Some may remember the James Kim case out of Oregon in December 2006. Kim inadvertently chose an old logging road while driving home, getting lost in the woods. He left his wife and two young kids in the vehicle while he sought help, promising to return by early afternoon. He never did and his body was found in a creek. Based on snow tracks it was determined he walked practically in the same loop over and over for 16 miles. Awful.
- Once you realize you’re lost, assess for injuries or situations that interfere with life sustenance. This assessment is ongoing because it includes avoiding doing anything that could interfere with breathing, blood flow, consciousness, you know, life.
- Next is think and observe. Where are you? What landmarks did you spot prior? How did you get here? Assess the environment: Hot? Cold soon? Darkness soon?
- Get logical, not emotional. Admit you’re truly lost. If you have an idea from where you came, backtrack mentally for clues, e.g., if you see wet mud on the trail where you think you came, check if your shoes are muddy. Think before you wander.
- Inspect your inventory. Maybe you have something that could help like a sharp tool, whistle, cellphone. And, how much water do you have? Sip in small amounts when thirsty, and limit exertion.
- It’s time to plan. Once you decide to find your way back, leave trail markers. But don’t budge unless you’re 100 percent sure you know the way out. It’s safer to stay put in your lost spot and wait for rescue than do what James Kim did (rescuers eventually found his vehicle and his unharmed family).
- What about food? Don’t panic (cavemen certainly didn’t; long fasts were a way of life). The body can go up to three weeks without food (but only two or three days without water; less in scorching heat).