sit in the cold and be moderately uncomfortable than to be in serious trouble with a broken bone.


There is no shame in getting lost. I have been lost in most of the contiguous United States and once in Hawaii. The important thing is to be prepared so you do not end up with serious consequences. By the way, for future reference, more coconuts grow on the south side of a coconut palm.