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529 Summer Stories
Lost on the Trail

Trail sing in RMNP

We spent the Summer of '11 in Rocky Mountain National Park. On a late afternoon hike we went on a tour of a couple of lakes nearby our campground. After a short hike up the trail we saw a family of three sitting on a log resting near a trail junction. They didn't speak as we passed them; but it was easy to see there was something wrong. We didn't know if they were having a medical issue, family issue, or what.

Nonchalantly, I asked how they were doing.

That opened the dam. The boy immediately began talking and telling all. They were lost. Boy, were they lost. The hike had been very hard and they had no idea where they were.

The odd thing about the family being lost was they had just walked past the sign in the picture (above). The sign gave directions to almost every place nearby. Yet, they were lost.

The family did not know where they were, they did not know where they started from (where their car was parked), and they did not know where they were going. The directional signs were worthless to them because they could not associate the names on the signs to any places.

This was probably the families first hike. The bad thing was that it was probably going to be their last hike, too.

The family had confused walking with hiking. Walking is what you do while going from store to store in a shopping mall, whereas hiking is walking on a trail. Hiking is still walking; but it also requires the skills needed to travel through the wilderness. These needed skills include safety, Leave No Trace, the Ten Essentials, and navigation.

We gave them directions to the large Park and Ride parking area less than two tenths of a mile away (all downhill). Of course, when they arrived at the Park and Ride I am sure the Park Staff was going to have to help them also. The family did not know where they parked!

We wished the family the best.

Everyone has had a first hike experience. Here are a few tips to make the first time more enjoyable ...

Dress like a hiker. Wear the appropriate shoes and clothing for the environment.

Carry a day pack.

Carry the Ten Essentials in the day pack. A map is one of the essentials.

Learn and practice the Leave No Trace principles.

Remember your (and your groups) safety is your responsibility.

Read and practice what you learn. Hiking is not the same as walking.

Hike with experienced partners while learning.

Build on the experiences.

Learn to have fun.

Happy hiking trails


Ten Essentials +

Leave No Trace

Hike Safe


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