BWCA 2010 - Leadership Challenge #9: (Lost in the Q – A True Story) Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wilderness Challenges
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      2010 - Leadership Challenge #9: (Lost in the Q – A True Story)     



distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/12/2010 06:18PM  
This is #9 of a series Leadership Challenges I will be posting. The purpose of these is to get feedback on what you would do under these circumstances. I'm not looking for a "Right Answer" I'm looking to see how the many very knowledgeable people here on would react in a time of decision in Canoe Country.

Challenge #9: (Lost in the Q – A True Story


A crew of three boys is on a 17 day trip into the heart of Quetico. Their goal is Hoare Lake which is in the geographic center of the Park. The crew for their age is pretty experienced canoeist and woodsman. They have been canoeing Midwestern Rivers and have logged over 100 days together on the water in the past 3 years. This is their second trip to the Quetico in the past 12 months. (The first trip was 14 days on the water). They are cocky….too cocky.

You are traveling in a party of 3 (Combined crew weight of 475 lbs) in 17 foot Grumman aluminum Canoe (max load weight of 1100-1150 Lbs).

You are carrying 2 large packs, 3 smaller personal packs, misc. fishing gear, a .50 cal ammo can with a NEW 35mm Camera/multiple lenses with a total gear weight of approximately 160 lbs.

The Crew:(left to right in the picture)

“Bert” Age 18. This is Bert’s 2nd Trip to the Quetico and he had also done a previous 7 day BWCA Trip. (Bert was not known as Bojibob at this point)

“Endy” Age 18. This is Endy’s 2nd Trip to the Quetico.

“Birdman” Age 18. This is Birdman’s 3rd trip into Quetico.


This is Day 10 of a planned 17 Day Trip through Quetico; the crew has already travelled from Prairie Portage over Yum Yum Portage into Lake Kahshahpiwi where they had to spend 2 days rain/windblown. They then spent three additional days travelling up Keefer, Sark, Metacryst, Cub, Cutty Creek and Camel Lakes to then bushwhack into Hoare Lake. They have just completed a three day layover and are ready move on.

The Plan for today: (See Map #1)

• At 9:00 AM we would bushwhack out of Hoare into Allan Lake, then take the seldom used portages into Berniece and Poo Bah Lake where we would spend the night before taking the “Memory Lane Portages” into Conmee Lake

• We would Double portage to Allan since there is no trail:

1. On Leg #1 we will take the 3 small packs. The Camera Gear, 2 of the 3 paddles and 3 PFD’s.

2. On Leg #2 we will try to clear some of the brush/obstacles as we head back to Hoare Lake

3. On Leg #3 we will carry the Canoe and the 2 heavy packs to Allan and collect our gear and move out.

4. Total Distance: 8 Miles and 3 tough portages.

Additional Information: (See Map #2)

The current time is 4:30 PM. The Date is September 18, 1979. Sunset is at 7:14 PM, Twilight lasts until 7:44 PM. The Weather is cool and temps are normally the mid 60s in the day and dipping into the low 40’s at night.>

You have completed Leg #1 and were able to get to Allan Lake from Hoare in approximately 45 minutes.

You have completed Leg #2 and were able to get back to Hoare in approximately 30 minutes.

Your Current Location:(See Map #3)

Your current location is unknown.

You have now been bushwhacking on Leg #3 for over 5+ hours with no sign of Allan or Hoare Lakes.

You have been putting the canoe and heavy packs down and sending out a scout in a 360 degree radius from several locations on your trek. The scout would stay within shouting distance of “the base”. You would then move “the base” deeper into the woods and repeat. You have done this at least 5 times.

The terrain is totally unfamiliar to you from Legs #1 and #2 and you know with high probability that no one has ever been here before.

You have recently had several movements of very large animals crashing and breaking brush around you.

Your water bota’s are almost empty.

The sun is slowly moving down towards the horizon. The deep woods are darkening.

