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Old 12-28-2015, 09:39 PM   #21
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What is the difference between injured and distressed?
How skilled they are at faking an injury to justify rescue.

More seriously, I think "distressed" applies to medical conditions, and to exhaustion, dehydration, etc.
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Old 12-28-2015, 10:00 PM   #22
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Yep, what TCD said.


FWIW, the same question was posted in the original thread on ADKHighPeaks (worth reading). Here's my answer:

Based on the incidents I've read, "Distress" is when someone cannot continue because of exhaustion, dehydration, or hazardous conditions as opposed to physical injury. Examples include, exhausted after post-holing, stuck at the base of falls or atop a ledge, overwhelmed/exhausted by snow-melt conditions, benighted while descending, etc. Medical conditions like arrhythmia, hypoglycemia, etc would also fall under this category.

While I'm at it, I'll include the other chart I posted in the original thread. For the High Peaks area, the top two categories, Injury and Distress, comprise the majority of incidents. "Lost Hiker" is a distant third.
  1. Injured Hiker, 33
  2. Distressed Hiker, 16
  3. Lost Hiker, 9
  4. Overdue, 6

Last edited by Trail Boss; 12-28-2015 at 10:12 PM..
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Old 12-29-2015, 01:10 AM   #23
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And this is just the type who rangers receive a cell call from to come bail out because they can't figure out a trail junction, or they become overcome by darkness. Although most such cases are safely resolved in a very few hours, they still are taking rangers away from potentially far more critical duties.

I am convinced that a large percentage of the "lost hikers" or "distressed hikers", being otherwise healthy, get themselves into trouble and needlessly call for help because they:
1) have the attitude that they can use the cell phone as a bailout crutch and go where they never would have gone otherwise (that's what the phone and DEC Rangers are there for, right?), and/or

2) did not take a little pre-trip time to better prepare with route and trail knowledge and proper gear, and/or

3) did not take a few minutes when confused to sit down to figure out where they were and painlessly discover their own self-extraction route.

In my early days of self-taught backcountry navigation and woodsmanship, (way before the cell phone or GPS), there were often times when I got a bit confused on the way to a remote off-trail destination, but I always figured out how to get myself out of it and successfully continue on. As a matter of fact I discovered that by putting myself into difficult situations and working out the solution, I learned and retained way more than I could have in any other way. Great stuff - "get lost" to figure out how to "stay found". When I teach navigation techniques (I do so on semi-pro and professional levels), I advise my students to do the same, with starting out in "safe" areas with unmistakable boundaries. Don't rely on external communication, work it out by yourself. Need to spend an extra night in the woods? Go for it.
I whole heartily agree with you Wldrns
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Old 12-29-2015, 10:16 AM   #24
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I've attached a file containing the "Lost Hiker" incidents for Jan-Nov 2015.

If you're an experienced hiker, who knows how to navigate off-trail, you'll conclude most of the incidents were due to inexperience. If the individual didn't bring the means to navigate, see after dark, food, or water, and becomes lost tens of yards from a trail, one can safely conclude they are inexperienced (or incredibly forgetful).

FWIW, based on the data, lost hikers comprise a small fraction of all incidents. Rangers are far more likely to be tending to injured or distressed hikers.
Attached Files
File Type: txt DEC SAR Lost Hiker 2015.txt (29.8 KB, 43 views)
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Old 04-28-2016, 09:15 AM   #25
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One of the issues regarding this search that bothers me is not having found his rifle. I can understand how a body can very quickly be scattered by hungry animals so as to make discovery nearly impossible.

What I don't understand is how a rifle could escape detection. Once he went down, however he went down, the rifle was not going to move. It stayed were it laid.

Any thoughts why the rifle escaped detection as well?
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Old 04-28-2016, 10:21 AM   #26
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Two scenarios are most likely: Either he's no longer in the area (kidnapped; left the area intentionally; picked up disoriented and transported to some odd place; etc.); or he (and the rifle) fell in a hole (cellar hole, old well, etc.).

But this is an odd one, because none of those scenarios is really very likely.
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Old 04-28-2016, 12:13 PM   #27
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20 years ago my friend's father, who was in his mid-80s at the time and had hunted in Maine all of his life, was hunting with us here in the Adirondacks. Things were fine and it was always great to have him with us but the last year he was alive he would not stay where we left him on watches. Within five minutes he was moving, often walking up the trail to another watcher, and wondering where everyone was and when the drive was going to end.

One of my hunting areas is not far from where this gentleman was last seen and I can't help but think of my friend's dad and wonder if this man had a similar experience, wandered off and wound up crawling in a tight spot when he got cold and hungry and is thus now hard to find. Much stranger things have happened.
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:54 PM   #28
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I've hiked a little bit in that area previously. There are some pretty nasty cedar swamps in the vicinity that I certainly wouldn't want to end up in if I was disoriented or injured. I have a few photos from a day trip I took through the area in 2013:

https://picasaweb.google.com/dsettah...31829438555698

https://picasaweb.google.com/dsettah...31856725988978

Both of those pictures were taken on the trail that connects Round Pond to Buttermilk Pond.

