Lost in the Wild
Not only is this a name of a book by Cary J. Griffith, but also an occurrence that can happen on the Gunflint Trail. It appears people who are heading into the woods are less prepared than perhaps they should be. Already this year we have had a few emergency search and rescue calls to attend to as members of the GTVFD and Northern Lights Search and Rescue Team.
One incident involved two young men who work at a resort on the Gunflint Trail. They planned a difficult route to canoe and hike with a portion of the hiking to be done during the night. They hadn’t asked anyone what the trail conditions were like or how long they thought it would take them to hike it. They also didn’t pack enough water for the very hot temperatures. They didn’t plan on spending the night in the woods with the bugs and didn’t have any shelter or bug protection. Someone had a general idea of what their route was and they were suppose to be be at work by 7:00 AM. By 9:00 AM when there was no sign of them the owner became worried and sought the help of search and rescue. More than a dozen people were sent out into the woods on foot and a helicopter was secured for the search. Not too long after crews dispersed was when someone fishing on a bay on Gunflint Lake heard a yell from shore. It was the hikers who lost the trail in the middle of the night and had not been able to find it again. They were tired, bit up and thirsty, but otherwise they were fine. When questioned as to how prepared they were to spend the night in the woods, they hung their heads in embarrassment.
After reading the book, "Lost in the Wild", I tend to prepare a little bit more for day trips into the wilderness either by canoe or by foot. I never thought too much about becoming lost while hiking by myself but one of the best ways to avoid a mishap is to hike with one or more other people. Then a good way to ensure someone will find you if you do get lost is to give your itinerary to a responsible person who will be sure to check on your whereabouts if you do not return in a timely matter. I always pack sunscreen, bug spray, toilet paper, a small first aid kit, matches, firestarter, lip stuff, sunglasses, an emergency blanket, a knife, whistle, mirror, snacks and plenty of water. If my cell phone works then I will throw that in or bring the satellite phone. It’s a good idea to have a water filter along as well.
Learning necessary survival skills before your outing is always a good idea. Fire starter and matches won’t do you any good if you can’t make a fire. A compass and map will not help unless you know how to read them both. Knowing how to make a shelter can be important especially if you are lost for more than one night.
There have been a couple of canoe parties who have been "late returning" too. This of course frightens the outfitter who right away thinks the worst. Knowing your ability and the ability of those you are traveling with is another key to a successful wilderness trek. This will help you to stay on time and will avoid having a search and rescue team sent out for you. Asking about the route and difficulty can be very helpful when traveling a route you are unfamiliar with.
"Lost in the Wild" is based on two true stories of men who became lost in the wilderness and survived. One was traveling in the Quetico Park by canoe and the other one was hiking in the Boundary Waters. While this book may not teach you what to do in case of becoming lost, it may teach you what not to do if you find yourself in a similar position. You can purchase a copy of the book by e-mailing us.