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#154170 - 11/03/08 11:37 PM Stay put or hike out?

Stay put or hike out?

If you are out day fishing in a fairly remote area and your vehicle breaks down 23 km's (14 miles) from the nearest main logging road then 4 miles to pavement (and cell phone coverage). Would you stay put and await for help or hike out considering these circumstances:

- Two people (male/female) with food (2 days worth) and water (easily replenishable)

- Are in good physical/mental condition with strong outdoor and navigational skills (she is a former adventure racer)

- A detailed note was left with family as to where, when, what gear they had, and what time they expected to be back

- Proper clothing and footwear for the weather: 50- 60 F with some clouds and periods of very light rain

- Carried pertinent maps, compass and survival gear in their backpacks for time of year and terrain (a mix of PNW forest and interior open grasslands)

- Despite it's remoteness, both people know the area very well and have spent years, hiking, camping and fishing in this same area

This situation happened yesterday morning (11:45 am) to co-worker and her husband. Their car would not start and after an hour of trying, they realized that whatever was wrong with the car was beyond their ability to fix in the field. Rather then wait until nightfall and hope that their family would alert the authorities, after some discussion and review of their situation, the remoteness of the area and available gear, they decided to hike out.

They knew that by following the winding and looping road, it was a 23 km hike, however by hiking out cross country they could shave the distance by just under half. To their credit, they left a detailed letter in the car with their names, their personal descriptions and clothing, cell phone numbers, what gear, maps and compass they had, boot manufacturers / model / size. They also included a hand drawn map of the area and which direction they were taking. In short they left very little detail to chance.

Needless to say they hiked out with no issues and were able to use their cell phone to contact a family member who picked them up. Their car will be hauled out tomorrow on a flat deck.

In telling their story to family and now today at work, my co-worker privately told me that they have been roundly criticized for not staying put and waiting for help. I know both her and her husband well and have been on many extended outdoor trips with them over the years and they are very, very competent in the wilderness in general.

Do I think they did the right thing....I have somewhat mixed feelings. They know (and I know) what they are capable of....and their limitations. Part of me says they made the right decision, however one wrong mistake could of made that right decision very wrong.


#154178 - 11/04/08 12:02 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
nursemike Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 870
Loc: wellington, fl
Why apologize for a good outcome? OTOH, if they had not walked out, they would not be back at work today. They would still be in breathtakingly beautiful wilderness, well-fed and comfortable...with an excellent excuse for missing work...I might have chosen to wait until someone in authority MADE me come back to civilization. Might not have been a bad place to wait out the election, or the depression, or the end of days, or whatever.
Dance like you have never been hurt, work like no one is watching,love like you don't need the money.

#154179 - 11/04/08 12:05 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
SolidVFR Offline

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 26
I'd say they did the right thing. Staying put is generally a good idea...but not always. Leaving detailed info of where you are going is a must. As for taking a straight line back to civilization...if I was sure I would be able to without getting lost, I would do it. If I had any doubts, I'd follow the road. Of course, being prepared makes a situation like this the difference between life-threatening and a big hassle.

#154180 - 11/04/08 12:09 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 955
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
I would say -- it depends. Depends a lot on the individuals and their experience and the thought process they used to make that decision. It sounds to me that they made some logical choices along the way and covered the likely scenarios. If the weather had been poor or they lacked enough clothing they might have made a different choice. The fact that they are alive and well and able to tell the story means the choice did not have any negative consequences. To say the end justifies the means is not a good excuse but they could have just as easily stayed put and had to wait 2 or 3 days to be located. People can also make stupid decisions when they are "BORED" and need to "SOLVE" the situation.

The whole scenario reminds me of a exercise our company did for a team building thing. Except that it was just a paper fantasy airplane crash, the location was northern Quebec (near the polar region) and we knew we were not going to be missed for at least a week. [Hey, I didn't say it was a realistic scenario!] I was the one with the most outdoor experience and capability and yet I'm the one who said stay put - everybody else wanted to walk out... In the end, I HAD to join my team because nobody could be left behind. In the scenario I think most of our team ended up dead because we couldn't walk out or navigate properly so I was doing the "i told you so!"

