Getting lost in the woods can be a frightening experience. It can even turn deadly. However, it's more common than you might think and it can happen to anyone, even the most experienced woodsmen.
I ran into Marquette resident, Chris Gonzalez, as I was climbing Sugarloaf Mountain the other day. He said that he had gotten turned around in the woods once. Hereâ??s what he had to say about his experience: â??Stay composed and keep your eyes open. That's a big thing. If you start panicking, then you start second guessing yourself. Just follow your instincts and hopefully that works out for you.â??
Once you realize you're lost in the woods, it's easy to let panic take over. The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. When you panic, you're not thinking clearly and especially during these harsh Upper Michigan winters, mistakes can be critical.
The key to success in the backwoods is preparation. Thatâ??s according to Corporal Errol Lukkarinen of the Marquette Sheriffâ??s Department. He said, â??If you're going to be venturing out in the woods, whether itâ??s going to be hiking, fishing, hunting or mountain biking, make sure you bring a pack with you. You need something with the basic essentials to survive or spend the night in the woods. No one plans on getting mixed up out in the woods or getting hurt, and having that pack could save your life.â??
When packing for a trip into the backcountry, remember the 6 Ps. â??Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.â?? Corporal Errol Lukkarinen has more than two decades SAR experience. He shared some vital advice. â??You want to make sure that you tell someone where you're going and when you're going to be back. Also make sure that the person that you tell is going to call the proper authorities if you're not back at a certain time so you can get rescue personnel out there as quick as you can.â??
If you do find yourself lost in the woods remember these simple instructions. S.T.O.P.
Stop what youâ??re doing. If you continue your journey, you could be moving deeper into trouble.
Think about where was the last time you were not lost. Try to retrace your steps back to that spot.
Observe your surroundings. Take note of changes in the terrain, rock outcroppings and waterways. Use anything that might help you navigate.
Finally, plan your escape.
If none of that works, it's time to stay put. Do what you can to stay warm and dry and wait for help. Remember, Lukkarinen and his eager search dog, Czar, along with the rest of the Marquette County Special Operations Division, are always on call in case something goes wrong.Here is a list of the top ten items to bring with you to keep from getting lost:compass & map (GPS)water (bottles, filter, iodine tablets)foodknifelighter/matchesfire starter (cotton soaked in vasoline)flashlight/headlampextra batteriesspace blanketgarbage bag (versitile & compact)
There are many more items that should be included when packing for a backcountry trip, including first aid, extra clothing, shelter and a whistle to name a few. What do you bring that we've left out?Here might be an example of what not to do.