18 years old and you’re lost in the Canadian Wildernes and the chances of anyone helping you are zero.

Fear is in the air...........

Note: This is all 100% factual.

The Challenge:

Now What?

Describe the next steps you would take.

At the conclusion, I will tell you what we did and how we got back.

I will also tell you where/how I think we went wrong and my lessons learned.

A rearview mirror is a beautiful thing.

CONCLUSION: (Only read ahead if you want to know how this came out before responding)

Anxiety, Assessment and Decision:

As I stated before the situation was getting worse. It was getting later in the day, water was low and we really weren’t sure where we were.

I had just come back from “scouting” and I had heard some large mammal crashing through the brush. This really gave me a lot of pause; it also amplified my growing anxiety. It was at that moment while looking at the map that I assumed we had missed Allan Lake way to the South. The only question was are we now directly south or still a little SE of the Lake. I knew that we were truly on our own and no one was going to help us. The buzzword at the moment was “moral is definitely low”

The look on the faces of the rest of crew was what you would expect. They were hot, tired, thirsty and scared. Being a good Catholic boy, I said a little prayer and promised God if he got me out of this I would do such and such (personal).

I then jumped to my feet and said. “Let’s Go, we are going back!” No one said a word as we loaded up. We started heading back the way we had travelled, I was leading and trying to follow the trail we had broke as best I could. I remember the pace I was setting was almost a fast trot, just short of running. I guess I still had panic running through my blood.

After about 60-75 minutes of this “Force March” I saw the terrain heading steeply downhill to my right. I headed down and shortly I saw water through the pines. Upon reaching the Lake I scanned around to see if I recognized anything. I immediately saw the little island that had been our home for several nights over the years and I let out a little yell to my crew that was still coming down the hill. “It’s Hoare!” (See Map)

(Click to Enlarge and Click again to zoom in)

We had come into Hoare at the very SW inlet as marked on the map by the RED FLAG. We loaded the Canoe and with Birdman in the stern manning our one and only paddle as we made our way across the lake. We landed to the safety of our little island, just as the sun was setting on Hoare Lake.

The Restless Night:

As we made a fire and cooked up some dinner, the discussion of course drifted to…. what now? With having only one paddle and being at least 4 days back to Prairie Portage via our route up we had little choice but to go back in the morning and do it all over again.

I don’t remember sleeping much that night as I played the days events over and over in my head. I didn’t want to go back there! I was willing to sacrifice my $500 dollars (1979 dollars) worth of new camera gear and personal equipment. But, not having paddles really complicated the issue. We really had no choice, but to go back into the brush.

Back Into the Bush:

The next morning we paddled back to the western shore of Hoare. I got out the compass and saw the “basic” direction we needed to head. As we move through the brush, I would constantly stop to recheck our heading. As we trudged on…. the feelings of anxiety were still there. I was constantly wondering if we were heading into the unknown again. After about 35 minutes the forest opened up to a beautiful lake. We had arrived at Allan Lake and came out within 30 feet of our gear.

We loaded the gear and paddled across Allan Lake, and then portaged into Berniece and with one more portage we were into Poo Bah Lake. The skies were gray and misty rain was coming down; it mirrored the crew’s mood.

We settled on island across from the beginning of the Poo Bah to Conmee series of tough portages, which I have since learned have been dubbed “Memory Lane”. This island had very odd feel to it. It was flat until you reached very high granite cliffs a few hundred feet in from the shore. With the rain, the rock and the anxiety, the whole place seemed very creepy.

We didn’t talk much the rest of that day, each of seeking to spend time alone. It had affected us all deeply and to this day when ever I see “Endy” even after several years apart, the first topic of discussion is being lost in the Q. A bond this crew shall always share.

We spent the next 5 or 6 days, working our way south through the Quetico, enjoying its beauty, but with a real drive to get home. This was almost 31 years ago and I have yet to return to Canoe Country.

Where do I think we went wrong?

