Sometimes as we sit with maps spread out before us, a compass that seems not to have remembered where north was, and a trail that is no longer is visible, and we wonder about this situation. Are we the only ones who get lost--we doubt it. Of course we never really get lost only momentarily disoriented. Yeah, right!
1. Using the wrong map.
Well actually this is not quite correct--we had the wrong map. Sometimes-rarely of course-we might make a mistake.
2. Following cairns even though they are not on the actual route.
We always have tremendous respect for those who have gone before us. They must know a shortcut. Or the logical route is not doable. We sometimes compound the problems as we sometimes leave cairns thinking we know where we're going.
3. Matching the picture of the peak to the wrong peak.
The right peak was just two peaks to the right. It seemed logical to us to carry a copy of the picture of the peak in the backpack. How were we to remember that is was taken from the south. We were coming in from the north. It also seems logical that the guidebooks would have the right picture of the peak. Not always the case.
4. Believing those who write guide books.
More on this later. We discuss how to turn class 2 climbs into class 4. Avoid McCoy gulch.
5. The road or trailhead moved.
This often happens at midnight when we try to find the trailhead and a place to car camp after a most delightful evening at a bar just down the road 20 miles or so.
6. The trail ends before it is supposed to end. -?????? Probably the real reason most of us get lost.
7. Thinking about sex.
Now this is a proven theory--we heard it on the radio. The average man thinks about sex every 15 minutes or so. When the average man is thinking about sex--it is almost impossible to concentrate on other things. Like which fork to take in the trail. We back track allot. Some of you will now really wonder about us--how could both of us be thinking about sex at the same time--well one of leads going up and one of us leads going down--and we always trust the judgment of the then leader. But then too, we do think about sex allot. Someone has to be there to the right on a bell shaped curve.
8. Thinking about sex -Part two
Actually what you've just read is an early version of thinking about sex. It is possible that both of us might be thinking of that subject at that the same time and thus both miss a key turn. It was only after we'd followed one of Dave Mueller’s trail guides, that we finally understood the reason. As you hike the trial you do not tend to go just up to the top. The trail is often a mixture of ups and downs. These small ups and downs were given a name called undulations. These undulations add to the overall altitude gain one has to do to climb the peak. Now if one says the word undulations and remembers that it describes an up and down motion--and --enough probably said. It does add a compelling addition to why normally competent individuals could both miss a critical fork in the trail--damn our hormones--we say. All because of undulations.
Reasons for getting lost--An add on:
Above we've discussed the principal reasons for getting lost. There are other reasons for getting lost that we'd like to mention in case you've experienced them too.
1. Trails that change:
Sometimes as we hike, knowing that we're following the guidebook correctly, we find we're not where we thought we should be. Well keep in mine that trails do change over time. And it is better to think this than consider the possibility that you may have made an error. This trail changing did happen to us once and its been worth allot to have had that experience as it prepared us for future changes.
2. Trail signs also change or even worse some people from Texas change the sides. (We are from Colorado.)
Again we have had this happen to us as well. We expect the trail to fork right, the sign says left so left we go till after a quarter mile we know we're going the wrong way. Back to the error point. Then we notice that the sign is upside down-Those Texans strike again.
The one thing to remember about being lost is that it is normally a short lived fact--we normally discover we're wrong within a quarter to half mile of trail. Knowing this makes it all acceptable as just one of those things that makes hiking so much fun.