On March 1, 2019, in Humboldt County, California, two sisters, ages 5 and 8, went for a walk in the woods adjoining their 80-acre rural property. They didn't come home. Search and rescue would find them, 44 hours later, huddled under a huckleberry bush in the forest, cold and dehydrated, but safe. A new study by SmokyMountains.com shows it’s not just children at risk. According to the research, wandering off trail is the number one reason, ahead of injury and bad weather, that adult hikers require search and rescue.
The study analyzed 100+ news reports over the past 25 years to identify the most common ways adults in North America got lost while hiking in national parks and wilderness, what they did to survive, and how they made it out alive. Forty-one percent of the survivors began their odysseys, which ranged from a half-day missing to 90 days, by accidentally straying from the trail. Another 16 percent fell off trail and couldn’t find their way back.