Mistake #1: As you make the ascent out of Hoare and I use the word ascent because you go up about 150-200 feet in less than 2/10th of a mile. The slope of this hill is in at a SW approach angle, not west as we should have been moving per the compass. We should have been more side slopping the hill (as we had done on Leg #1) but with heavy packs/canoes the instinct is to go up. We had let the terrain dictate our direction of travel. When we reached the top we were already slightly off course and oriented towards a SW movement track. (Failure to understand the effects of the terrain/heavy equipment on keeping a steady course)

Mistake #2: The compass was not rechecked at the top of the hill. Remember we had easily done this back and forth already. The mindset was “We got this”. We unknowingly continued the trek in a west to southwestern direction. (Failure to use proper compass procedures of tracking from one landmark to another while taking frequent compass readings in thick terrain)

Mistake #3: After heading off in this direction for 45+ minutes we failed to identify mistakes 1 & 2 and continued deeper into the woods, trying the Base/Scout method for the next several hours, thinking “It’s got to be right through there” (Failure to stop and properly assess the situation before making it worse)

Where do I think we were? (See Map Above)

I think were we south of Allan Lake…… judging by the rate of travel and time on our back track. My “guess” is we were 1 ½ miles to 1 ¾ miles SW of Hoare.

Ultimate Lessons Learned:

1. Have a good navigational compass (As compared to the cheap basic compass I used) and know how to use it. The compass I used then and also heading “That way” isn’t going to work most times in a deep woods bushwhack.

2. When you feel like you are off course. IMMEDIATELY STOP. Reevaluate where you are and make informed/educated corrections or backtrack from there to a known point.

3. When splitting loads of equipment on a Bushwhack insure that your packing and carry plan would allow you to continue the journey if some equipment became lost or abandoned. (Specifically, always keep all the paddles with canoes, always….. I three peat… always)


I have since spent 24 years in the military with years of time in the deep woods and arctic. I can confidently say that I am now a Land Navigation Expert. These mistakes would never happen today.

These were the mistakes of young boys who lacked proper land navigation skills, but these mistakes can be made by anyone who attempts wilderness travel that is ill equipped and ill prepared.

Don’t be fooled! Do a self assessment: If you are weak in your map, compass and land navigation skills ….PLEASE take some time to read, practice and master Land Navigation before becoming “Lost in the Q”

Upcoming Challenge:

Challenge 10: “Emotional Rescue”
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distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/12/2010 06:54PM  
OK. I'll try this. First off, could be another book here, "Lost in the Wild -- The Sequel".

Be it known I have never been this lost in deep woods. If I have this right, you've got about 3 hours of sunlight left and you're low on water. The three of you are getting scared.(?) The good news is the three of you are still together and you've got your large packs which have your tent and food (assuming this here). Not sure where you flashlights are.

Based on the maps, I would probably discontinue the 360 method and begin moving northwest. Seems as though you'd eventually hit a small pond (for water), the creek between Hoare or Allan, or even Allan itself. Definitely stay together. Worst case is you're stuck in the woods for the night. Even if it were the next day, I'd think by continuing NW, you'd eventually find Allan and your then your personal packs.
01/12/2010 07:47PM  
I assume we have a map. I also assume we have not gone north of the Hoare-Allan "portage." The terrain doesn't offer much for landmarks, but with the map and these assumptions, we can make a couple of reasonable conclusions:
-- There's nothing of interest to the south except confusion.
-- Traveling east could conceivably get us to a body of water we could identify, and end up back on Hoare, but it would be roundabout and pretty iffy.
-- Traveling north could also get us to an identifiable body of water. But it could lead us beyond Allan Creek (especially if it runs dry in late summer) and farther away from Allan Lake. We can't be sure we'd identify our portage trail.
-- Traveling west could take us beyond Allan Lake, or into it.

Based on these thoughts, I'd head NW.
01/12/2010 08:29PM  
Everybody sit down and take a breather. Take stock of what you have and what you lack. Decide to head west and hit the lake somewhere along the shore. Worst-case, you hit the creek south of the lake and turn north. You have 3 hours to work with. Keep together.

