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Missing man’s pack rescues lost hikers
May 11, 2006 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Allen, 24, and Brandon Day, 28, of Dallas, were in Southern California for a financial convention. They got lost Saturday west of Palm Springs after wandering off a trail during what was supposed to be a day hike. [On the third day] they discovered a campsite in a dead-end gorge. Day and Allen were elated, thinking someone there could help them find the way out. But something was wrong. A radio and flashlight were corroded. They realized the place was deserted. ``His last journal entry was one year ago to the day that we found it, which was very eerie,' Day said. ``Nobody knew where he was, nobody knew to come looking for him, so he was preparing for the end. We were looking at the words of a man who was passing.' The missing man was John Donovan, who had disapeared a year earlier while hiking the pacific crest trail. "Even in his death, he was helping people," Donovan's longtime friend, Chris Hook, said from Richmond, Virginia.
posted by 445supermag (26 comments total)

 
Hey, you know what is even weirder? His birthday was today. Coincidence? I think not!

I'm wonderingso how this story becomes a little less warm and fuzzy if the brushfire they start to get rescued burns out of control for 6 weeks and destroys hundreds of homes.

Glad to see they got out though.
posted by sfts2 at 9:17 AM on May 11, 2006


who...that's chilling.
posted by jne1813 at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2006


Wow, crazy story. I knew the PCT could be tough, but I hadn't heard of anyone dying on their first trip out. I guess it helps to go with a partner instead of alone. Also, taking off in April is a bit early and it's not surprising that he got hit with snows in May. His trip through the Sierra a month later would have been treacherous as well.
posted by mathowie at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2006


I wonder if they would have died had not Donovan died before them.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 9:27 AM on May 11, 2006


It's viral marketing for Blair Witch 3.
posted by smackfu at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2006


More like a sequel to Gerry.
posted by setanor at 9:34 AM on May 11, 2006


I smell a cooked up story....
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2006


If the story is true, they did just about everything wrong.

If you're lost in the wilderness and people know you're lost, you're best bet for survival is to stay in one place. Wandering around like that is the best way to die.
posted by Crash at 10:31 AM on May 11, 2006


I don't understand how people get lost in the woods on a day hike, especially if the sun is out. Just turn around. Use the trail. Pay attention.
posted by airguitar at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2006


airguitar, on the segment I saw about this on whatever morning news show I was watching, the woman says she saw a waterfall she thought was "not that far away" so they decided to try and hike to it, off the beaten path. Although, paying attention definitely applies. Even if you leave the marked trail, I would think one could note landmarks as one passes them
posted by srw12 at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2006


One of the few survival tips I remember is, when lost, to follow running water downstream. The story says that by doing so, the two ended up in a dead-end ravine. First, how I don't really understand this. Second, what are other cases where following water will put you in a worse position?
posted by Corpus Callosum at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2006


But something was wrong. A radio and flashlight were corroded. They realized the place was deserted.
posted by dreamsign at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2006


I don't understand how people get lost in the woods on a day hike, especially if the sun is out. Just turn around. Use the trail. Pay attention.

Trails sometimes branch and aren't blocked or marked properly, or there's a deer trail that looks like where you're going if you're not paying attention, or an old streambed. Things look different coming from the opposite direction -- there's lots of ways to get confused. I got confused like that once on a mountain hike, and by the time I figured out I was not on the trail, there was no easy way to find it again.

I *did* find it again after 4-5 hours of exhausting up and down on a steep slope on a hot August afternoon, and I was fortunate that I could also see civilization from the mountainside, which was heartening ... but I won't lightly forget that feeling of how easy it was to suddenly find oneself without a clear way back to civilization and the web of resources most of us depend on. I wasn't inexperienced when I did this -- I'd been a hiker for years.

Of course, now that I've made some of the mistakes involved with getting lost, I'm more experienced, a little more wary and alert when hiking, and that's probably saved me some trouble since. Maybe some people are just like that initially and don't get lost. Maybe some people have to get lost once or twice to get to that point. But it's something that could happen to anyone, I think.
posted by weston at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2006


One of the few survival tips I remember is, when lost, to follow running water downstream. The story says that by doing so, the two ended up in a dead-end ravine. First, how I don't really understand this. Second, what are other cases where following water will put you in a worse position?

