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What would you have done?
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Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 13:10:12 MDT Print View

During one of our trips this summer, we came upon the following charming scene. It was an idyllic place: the sun was sparkling, the meadows were lush and green, and the surrounding mountains seemed as if they were waiting for Julie Andrews to start singing. "The hills are alive...."

And there, in the middle of the meadow, were a couple of pack llamas taking a bit of the breather.

Nearby, a young family was taking a bit of a breather as well. The kids, aged from about 4-10, were having a snack in the shade, and mom was pulling a few more tasting morsels out of a pack for them. They looked hot, tired, and reasonably happy.

But as we approached them, the father of the family came out to greet us as we descended down from our cross-country adventure to Return and Soldier Lakes.

"Is that the trail to Virginia Pass?" he asked, a not of worry in his voice.

We assured him that it was not. It wasn't really a trail at all, although it led to some beautiful country. It sure wasn't on the way to anywhere else at all.

"Can you tell me where the trail to Virginia Pass is?" he asked, a little desperately.

We remembered passing a large cairn on the trail below where his family was resting and mentioned it to him. The cairn also had a huge arrow next to it to point the way.

"Yeah, it's not very easy to follow." he said. "I guess it might get better as you get higher up."

We would like to have helped, but our route was in another direction, and he didn't seem to want to hike with us down to the we offered him encouragement that we were sure that was the trail.

And then we hiked off and left him in the middle of the idyllic meadow, with his llamas and his little kids. We hoped that he would find his way up to Virginia Pass. And we made a note to tell the Rangers in Bridgeport where we had been hiking, and to check the backpacking websites when we got back, to see if a family was reported missing.

All has been quiet, and we are happy that it must have turned out well. was awkward to just leave them there. Maybe we should have hiked the route past the cairn with them, until we were sure that they could find the trail. But wasn't on our way at all. And the kids had food and water. And the trail to Virginia Pass could really only lead one direction---up over the ridge and down to the trailhead.

Still...little kids

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
I would have done as you did... on 09/23/2013 14:34:55 MDT Print View

And I wouldn't worry about it at all. Sounds like they were doing fine and they had camping gear. Being lost for a bit is not an issue in itself. Happens all the time.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 14:35:07 MDT Print View

Paul, you did what I would have done. Tell them what I know, express any uncertainities I had, and then continue on my way.

We often don't realize quite how much experience enters into route finding, even on an established trail. After a few thousand trail miles, one has a better feel for how crews build trails, and the differences between a trail and a bare swathe of ground.

If the trails had blazes on trees, he could have enlisted the whole family to look for signs.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 14:48:47 MDT Print View

Maybe remind them to look back where they came from so they can return?

If they don't go to where they initially intended maybe it doesn't matter.

When it comes time to go back to the car, if you forget how to get there it can be much worse.

Especially inexperienced people sometimes go forth enthusiastically, only looking forward, but when it comes time to go back everything looks different and they can get lost.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 15:02:56 MDT Print View

About the only other thing I would have done would be to pull out a map, show him where he was, show him where the turn-off/trail was, and assure him that he couldn't get there from here without returning to the turn-off.

That said, it doesn't seem they were in any kind of danger beyond their own ignorance.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
map on 09/23/2013 15:25:16 MDT Print View

Recently, once or twice, on the trail I've given my map away to folks that needed it more that I.
Back when I had to order USGS maps through the mail I never would have done this, but now-a days I print my own 11x17 maps from here -

And these I got no problem giving away. Printed on ordinary copier paper they don't last long anyway.

But hey, don't worry about it! Part of the fun is the adventure of finding your own way, and I'm sure those folks were just fine.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: map on 09/23/2013 16:24:07 MDT Print View

>"Printed on ordinary copier paper they don't last long anyway."

* * * Thread drift warning * * *

laser printers and any xerographical process that heat-sets toner onto the paper do much better than ink-jet printing which is always water soluble. Then coat the printed pages with a solution for that purpose or (far cheaper) use Thompson's Water Seal like you would on a wooden deck. I've used maps I've prepared like that on multiple kayaking trips, fully exposed to waves and weather. It's not a durable as a map printed on plastic, but very convenient to print map at home.

Rite-in-the-Rain paper coupled with a laser-printer makes quite pretty water-proof maps in one step:

I'd argue that one of the most important "first aid" (more broadly, emergency) supplies is paper and pencil. And waterproof paper is even better than such a case.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 16:30:05 MDT Print View

We were on a day hike and a trio of college girls asked us for directions to a trail in the area. I got out my map and showed them where they were and trail they asked about and let them work through the turns, etc. I asked them why they didn't have a map, and they said that they had one on a smartphone, but it got erased.

Darwin looked up from his newspaper and raised an eyebrow.....

You did all you could, short of dragging them to their destination. The ones that scare me is when they are asking directions and don't have a shred of gear.