If it is late by the time you hit the shore, make camp there and rest up. Build a good fire, enjoy the night. Eat well. In the morning, make decision to head either north or south along the shoreline to find your other gear. Walk on hour to 90 minutes in one direction and then decide to reverse direction.
distinguished member(5378)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/12/2010 08:48PM  
Based on the map it seems like you should know if you got too far north into the marshy areas. So, you should be in the area of the question marks. Going NW, as suggested by others, seems like a good start. The question is if you can succeed in going in a straight line given the terrain and the possibility that your compass is not with you. Hopefully, given that you are bushwhacking your map and compass are with you but given the statement about age and confidence..... WIthout a compass, the sun will be about west by now and heading to NW. I also agree that you stay together, find water, and make camp for the night and then try proceed tomorrow based on what water you find. A very difficult situation. 5 hours of wandering allows for a lot of possibilities.
01/12/2010 10:34PM  
It is getting late so I'd make camp since obviously they have the tent and camp gear in the larger packs. Wait it out until morning with a big fire going for security if necessary. Come morning use the compass or sun to find NORTHWEST. Travel in a straight line heading northwest until you reach water which will most likely be Allen. Walk the shore back to your other gear and move on.
distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/12/2010 11:17PM  
At this point I would tend to lean towards bigzig decision. You're not officially lost just yet. Perhaps this may calm the nerves down just a little and get some good thinking in before the next morning light. Then you can take your time to act on the plan. you can also use the time to orient yourselves with compass and map to formulate plan for next day rather than trying to "get it done" that night. You can also use time to find some water and boil it to get bottles filled back up as well. Kind of stop before you get yourself any farther in trouble mentality. OH...and a last thought here..won't hurt to try....use your whistle or yell...are you really alone in that area at that moment? Don't know if it would do any good but it might be worth a try.
distinguished member(5378)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/13/2010 01:15AM  
BTW, which trip did you take paddle 3?
distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 05:45AM  
quote andym: "BTW, which trip did you take paddle 3?"

The last paddle is with the canoe.
01/13/2010 06:06AM  
1 canoe, 1 paddle, and 3 guys..... Dips on not paddling!
distinguished member(607)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 09:43AM  
First, I would admit that we are lost and we need to find our way out to water. Looking at the map - NW is the most likely direction to head since we would find water heading that direction. I would pay special attention to the swamps that I come to, the larger ones are on the topo maps. I would discuss options with the group and make a group decision on whether to leave the gear and canoe there and go off to find water. One option would be to leave the gear and canoe there but mark the trail with something - TP, broken branches, whatever - but mark it well. Finding water and figuring out exactly where we are at that point will be the best thing for our spirits and fears. The other option - taking everything with and not leaving the canoe and gear would make everything happen a lot slower and it would be harder to go in a straight line with the canoe but at least there is no chance of being separated from the things that we need to stay alive and get us out.
Once we find water we figure out where we are at and get to our gear and continue on our journey with another cool story to share about almost dying in the wilderness when we were young.
01/13/2010 10:51AM  
I guess I would try to retrace my steps. try to go back a couple of hours then camp for the night. Then try to find way back in the AM.
01/13/2010 11:18AM  
Do we have a compass?
Do we have food?

Recognize we are lost. 5 hours into a 45 minute trip is seriously off course. Build a camp and fire. It is always easier to do when it's still light. There's enough water to last the night. A meal and fire are great for moral. Carving out a comfortable campsite gives you a feeling of accomplishment and more confidence in your bush skills. Then settle down and make a plan.