They said it was a team building exercise, my team was a bunch of idiots.

#154182 - 11/04/08 12:16 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
wildman800 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 2841
Loc: La-USA
I think that they were "onscene" and knew their situation best.

From the sound of things,,I would have hiked out as they did. My opinion only!
The best luck is what you make yourself!

#154183 - 11/04/08 12:26 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
Jeff_M Offline

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 665
Loc: Northwest Florida
Originally Posted By: IzzyJG99
For them it was the right thing. If you're a well versed outdoorsman and you are well equipped a 14 mile hike INTO civilization (Psychologically boosting) is easily done. From what you've said they did, they did the right thing. Leaving the notes behind with the vehicle was a smart one.

Personally I feel they were in an ideal situation. It's not as if they had no idea where they were and where to go. They had a road to follow and following it lets them know they are always on the right path, but like you said they went in a straight line to save distance, which was logical. If it were me I wouldn't want to stay put. I'm a man of action and I don't much care for sitting still and waiting for someone to find me, which sometimes might not happen all that quickly.

I would've walked out. If I were going on (and I have) the same kind of trip they were on I would have with me most likely the very same items they had with them. I would've said "Well, this sucks", but I would've walked out as well.

Besides....who doesn't love a good adventure?

Agreed. But Nursemike makes a good point . . .


#154185 - 11/04/08 12:33 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: wildman800]
DesertFox Offline

Registered: 01/04/07
Posts: 339
Loc: New York, NY
Given the scenario they probably did the right thing. Had any one of the factors you bullet pointed been different (unfamiliar with the area, or alone, or no proper clothing, equipment, or bad weather) then the better decision may have been to stay put. Given their level of training, experience, preps and knowledge, it probably doesn't even rise to the level of a survival situation, just a camping trip with some unexpected inconvenience.

#154186 - 11/04/08 12:37 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: wildman800]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Eighteen miles, even without the shortcuts, is really just a good day's walk. (The pioneers did it every day for about six months, including all but the smallest children and elderly.) At a steady three miles an hour, we're talking about 6 hours, maybe a little more with a rest every hour.

They knew where they were, and where they were going, and how to get there.

They weren't fighting extreme weather, they weren't injured, they weren't dropped into an unfamiliar area.

This is the kind of scenario that doesn't make the news because they had everything well in hand.

Why wait for help? They didn't need it. Save it for someone who needs it.


#154190 - 11/04/08 12:44 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: wildman800]
Yuccahead Offline

Registered: 07/24/08
Posts: 199
Loc: W. Texas
I think most here know that it's usually best to stay put. Your vehicle is much easier to see from the air than you are and it's usually easier to survive if you put your efforts into surviving instead of traveling and surviving. However, If my car breaks down just blocks from the house, I'm clearly not going to wait to be saved. I'll just walk home. And it sounds to me that given the people involved and when outside help might arrive, hiking out just wasn't that much of a stretch for them.

Not knowing more, I might have been inclined to stay on the road more since there would be a higher chance of running into someone and less of a chance of spraining something.

Also, anticipated weather would impact my decision. In the fall, when a surprise blizzard might be just around the corner, hiking out that day in mild weather may make a lot more sense than waiting for a storm to hit during the days it may take for friends to realize you never checked in yesterday like you said you would because your friends got distracted by their own problems.
-- David.

#154193 - 11/04/08 12:57 AM Re: Stay put or hike out? [Re: ]
ponder Offline

Registered: 12/18/06
Posts: 367
Loc: American Redoubt
18 miles on a road for outdoor people? Six hours for this couple of 62 year old retired shop owners.

For an experienced adventure racer - three hours while dragging along her boy friend.

Anyone who thinks backtracking the car tracks to a paved road at 50 degrees is a rescue situation should really stay in town.
Cliff Harrison
Horseshoe Bend, ID
American Redoubt
N43.9668 W116.1888

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