Submitted September 21, 2010

No civilization in that direction for many miles

Fall in the mountains of Utah is a beautiful time, the changing colors of aspens and scrub oak, the cool daytime temperatures and the chance to be outdoors with friends and family all draw hunters into the mountains.

This year was no different, in fact four of my best friends and I had been planning for over a year to spend the muzzleloader deer hunt together hunting and sharing stories around the fire. The much anticipated day finally arrived and we had a lot of fun together hunting for 2 days together even though none of us actually got our deer. Two of my friends had to go home that day and we planned to try one last spot before we had to go home the next day. In my anxiousness I didn't think to replenish my water bladder in my pack like I usually would. We set out on our last hunt after a quick ride on the 4-wheelers to the trailhead and quickly made our way down the trail in anticipation of seeing a bruiser buck. After coming to the end of the established trail we decided to take a break and wait and see what would come by. Not being the most patient person in the world I decided to get up and go walk around leaving my friends sitting by a log.

Now I had hunted this area only once before and knew the general direction back to the road but the trail we walked down followed a finger of a ridge so that if you missed the narrow trail you had to walk up and down some steep and rugged country with most of it comprising of downed timber and thick pine trees. Soon after splitting up I was in the midst of several bull elk bugling back and forth challenging each other and calling their cows together. I was in Heaven being able to call to elk and soon had a very nice sized herd bull coming in to about 10 yards. This was the closest I had been to a big bull elk and we called back and forth for at least 15 minutes. Light was just starting to fade and with the excitement of the elk being all around me I put off my hike back to the trailhead to meet my friends. I followed the herd of elk for probably another 20 minutes before I finally came to my senses and decided I had better start making my way out. I was still calm at that point knowing the general direction to the trail that would lead me out but somehow I came to a spot that looked familiar but the trail disappeared leaving me wondering if I had passed the spot I meant to get to. At this point I was starting to get a little worried and pulled out my 2 way radio and gps unit. I had not marked my trail but was hoping to at least get a Northern compass reading because I knew I had to go west to get to the main road. Of course my friend never turns his radio on so that was pretty much useless to try and get direction from him. As the sunlight was quickly fading I faced what many people that get turned around feel, slight panic and the hurrying to get out. I was walking rather quickly trying to gauge a landmark that would help me find my way out. Although I knew the direction of east and west, after walking for a while through the downed timber I was really beginning to question myself knowing that if I was wrong and walking east instead of west, I would be in much more trouble considering there was no civilization in that direction for many miles. After taking the last drop of water from my water bladder and sweating from climbing hill after hill, I was really starting to panic. I would climb a steep hillside hoping to see the horizon of the road but each time I would summit I would be looking at yet another ridge.

Finally about an hour after the sunset, I decided to stop and calm myself down with a fire. I had come to the realization that I may have to spend the night alone on the mountain. I was surprised how quickly the fire got going and the sight of the flames really helped to clear my head, I dried out my sweat soaked shirt and came to the conclusion that although it would be chilly with temperatures dipping into the high 30s, I would be ok and make it out to see another day. While sitting around the fire and conversing with the man upstairs for a while I thought I could hear the sound of gravel under truck tires from a distance. I strained for a while trying to decide which direction it came from and wondering if it was worth setting off again in the event I couldn't find the main road. After contemplating for a while, I decide to put out the fire and make my way in the direction of the sound. Funny thing was I only had to walk about 200 more yards when I stumbled up on the road. I can't tell you how glad I was at that point or thirsty for that matter! I had completely missed the ridge and traversed about three others in my effort to get out and unfortunately instead of going northwest I ended up going slightly southwest. Luckily my friends didn't give up on finding me, I saw them on the 4-wheelers coming down the road and I signaled them down with my flashlight. It was dark by around 8 pm and they found me a little after 11 pm. I learned a lesson that it is not worth postponing your walk out and pushing the limits on light unless you are absolutely sure of your way out. Also it is important to always have enough water and supplies to get you through a night alone of the mountain just in case.

- j giron

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