Come morning get the gear together and try to maintain a NW course to hit the lake. If we have a compass use it. If not use the sunrise and sunset to at least get starting bearings. Once at the lake collect the rest of the packs and celebrate. Far more useful than fixing blame.

distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 11:46AM  
quote Voyageur: "Questions: Do we have a compass? Do we have food? "
We have all of our food, tent, cooking gear, etc in the main packs. We have a compass, but really knowing how to use it.... is in doubt.
distinguished member(3470)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 01:15PM  
Hmm. Take a break and get calm. Everyone has to believe that the group will survive this.

Water is critical right now, you've been sweating and are probably dehydrated. Can you retrace your steps back to the last water you saw? I'd retrace our steps - should be possible - find water - rehydrate and make camp. STAY TOGETHER.

In the morning, it will all look much better.

Head NW, which this time of year should be with the sun at your backs.

01/13/2010 02:05PM  
well with 3 guys crashing thru the woods you had to have left some sort of "trail" back track until to dark to follow it, get some shut eye and tackle it in the morning....
keep your eyes peeled for some good ole H2O

sounds obvious so i know I missed something
distinguished member(5378)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/13/2010 02:44PM  
Just checked on the sun angles. Sunrise and sunset are almost due east and west in mid-Sept. Perhaps an interesting thing to check on before trips.

In response to some suggestions. I would not assume that it is possible to retrace ones steps. If that was possible then it should also have been possible to make the third trip across the portage successfully by retracing a path you had already taken 4 times.
distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 02:58PM  
Looks like you are gonna have to get familiar with compass use and map reading this evening!
01/13/2010 03:33PM  
NW seems to be a popular choice. I am not relying on compass as there may be mineral deposits causing us to get lost in the first place. Also, if we are north of our desired position, it looks like NW could lead to nowhere, marshy, etc. Heading directly toward the sun should be easy to accomplish and regardless, should lead to good water.
01/13/2010 03:34PM  
Question: does Bert have his cigarettes? Just wondering if he's going to be going into withdrawal...and thus very annoying to be around. ;-)
01/13/2010 03:35PM  
Is there a big tree around? A hill? Somewhere to go up and get a lay of the land?
distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 03:46PM  
quote nojobro: "Is there a big tree around? A hill? Somewhere to go up and get a lay of the land?

Look at the maps and you tell me :-)
01/13/2010 04:07PM  
It’s funny how some stories of situations can raise the hair on your neck… I hope I’m never in this postion.

A couple pieces of information that are missing from the first post that I would deem useful.
What’s in the large packs?
Do you have a map?
Do you have a compass and if so, what general direction have you been heading?
What have you encountered as far as swamps, puddles, hills?

I’m going to assume that the map and compass are with your party. I’m also going to assume that you have a light source with you.

Since its 4:30 you still have a couple hours of daylight left.

Back tracking is possibly an option since you have just trampled down some vegetation. If you have recently passed higher ground or some sort of body of water I would head for that. Higher vantage points can allow for assessing the lay of the land based on what you see around you. You can also see a lot from in a tree. At 18, I’d probably be willing to climb a tree to see what is around. You may also be needing to set up a shelter for the evening and don’t want to be sleeping in a bog (or at least I wouldn’t).

A body of water may help with determining your location on the map using it’s shape and nearby features.

I guess what I’m getting at is find some sort of feature (stream, hill, cliff, valley, pond, etc) that would be on a map. Then use that feature to try and find another close feature so you can zero in on the map where you are. I would do this before trying to set up a place to crash for the evening as that may provide a little piece of mind. If it’s getting dark before you have this piece of mind, set up camp anyway. In the morning, repeat the process of trying to find your location on the map. Always keep your gear with you!

I can’t wait to hear how this worked out.

01/13/2010 04:41PM  
I would be reluctant to backtrack because we have been wandering around in circles for 5 hours now. This can happen very easy where you start backtracking and end up seeing the same territory three times over. I am assuming that is what has been happening so far.
distinguished member(5378)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/13/2010 04:42PM  
Hard to tell if the hills in these maps are big enough to get a view through the trees (not sure what the contour interval is). And I am a lousy tree climber. Another idea from going uphill is that downhill will lead you to water, streams will lead you to lakes, marshes will piss you off but still could help. However, this strategy could lead you to a little pond. So, I still like going NW.

distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 05:17PM  

The terrain was pretty much flat as a pancake and as thick as the picture of the Canoe breaking through brush in the original post for most of the quest.