Edited by dwambaugh on 09/23/2013 16:33:19 MDT.

James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Re: map paper on 09/23/2013 17:28:47 MDT Print View

This stuff works great:

Available in other sizes as well. I use this to print out maps. When I am climbing one side gets the map, the backside gets the route description and contact info for everyone in my party.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 17:59:02 MDT Print View

I would have immediately rushed the llamas in the meadow, whooping, screaming, and spooking them into a frenzy.

Animals panicked and adults distracted, I would have then swooped in and taken the remaining tasty morsels that the mom had in the pack.

During the ensuing flight, I would have made sure to kick over the cairn and erase the arrow to the trail.

Now a safe distance away from the scene of my banditry, I would find a shady, idyllic meadow of my own and I would gorge on the tasty morsels.

Upon exiting the mountains the next day I would dye my hair in a Flying-J bathroom, steal some new license plates for the drive home, and call a ranger station from a borrowed phone to report a lost looking family that needed help; I do have a conscience and wouldn't want to waylay any children for too long.

Thus far, my highwayman tactics have enabled me to keep my consumables weight at nearly zero.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 18:10:10 MDT Print View

Craig. That's awesome. That technique would pair well with my Taser resupply method.

The OP did enough and should have a clear conscience.

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 20:01:36 MDT Print View

Craig -- no alpha behavior this time?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 22:32:00 MDT Print View

"Craig -- no alpha behavior this time?"

Craig vs labrador.... I'll give it to Craig. Vs a llama? No way.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 22:56:13 MDT Print View

The only thing I would do differently might be this:

Get Dad out of earshot of the wife and kids and ask him point-blank, "Are you lost?"
"What's your Plan-B if you can't find your trail?" "What's your Plan-C?"

If you're not 100% satisfied with the man's answers, the only thing to do is offer to guide him and his family to safety.

Men have a tendency to let pride get in the way of asking for help, or even accepting help that's offered freely. You need to make sure pride is taken out of the equation, before you try to solve for X.

Pulling Dad aside gives him a chance to let down his guard, especially if you can joke with him a bit or tell a self-deprecating story about how you were lost once (just make something up; I'm sure you've never been lost), so when you hit him with the direct questions he's more likely to be honest. Plus, if you end up having to help him there's a bit of time to get your stories straight so he can save face with the wife.

All he has to say is something like, "Honey, this guy has a better map than us so he's going to stay with us until we get to the cutoff." Or "Paul here knows a shortcut that's not on the maps." He gets to look like a champ in front of his family and everyone makes it out alive.

If he refuses help like a stubborn ass, make a report to the Rangers as soon as you can.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 23:20:03 MDT Print View

Daniel offers some helpful ideas about letting a dad / husband save face. I wondered from the OP how much of that (Dad getting in over his head, but continuing to fake it) was going on.

Then, if Daniel's approach falls on deaf ears, get Mom out of earshot of the husband and ask, "When will you put your foot down and make him turn around? Make sure it is while you could still find your way back."

Edited to clarify: the above paragraph was mostly tongue-in-cheek. Daniel's post below is right, don't get into the middle of a couple's issues.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 09/23/2013 23:39:34 MDT.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Good points on 09/23/2013 23:30:15 MDT Print View

The dad actually approached us away from his family as we hiked up to them. I got the sense, but did not confirm it, that mom had at least some idea of what was going on.

And there was a clear trail out of the canyon---it just didn't go where they wanted to go. So I rationalized that they could always just hike that to get out.

I just hope the kids get to go hiking sometime again!

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: What would you have done? on 09/23/2013 23:36:16 MDT Print View

Then, if Daniel's approach falls on deaf ears, get Mom out of earshot of the husband and ask, "When will you put your foot down and make him turn around? Make sure it is while you could still find your way back."

It's worth a shot, but be careful. If Dad gets the feeling that you're challenging his authority or trying to turn his wife against him, things could get ugly. Being good at reading body-language would give an advantage. If homeboy is really lost and feeling inadequate and vulnerable he's dangerous. Fatigue, hunger and dehydration are not the ingredients to rational decision-making.

Edited by pitsy on 09/23/2013 23:39:55 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
They had pack llamas? on 09/25/2013 12:36:44 MDT Print View

If they are the kind of people who had "pack llamas" then I doubt that they were total neophytes. I think a few pointers then moving on was quite reasonable. Yes, pulling out a map and terrain-associating with the wayward soul is helpful- I'm pretty visual myself.

Paul Andronico
(Jakesandwich) - MLife

Locale: S.F. Bay Area
You handled it great on 09/25/2013 13:52:09 MDT Print View

You offered guidance, which was the right thing to do. You were concerned he might not follow it, and then went above and beyond the call of duty and let the rangers know your concerns for their safety. Job well done in my opinion.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: What would you have done? on 10/14/2013 20:37:33 MDT Print View

I would have minded my own business.

If someone asks for help, then I would help.