That’s when the trouble began. On my way down the mountain and back to my car, I misjudged … something. Descending quickly down the steep rock face, it wasn’t until I was well down the mountainside that I realized that there was not a lake where there should have been. As misjudgments do, this one multiplied and multiplied again. My legs were gassed, so I couldn’t climb all the way back up from where I came; my visibility was too limited to get any bearings; and while I had a compass and map, my orientation skills were, frankly, not up to snuff for someone out hiking off-trail by himself. You see where this is going. Six or so hours later I was cut, bruised, and completely lost. I, conqueror of Preacher Mountain, was now yet another case for the King County Search and Rescue.


I've never hiked a true bushwhack, just some peaks that are officially trailless but have well established herdpaths. In the winter I've struggled to stay on trails, but the trail is still there if you keep looking.

I always carry some level of emergency gear. I have an emergency bivy that weighs almost nothing, and in mild, clear weather I'll still take rain gear as emergency warmth or wind or rain protection.

An early purchase was a GPS, but I still carry at least one map and a compass. I should probably take some navigation refreshers. I like the GPS for morale. When I'm feeling tired, knowing I'm only a quarter mile from the next junction is a mental boost.

My most recent addition is an Inreach (previously operated by Delorme but now Garmin). This is similar to a personal locator beacon but allows two way text conversations at the expense of paying a subscription. Like the article, I decided if I was stuck in the backcountry, I would absolutely pay that price to send a text message that I was injured.

Stories like this are good reminders of what can go wrong. Better to be sheepish about needing search and rescue than to be retrieved, not rescued.

posted by ButterflyEffect: 680 days ago