I don't remember crossing any creeks or bogs.

Then we broke into terrain that looked alot like the photo above.

It was at this point that I knew we were in real trouble, this was nothing like the terrain to Allan Lake. Which was a very steep up and then fairly easy to navigate to Allan through moderate/heavy brush.

A key point: I wasnt sure if we were North or South of Allan.

My compass skills were lacking (details to be published at the end). The map wasn't helpful do to lack of any terrain features other that flat, thick brush...until the open tall pines.
distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/13/2010 06:11PM  
OK. Second try at this. The quote that comes to mind (I can't remember where it's from) is, "We're lost, but we're makin' good time!" It sounds like the compass thing isn't working--either due to magnetics or operator error. So, if you're not confident w/ the compass you've got, you'd probably want to sit tight, eat some food, and relax. If you're lucky, you'll see the North Star (and know what it means) and be able to get a north/south bearing, and then in the morning, if it's clear, use the sun and the bearing to head NW.
Reading the threads on this site and QJ, those expert bushwackers say it's easy to lose your stuff even after a short distance, so I wouldn't drop the packs and try to find my other packs. And unless you're a darn good tracker (aka Daniel Boone), I know I couldn't try to retrace my steps in the bush.
And lastly, if you were north of Allan and Hoare, holy @#$%. Keep going NW and you'll eventually get to Sturgeon and flag down a rescue party.
distinguished member(607)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/14/2010 09:16AM  
The picture you just posted tells me that you are in a swampy boggy area that may or may not be on a map. If you crossed that and didn't know what you were crossing I guess I would say "Good Luck"
Not knowing how to use a compass and not trusting it when you do use it are bad news. Interested to see how this turned out.
01/14/2010 10:55PM  
If you as a group come to the conclusion that you're lost I would make camp right there and wait till morning.
01/15/2010 12:32AM  
When you hear dem moose jump and run der should be a trail near by that leads to water. Deposits on Poohbah or Whatnot might be messing up yer compass so only move closer to dawn and dusk whatever direction you go.
senior member (53)senior membersenior member
01/16/2010 10:08AM  
From my tv-watching experience, the obvious way to survive is to find some bear scat, eat the berries out of it and then take the remainder of the scat and squeeze out the liquid and give yourself an enema! Plus, make sure to find a big hill, cover your large pack with mud, and slide down on it like a big sled. Water is always at the bottom of hills and you cant take the time to carefully walk downhill; ITS A SURVIVAL SITUATION AND YOU DONT HAVE TIME TO WAIT!!!!

In all seriousness, I would sit down, rest and try to get everyone calm; discuss the situation and come to a consensus on the best options (try not to let 18 year old testosterone driven ego come into play). Then, taking your gear, try to find an area with a clear view of the sky (easier said than done, and only done if it seems you will have some time before sunset). Start to mark your path (in what you believe to be NW) as well as you are able, every ~100 steps with a major obvious marker. If you find an area of clear sky, make a temp camp for the night. If you have made 10 markers (so 1000 steps/~0.5 miles), stop and make camp. Try to find the north star that night (if clear) and mark its position; mark the setting sun also (again, if possible.) Mark the rising sun in the morning (DONT OVERSLEEP!) Try to use this knowledge to head NW in the morning, mainly traveling in the morning and late afternoon, when you can try to use sunlight as your guide.
I think I am probably overlooking something pretty basic, but anytime I have felt even close to lost/unsure of my path, I mark my path to such an obvious degree that it is pretty funny. -JB-
distinguished member (336)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/16/2010 03:01PM  
I would calm everyone down,set up camp,use available light to look for water if possible,eat,use sun or stars or compass what ever your skills will allow to find direction to head NW the next day,looking for water and high terrain to get the lay of the land along the way,STAY TOGETHER
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/19/2010 03:19PM  

My first thought was to use the remaining daylight to head NW toward Allen Lake or the other landmarks already mentioned. Further thought helped me decide that the best thing to do is stop and use the remaining daylight to set up camp. Clear a decent site, set up the tent, look for a nearby water source -- do not go out of hearing distance, eat something, get out the maps and make a plan for tomorrow. What is necessary now is rest and a morale boost. A good overnight experience can help with that.

