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Study examines how hikers got in trouble — and survived 

A study commissioned by smokeymountains.com, and conducted by search and rescue specialist Andrew Herrington, sheds light on how hikers and backpackers get lost — and then found — while out in the wild.

After examining 103 public reports of people who were lost from anywhere to a few hours to 90 days, Herrington found that 41 percent of those who got lost did so by wandering off marked trails. Bad weather was the second most common cause, claiming 17 percent of the occurrences. 

When it came to survival, 24 percent of those lost said they used a body of water like lakes, streams, etc. for drinking water.  12 percent said they used whatever clothing they had to stay warm when they were waiting to be found. 11 percent used camping gear for shelter, while another 9 percent used caves or shelters they found. For food, 35 percent rationed the food they had with them, while 17 percent had no food at all.

Although search and rescue experts advise to stay put when lost, since finding a stationary target is easier than finding one that is moving, 65 percent of those in the study kept moving, with only 23 percent actually finding their own way out, seemingly reinforcing the "stay put" advice.

Since the study was only based on publicly available information such as news reports, no interviews were done to clarify some of the data. For example, the study doesn't indicate if people who drank from ponds had some method of purifying the water, or drank untreated or treated water. Nonetheless, Herrington provides recommendations in the report on how on to survive in the wild:
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  • Carry the "10 Essentials"
  • Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Wear moisture wicking clothing
  • Bring maps
  • Bring your cell phone, and consider a personal locator beacon
  • Bring calorie-dense food
  • Bring water and a way to filter or purify and additional water you might need
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Bring a method of signaling for help, such as a whistle
  • When lost, STAY PUT

To read the complete report, go to: smokymountains.com/safe-and-found

In other news, El Paso County Parks will be having a grand opening of the new dog park at Falcon Regional Park on Eastonville Road just north of Falcon Regional High School on April 20 at 10 a.m. Dogs and their owners are invited to attend.

The next "Re-imagine Waldo Canyon" public meeting will be Wednesday April 17, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.
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Happy Trails!

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