Every Monday, especially in winter, New Hampshire Fish and Game sends out anywhere from three to 10 press releases about rescues of lost hikers that occurred over the weekend. Plenty of times those rescues involved hours of hiking and searching for somebody in the dark whose cell phone died when they wandered off trail.
The online magazine Undark has an interesting story about researchers analyzing reports of people who got off-track, advancing the science of “lost person behavior.”
For each category, Koester calculated, in quartiles, distances people typically traveled from the point they were last seen, and the elevation change they usually made. He also noted, among other things, how long they remained mobile, how close to features like roads or streams they were found, and what scenario led to their predicament.
School-age kids, for instance, often got lost because they tried to take a shortcut, and can usually be found within a mile of their last known position; more than half are found in structures, yards, or vehicles. Hunters, meanwhile, travel a similar distance, tending to go around 100 feet downhill and to take that journey off-trail — and usually get lost because they followed an animal intently through dense brush. Cross-country skiers, meanwhile, often keep moving to stay warm, and go more than twice as far as hunters or kids — though, some are reported lost when they’ve already made it back to the local bar and failed to tell anyone.
It’s a good, detailed piece: read it here. Undark does some good work.