Get up early in the morning and take note of the direction of the sunrise. Pack up and send two out to look for a tall tree or high spot in the terrain. One person should stay with the gear. The other two should not go out of hearing distance! If such a tree or high spot is located, climb and look for Allen Lake or any other identifiable landmark we could pick out on the map. Failing that, we all head NW together, using the sun, or the "mark" we set at sunrise if the sun isn't out, in search of everything previously mentioned.
distinguished member(3470)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/19/2010 06:08PM  
I like the way the collective mind is working on this puzzle - I think they're going to survive!
01/21/2010 01:05PM  
When do we get to hear how they got out of their mess?
distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/21/2010 01:27PM  
quote nojobro: "When do we get to hear how they got out of their mess? "

Conclusion now posted at the bottom of the original challenge.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
That Guy
distinguished member(532)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/21/2010 01:56PM  
Fantastic Story!!
01/21/2010 04:11PM  
Yeah, what That Guy said. An old-timer once told me, "Complacency kills." Sounds like it almost got you guys. Glad it didn't. Thanks for putting so much of yourself out here for us.
distinguished member(5378)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/21/2010 11:40PM  
Thank you for sharing. I am surprised you succeeded in retracing your steps given the foliage and the idea that you may have been going in circles. It is also interesting to note that a few strategies would have worked. Going NW would have gotten you to Allan. Going down hill to a stream and downstream would have gotten you to Allan.

Maybe the summary is:

Measure twice, walk once. Don't walk far. And know how to measure.
distinguished member(3470)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/22/2010 07:08AM  
Sobering tale, and it could happen to ANY OF US.

Thanks for the detailed - and real - case study.
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/22/2010 10:14AM  

Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to the next challenge!

One piece of gear that has been very helpful to me over the years is trail tape. I rarely go into the woods without it, even if I'm familiar with my immediate surroundings. When heading for unfamiliar territory I mark my progress with trail tape. I remove it on my way back out. When bushwhacking and double portaging, you can use trail tape to mark your trail as you make your way to your destination. You can then follow it back to your gear and remove it as you follow it on the third portage leg.

That said, I wasn't carrying trail tape at age 18. I, too, had to make a few mistakes of my own.
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01/22/2010 06:35PM  
Just checked and you can get biodegradable trail tape (a.k.a. flagging tape) which is nice in case you miss a piece later. It will take 6-24 months to degrade but at least you aren't putting plastic into the environment. We definitely use flagging tape when working but haven't used it when camping for fun. We're planning on some bushwacking this summer and may add it to our gear.
01/22/2010 06:36PM  
Good story Bob. My question is why you never went back to the BW? I'm assuming just too busy with the military.
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01/22/2010 06:41PM  
TomT this may help explain.

Sharing the Quetico Journey

You are all part of my Quetico Journey and have my heartfelt thanks....
01/23/2010 01:21AM  
Rob, in the post you linked to, you mentioned doing an early summer tune-up trip in advance of your August trip with the old crew. I don't suppose you could make that mid-May....
01/23/2010 11:34AM  
Thanks for the link. Do yo have an area where your gang will be going yet? Will be cool to see some before and later pics. You'll have to recreate that pic of you guys by the station wagon. Complete with Hamms beer too. :)
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01/23/2010 03:14PM  
Probably stating the obvious but it should be mentioned regardless. Unless you know exactly what you are doing a person or group should never attempt any bushwhacking. It is amazing how one can get turned around in the woods in even a short distance. Panic soon follows and all common sense then heads out the window.
I have taken to leaving all sorts of marks that I can follow like breadcrumbs anytime I get more than about 300 feet from where I started.
I got lost while deer hunting for about 30 minutes when I was 17 or 18 and it scared the Hell out of me. Forty years later and I still remember those 30 minutes like it was yesterday.
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01/24/2010 10:27AM  
quote Koda: "Rob, in the post you linked to, you mentioned doing an early summer tune-up trip in advance of your August trip with the old crew. I don't suppose you could make that mid-May...."

