This story took place last year (2016) on Labor Day Weekend in Lassen National Park
Lesson #1. Never-EVER take essentials out of your day pack even if you think that you are going on a simple day hike in the woods, on a very established trail, and your plans are all laid out.
Lesson #2. Make sure that the plans for your ride home is well established and known by everyone involved. Make sure everyone repeats back in unison said plans and there are no misunderstandings. Draw a map if necessary.
The Hike and “Plan”
At noon, three of us set out to hike to the top of Mt. Harkness where there is a lookout tower. This is a 4 mile UP hike with a 3000 ft elevation gain. It kicked my butt pretty good, but the view at the top was spectacular and I highly recommend this hike! Our plan was to hike to the top (4 miles) then hike down to the other side of the mountain (2 miles) to Lake Juniper where our friends were kayaking. They would then drive us the 25 miles back to the cabin in which we were all staying.
This is where Lesson #2 comes into play. I don’t want to get into specifics, but there was a huge miscommunication about the plans and we didn’t have a ride when we reached the lake at 5:30pm. We were stuck 25 miles away from the cabin in the woods with NO cell service.
It’s starting to get dark and we are only wearing our thin day hiking clothes and this is where Lesson #1 comes into play. NEVER TAKE YOUR EXTRA CLOTHES AND OTHER STUFF THAT CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE OUT OF YOUR DAY PACK! EVER!!!
The Wait in the Cold
We waited by the side of the only road that came into the lake area near some campgrounds. There was a ranger station at the entrance but it was CLOSED! Labor Day Weekend and nobody at the station? Seriously? What if someone at the campground needed medical help? It’s getting dark and the temp is rapidly falling. Now its pitch dark and we are freezing! Do we start hiking the 25 miles? Well, we gave it a good thought but, not knowing if our ride was coming we could have been out there all night walking and freezing in the pitch dark forest. So, we decided to ask for help from one of the campers.
Trail Angels! – MULE PEOPLE ARE THE BEST!
Near the ranger station, we spot a corral with a two mules eating hay. Next to the corral was a couple enjoying a beautiful and WARM campfire. We walked over and asked if we could stand by their fire while we waited for our friends who surely would be coming to look for us at the lake! Well, Dan and Abigail were more than accommodating. They got out extra lawn chairs and served us Coronas! Trail Angels!! They were so nice and as it turns out, Dan is friends with someone in my family! SMALL WORLD!! It’s now 9:30 pm and nobody is coming to our rescue. We hear a helicopter over head! Is that for us? Nope. It just kept flying! Abigail said that if our friends didn’t come for us by 9:30 they would break down camp and drive us back. 9:30 rolls around and no body came. It had been dark for quite some time now. Our trail angels broke down camp, which required them to secure their camper and put away all sorts of stuff for the long bumpy 25 mile ride in the dark. It’s now about 10:00 pm. Still no rescue party from our cabin! About half-way back to civilization, we spot the folks from our cabin rambling up the dirt road in search of us, completely freaked out and moments from calling the sheriffs office to initiate a search and rescue operation.
Moral of the Story
There are wonderful people in the world like Dan Sehnert and Abigail Madden. They live by the Cowboy code for sure! You can’t go wrong with folks who ride mules!!! On a side note, Abigail finished the 2016 Tevis on her mule “Nan”! THAT is an amazing feat!
My HUGE lesson in all of this is to be prepared to spend the night out in the cold (it was 39 degrees and I’m sure it got even colder as the night progressed) even if you are going on a day hike in the wilderness.
What I carry ALL THE TIME when hiking (even for the day)
- Compass (and know how to use it!) (I took the REI class!)
- Bivy Bag (emergency blanket to keep warm)
- 2 extra emergency “space” blankets
- Map (for your area to work with your compass)
- Fire Starting Stuff. (I have a lighter, also a flint starter, and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly to get a fire going fast)
- Water – extra food
- Layers of clothes and rain gear (pants and jacket that I stupidly took out of my pack)
- Hydration tabs
- Water filter (Sawyer Squeeze)
- Water Treatment tabs
- Extra Cell Phone charging packs (2) with cables (just make sure they are also charged and ready to go) mostly used for GPS signal
- Duct tape (wrapped to my hiking poles)
- para cord (50 feet)
- Emergency Locator Beacon
- First Aid Kit
- Tyvek (can be used as a tarp, ground cover, footprint for shelter,etc) It’s very light and water resistant
- Signal Mirror (with spotting hole)
- Hand warmer
And it doesn’t hurt to watch a couple of YouTube vids on how to survive a night or two in the wilderness.
A video of our hike! Enjoy a walk in the woods!