Granted you tend to get closer to civilization by going down to valley bottoms where people tend to live or roads tend to be. But slopes aren't always gradual. In mountainous terrain, a stream can become a waterfall and, after commiting yourself to following a particular line, you might be tempted to continue and climb down a wet, slippery, exposed, eroding cliff. There are gullies on the local ski hills (Vancouver, Canada) named after those who have died trying to follow them down after going out of bounds. In other cases, the stream might go underground or might led to a trapped pond with no outflow. Even if you manage to get to the valley bottom, plant growth tends to be lusher meaning slower progress and no-one can see you from the air.
posted by dithered at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Apparently they took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which starts at the edge of civilization here and ~15 minutes later deposits you here. You've gone from mallworld to the High Country. There seem to be copious warnings about staying on designated trails and people seem to get missing there fairly often but are usually found.

Anyway, from what I've understood, just the fact that they were two people instead of one increased their chances of survival considerably.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 AM on May 11, 2006


I can't believe they went hiking in an area covered by cell towers without their phones. Turn it off, but take it just in case somebody breaks their leg.
posted by Megafly at 11:19 AM on May 11, 2006


Thanks Dithered-
Does this mean that following water is a poor technique? Does this change depending on whether someone knows where you are in general?
posted by Corpus Callosum at 11:31 AM on May 11, 2006


If you're lost in the wilderness and people know you're lost, you're best bet for survival is to stay in one place. Wandering around like that is the best way to die.
posted by Crash


Corpus Callosum, that's the best advice. Spend your time trying to make yourself noticable and comfortable as soon as you realize you're lost. It's very dangerous to play with fire.

It's not a good idea to go into the wilderness alone &/or without someone knowing when you left, where you are supposed to be, and when you're expected back.
posted by taosbat at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2006


I was actually just there (Mt. San Jacinto State Park) last Tuesday. Basically, you drive/bus from the desert floor (a couple hundred feet above sea level?) to the tramway, ~2500 ft up (apologies for not using the metric system). Then you take the tram to 8500 feet, up an extremely rocky mountain (and if you're off trail, probably would require climbing gear to get down). The back of the mountain opens up to the long valley. This is the start of 50+ miles of back country.

I can see how someone could possible get lost, sinc the majority of the area is pretty clear. If you intentionally went off trail, you might not be able to easily pick it back up. It's much easier than getting lost of the AT, which is blazed every 10-15 feet.

If there's cell phone coverage at all, it's only by the top of the tram. A couple of miles away with a mountain peak or two in between, and I doubt a cell phone would have helped.

Corpus, following the water in this case would be a big mistake and would take you away from the tram. Again, the correct action when lost is to stay put.

If you do decide to start a fire, the international distress symbol is 3 fires (one will be mistaken as a camp-fire). Lighting a large field on fire, as done in this case, will get you noticed but can quickly rage out of control.
posted by Crash at 12:07 PM on May 11, 2006


PS. If you keep the above in mind, you'll never have to find out if following water is a good idea.

That depends on the circumstances...following a stream will work more often than not...so will ascending a reasonable-sized ridge (so you can see and be seen)...

Some of the worst fires of the last few years have been started by lost folks signalling for help. In some cases, I think their lack of preparation is so gross it's criminal.
posted by taosbat at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2006


"I don't understand how people get lost in the woods on a day hike, especially if the sun is out."

Sure, it was only a three-hour tour, but the weather started getting rough!

All I can think of is that it would be kinda cool to go up there and set up a nice, cozy little yurt in that ravine. Who'd notice? No neighbors for miles! And once a year, you could help someone out with directions.

Rent free, creekside California living!
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2006


No map or trail guide especially in an unfamiliar area, underdressed, no food, did they even have water? Yikes!

And while you can get lost due to a poorly marked trail (been there, done that), these two folks were an accident looking for a place to happen.
posted by bim at 5:51 PM on May 11, 2006


I'm not a camper or a hiker, but if I take a day trip the bare minimum is water and GPS. Really this is the 21st century this shouldn't happen with just the slightlest preperation.
posted by geoff. at 6:30 PM on May 11, 2006


Morons. Solid gold-plated, two-fisted, dyed-in-the wool , 100% complete, total, morons. Both of 'em. In fact ... I'm thinkin' that all of you dips should frikken well stay home playin' GTA, or some such cack. Whatever.

Just keep the hell OUT of the backcountry. Seriously. The whole frikken ot of yas.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:01 PM on May 11, 2006


I think it's kind of sad that a post about a really bizarre coincidence that is pretty neat and kinda life-affirming has turned into dumping on the lost hikers for being morans.

I'm just going to add that I think it's a pretty cool story and I hope that the journals and such have found their way to Donovan's family.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:40 PM on May 12, 2006


I concure...Very intriguing story and I'll think twice about not being prepared whilst hiking...I just love it when people get all bunched up in the panties over "how they would do things differently..." It's easy to make blanketed judgements after the fact...Fricken Crocodile Dundee...
posted by ionesco at 4:53 PM on May 15, 2006


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