I'm working on a potential 4 day BWCA "tune up trip" with an Army buddy in JUNE but I appreciate the consideration!
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01/27/2010 05:02PM  
These are my firsst thoughts without reading the conclusion or other responses.

I'm a bit confused about the time. I think it is 4:30 pm with sunset aaround 7:30.

First and foremost, I would gather all three guys together. We would STOP, relax, gather our thoughts, inventory our equipment, and calmly discuss options.

After this break, I'll assume we realized that we have a tent, sleeping bags, some food, and other equipment. The only critical missing item is fresh water.

Since we still have several hours of daylight, I would make one last push for another hour. I'll assume that we had a compass or could use the sun to get a general sense of direction.

Since Allan lake is bigger and poses a bigger target, I would head towards it. So I would head in a NW direction. I would keep the group together and make sure that we are heading in a straight line.

I'll assume that this effort does not find Allen lake after 1 hour.

I would stop, set up camp, and stay the night. Hopefully, we found some source of fresh water during the last hour.

In the morning, I would repeat the NW heading until I hit water. Then, Iwould figoure out where I was and go find the rest of our stuff...
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01/27/2010 05:24PM  
I'm still pleased with my original suggestion after reading the second half and the other repsonses.

Here is what I consider to be the biggest mistake: starting the forced march without stopping for breather.

By far the biggest risk in these situations is panic. Genreally, rushing off only makes things worse. People have been known to do amazingly stupid things when rushing off.

The best survival advice was lost is STOP!, RELAX, and THINK. Force yourself to consider all the options before picking one.

Note, based on his background, I'm sure that Bojibob knows this. I am not trying to insult him or his past decisions. I just adding advice for us all to follow if we find ourselves in a similar situation
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01/27/2010 05:57PM  
Mad Angler,

You are 100% correct. We had rested briefly before taking off like a bunch of wildmen and that part of my lessons learned; that that you need to STOP and think. I stopped and thought about as long as most 18 year old kids would and my "informed decision" was nothing more than a guess.

p.s. No offense taken. I have beat myself up for 30+ years :-)
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01/30/2010 12:21PM  

Let me know if you are still looking for a group to "tag along" with in June. My son and I are going in mid-June (destination still TBD) and we'd love to have you tag along with us. We'll show you how to catch fish.

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03/21/2019 09:00AM  
Wow, what a great set of lessons. I am glad it worked out well. I am so glad the instinct to turn back finally kicked in. I was in White Sands National Park with my 9 year old son. We were trying to hike out to the back country campsites. Since the 30 foot dunes are constantly shifting there are no accurate maps. You are just supposed to follow some sign posts. We left the parking lot and hiked to the first sign post carrying all our camping gear. We stood on the top of the dune and looked for the next sign post but couldn't see it. So we took a general compass direction from the crappy hand drawn map they gave us and walked down into the bowl and up onto the next dune. Still no sign visible. We did it again with the same result. The little voice in my head said "Stop". I realized that I still knew where the parking lot was, but if we continued going further out, we might lose that reference point. So hot and frustrated we turned around not sure what we would do. When we got to the lot, we met a woman who had already been out to the campsites. She told us we could follow her. Turns out some idiot had burned a bunch of the sign posts. And yes, I had been going the wrong way. Glad I didn't become a news story. Always listen to the little voice.
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