Originally published January 11, 2010.
You’re out on the trail. You’re moving along at a good pace. You’ve taken all your precautions. Unfortunately, something goes wrong. You trip, injure your ankle, and you can’t make it back out. Bad luck, you also picked today to hike a trail where you haven’t seen any other hikers, your cell phone isn’t getting any signal, and you never got around to getting one of those “come get me” survival beacons. Is all hope lost?
Nope. You’ll be fine. Because you followed Rule No. 7:
Tell someone where you’re going to be.
This sounds obvious, but it isn’t always. It’s also (unlike the first aid kit rule) negotiable. There are many times that I break this rule because I just don’t think about it. When I was on my road trip, I was hiking practically every day, and was alone for most of the trip, so there wasn’t anyone to tell (and this was pre-facebook and twitter, and in the early days of accessing the internet via cell phone…I was still hunting up internet cafes to check my email). When I go to the places near me for “quick hikes” on trails I am very familiar with, it often doesn’t occur to me to mention my intended destination. And sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be until you go, because there are multiple trails and you want to check them out before deciding which to commit to.
This is all right. Like most of what I talk about here, this Rule is a matter of balance. Going for a walk around Walden Pond, or on a highly populated trail, simply doesn’t pose the same risks as going somewhere difficult and secluded. It is a good idea to make your intended hike known, however, and to get into the habit of doing so. That way, if you don’t come back, someone knows where to start looking.
Remember when I told the story of my friends A and B who got lost in the dark? One thing they did absolutely right was telling us where they intended to be. We knew what trail they were taking, and we knew when they were expected back, so when they didn’t show up, we knew exactly where to go and look for them. (Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.)
Now, in 2010, it is very easy to tell people where you’re going. Here’s how:
- Call someone. “Hey, Mom, how are you? How is Dad? Listen, I can’t talk, because I’m on my way to the Canyon Loop Trail in the Betasso Preserve. It should take me a couple of hours — I’ll call you on my way home.” See? Easy. And you make Mom happy by calling.
- Text someone. Don’t feel like talking? “hkng Laurel Falls tday b bk by 3.”
- Email someone, or a couple someones. “Hey girls, I’ll be hiking to Crow Creek Falls in the Helena National Forest tomorrow, starting around ten. Let me know if you want to join!”
- Facebook/Twitter it. This lets you reach lots of people, and also is sort of second nature to many of us now. “Jane Smith is going to hike the North Pawtuckaway Mountain Trail today. See y’all in 3-4 hours! Should I post photos?”
- Leave a note in your car at the trailhead. I wouldn’t put it on the dash and be obvious about it, but leaving it in the driver’s seat, where someone could find it easily if they were looking, is not a bad idea, particularly if you didn’t decide where you were going until the last second and don’t have any cell reception.
And that’s it. So simple.
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.