Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Don’t Do What We Did: Lessons From a Group Hike



Hiking is a passion of mine. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s just a couple mile stroll or a multi mile hike to a scenic destination. There is always something interesting to look at or photograph, and it’s a great way to get some exercise. Hiking with a group can be especially fun, and the miles just seem to melt away while talking with someone we’ve just met or don’t see very often.

Sunday morning the group gathered at our campsite for what we thought would be a couple hours wandering the hills around Mittry Lake. We were joined by Glenn (To Simplify), Ted (Life With Kurumi), Boonie (Occupation of Independence) and Coffee Girl, Jimbo (Jimbo’s Journeys), Chris, and Debbie with Rupert and Elliot..


There are no formal hiking trails here, but you can see trails everywhere, maybe from past miners or animals. We followed a trail we’ve hiked a few times, about a mile to a group of rock cairns, and wanted to see what was beyond.



Up to this point we had mostly stayed together, but it’s natural that we all hike at different paces, and some of us stop to take photos or climb a hill to see a different view.

Jim wandered off and found this old mining claim.


After this point we saw a trail continuing on and figured we could make a loop of it rather than backtrack. I had a nagging feeling this wasn’t a good idea because of the hike we took with John and Susan a couple weeks ago, but didn’t say anything since the majority decided that was the way to go.

Lesson 1: An out and back hike is a good idea with a group, unless you’re familiar with the trail and know how long the loop is. That gives everyone an option on how long they want to hike, since they can turn around whenever they feel like it.

Boonie, Glenn, and Ted went on ahead and came to an impasse. We saw them backtrack and go up a hill on a visible trail so we followed them. Once we got to the top we lost sight of them so we just continued on. It’s hard to get lost around here because you have the lake and canals for landmarks, but the terrain is so unforgiving it isn’t always possible to get where you want to go.


We finally came to a high spot where we could see the road, and spotted them across the canal. Jimbo was getting pretty tired by this point, and although we should have turned around then, none of us really wanted to do that. So on we went, with Chris and Debbie blazing a trail for us. I had a minor panic attack at a particularly steep drop off, and decided I was going back the way we came. Jim turned around with me, and Jimbo waited for us to decide our next move. We really wanted him to get in the canal and swim (or wade) the short distance across to the road, but he wasn’t too keen on that idea. Besides, the brush was so thick we couldn’t even find a way to the water’s edge.

Lesson 2: Don’t split up, or at least be sure the stragglers in the group are on the right path.

Jimbo was fading fast, and we didn’t think he would make it back the way we came since he had to rest frequently. Chris and Debbie were waiting for us but since they couldn’t see us they didn’t realize we turned back. Fortunately we had cell signal, so Boonie was able to call us and then Chris to let them know we weren’t coming that way.

But we did see some more interesting rock art.



Boonie told us Ted would drive his motorcycle around the road to Imperial Dam and see if he could meet up with us on some of the dirt roads we could see on our side of the water. Not long after this, I looked up and saw this.


He hollered down at us that if we could make it up the hill he would give us a ride. Jim and I really wanted to hike back, but we were 4 hours into the hike with only one water bottle each and both were empty, and we had brought nothing to eat.

Lesson 3: Always prepare for being out longer than you think. We should know this by now, but we seem to find ourselves in this situation more than we ought to.

At least our story had a happy ending. Making our way up the last big climb.


Our rescuer Steven gave us a ride back to camp. He even provided oranges, ice tea and cold soft drinks. He was quite a character and we learned more about him in those nine miles than we ever wanted to know. Like how he overheard us talking while he was out taking a dump before he started fishing!


So we will try to be more prepared the next time. Stay tuned to see how that works out!

Chuck and Carla arrived later that afternoon, happy to be wearing shorts after escaping Iowa’s frigid weather. Life is good.



  1. Well now, that was one exciting hike. I like all your suggestions. Each time we have hiked with a group, we have all stayed together. We figured if we got lost we could all blame each other.

    Four hours is a bit long to be out without more water. Glad Steven was thoughtful enough to bring you supplies.

  2. You had quite the experienced crew. But still lessons to be learned (and relearned) I hate these little reminders! One other lesson that I am particularly vulnerable to is hiking beyond my limit when I am with hikers or bikers in better shape. Pride falls hard :(

  3. So glad to hear that you all made it back safe and sound! You learned a lot, and will know better next time...and be better prepared. As nice and easy as things can look, they can often be a lot harder on us than we realize. Since we're getting older, we have had to learn some of those same lessons. All our best to you and the group. Tell Jimbo to take it a bit easier, Chica is depending on him.

  4. Good lessons learned. We've found ourselves in the same predicament a few times and it can get pretty scary.

  5. Great story! Glad it turned out well. Those are definitely good lessons.

  6. Glad everyone made it back safely. You are right about being better prepared. You really never know how long a new hike really is. We had a similar issue in Cedar Mesa. We need to bring more water and food then we think we need. Running out of water is not fun.

  7. maybe you need a to check our Spotted Dogs post…
    and speaking of Chinle, your hike sounds a little like that loop hike we made this past fall…Chinle Trail. Still can't believe a horse made it down that wash.
    Box Canyon Mark

    1. It's fun to speculate how you and Bobbie would have behaved on that hike. Would you have just rolled your eyes at our incompetence? Gone off separate? Played rescuer?

  8. Oh that's no fun when a hike gets out of control...been there and done that! So glad everything turned out okay!

  9. No matter how long I hike I keep making those similar decisions that end up not being the wisest. Luckily it's never been disastrous, but there's always a first time. I'm a little more cautious hiking alone on a little used trail.

  10. It's getting a little warm to hike. Time to hit Lake Havasu for a swim! I bet you guys are loving the 80+ degree weather.

  11. What an awesome group, I follow a few of those blogs and would have loved to have listened in on the conversation!

  12. Respectfully, your lessons learned are not complete and seem like just more accidents waiting to happen. I've learned to only hike with people that respect the guidelines below. Yeah, I know, I sound like the fun Nazi, but really I've seen this too many times and what could be sublime ends up, at the very least, being stressful.

    These are some guidelines I learned from the Wilderness Travel Course put on by the Sierra Club.


    Always bring your ten essentials. This includes a map and compass and a plan where you're going. I don't even go to the mall without them most of the time because it's just more comfortable. If I get thirsty, hungry, the temps change or the sun blinds me... I'm good and the others start complaining and I can go further and longer.

    Always tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. Easy to forget.

    The leader waits for everyone at every trail junction. The sweep, another leader assigned to be the last person makes sure we don't leave anyone behind. If someone wants out then everyone knows and stops worrying about them.

  13. Perhaps the comment about swimming or wading in the canal was in jest, but the general rule is: NEVER DO IT! The water flow rate is deceptively fast, and the sides of the canals are often too slippery to climb out. We sure don't want to lose any LDers (or anyone else) in a canal. It happens all too often as it is.