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Old 04-28-2016, 05:15 PM   #29
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One of the issues regarding this search that bothers me is not having found his rifle. I can understand how a body can very quickly be scattered by hungry animals so as to make discovery nearly impossible.

What I don't understand is how a rifle could escape detection. Once he went down, however he went down, the rifle was not going to move. It stayed were it laid.

Any thoughts why the rifle escaped detection as well?
The question of why the rifle was not found was especially baffling to the Rangers on scene. That was the one item we were told to especially be on alert for. Mr. Messick's sons said he often would lean it against a tree. I was there for a full week and it is inconceivable how we could have found nothing at all in a case like this. The most probable areas were grid searched (close in, nearly shoulder to shoulder) more than once from multiple directions.

The first day I was there I noted that the fresh leaf litter was very thick and fluffy, as much as 8 inches in many places. A rifle could easily have disappeared beneath the leaves. After the second day it rained lightly, compressing the leaves somewhat, but a rifle could still have escaped detection. Overall, however, we should have found some kind of clue of Mr. Messick. But a full two weeks later nata thing. Extremely unusual for a case like this that should have been open and shut within a couple of days. We've had a number of similar cases with elderly hunters. Sooner or later they get resolved, with rare, very rare exceptions likely due to other circumstances that have come to light later. But not the case for Mr. Messick.

D, you are correct about the multiple cedar swamps. Horribly difficult things to traverse. Nevertheless, we grid searched them in detail as well, and were confident to a high probability we would have found him if he ventured far into them within a statistically reasonable distance from the last known place (LKP). With no clues at all nor any further information whatsoever, statistics compiled from hundreds of other "similar" cases are all that drives the search plan. Any further away enters the region known to searcher professionals as "rest of world", with little known reasonable scenario or practicality of search potential.
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Old 04-29-2016, 07:59 AM   #30
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I can't imagine the utter disbelief you guys on the ground must have had after all the searching you did. And kudos to all of you. It's literally as though he and his rifle vanished in thin air.

Given the leaf debris, the rifle is probably there underneath or in the muck and mire of the swamp. Are sweeps ever made with metal detectors in cases where someone is known to have had a firearm?
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Old 04-29-2016, 03:29 PM   #31
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I can't imagine the utter disbelief you guys on the ground must have had after all the searching you did. And kudos to all of you. It's literally as though he and his rifle vanished in thin air.

Given the leaf debris, the rifle is probably there underneath or in the muck and mire of the swamp. Are sweeps ever made with metal detectors in cases where someone is known to have had a firearm?
How would one operate a metal detector over densely forested uneven rolling ground with constant rocks, downed sticks, deadfall and tall swamp grass, over a radius of any reasonable distance from the LKP? It is as if he and all evidence vanished into thin air. There was no indication of foul play or anything unusual, other than his complete disappearance.
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Old 04-30-2016, 02:44 AM   #32
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How would one operate a metal detector over densely forested uneven rolling ground with constant rocks, downed sticks, deadfall and tall swamp grass, over a radius of any reasonable distance from the LKP? It is as if he and all evidence vanished into thin air. There was no indication of foul play or anything unusual, other than his complete disappearance.
It would be hellishly expensive, and I'm not sure if it could "see" something as small as a rifle, but they could maybe use something like this.
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Old 06-01-2016, 07:09 PM   #33
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The other thing that disturbed me about this case was that he never signaled any one else. He could have fired three rounds but didn't. He also had a walkie-talkie and never contacted anyone.

It would lead you to believe that something must have happened very quickly as he did not have time to access his rifle or his two-way radio. A heart attack, a fall, or something else.
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Old 06-01-2016, 08:29 PM   #34
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It would lead you to believe that something must have happened very quickly as he did not have time to access his rifle or his two-way radio. A heart attack, a fall, or something else.
The suggestion being that he did not travel far from the LKP (last known place), where he continued on from his hunting partner, supposedly agreeing to only a few minute walk a short distance further to the east. The search obviously focused there, even making many separate tight grid search patterns from different directions on multiple days over the same area again and again.

It is difficult to understand how, if he was there, he could have escaped detection anywhere within a mile radius, and even farther if he had picked up any of the woods trails and along their borders that were also extensively searched miles further. This particular search with literally hundreds of trained SAR over two weeks is one of the most difficult to figure out that we have seen in many years.

I had untrained personnel on my team more than once, and at the end of a hard and difficult terrain day it is difficult for even experienced searchers to maintain focus and proper spacing, but multiple crossed grids should still have found some kind of clue if not the subject himself. But nothing at all was discovered.
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:19 PM   #35
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Has it been considered that he could be "up"? Perhaps he noticed a tree stand and climbed up to it; suffered a heart attack or other natural fatal event and is still in that tree stand?
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:36 PM   #36
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I would imagine that even an untrained searcher would notice a ladder that led to a tree stand and look up, although I am sure anything is possible. I have heard of climbing a tree and pulling it up after oneself but I didn't have the impression it was a thing that happens very often.
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:50 PM   #37
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Has it been considered that he could be "up"? Perhaps he noticed a tree stand and climbed up to it; suffered a heart attack or other natural fatal event and is still in that tree stand?
Anything is possible, and certainly that and other possibilities are considered during highly organized search campaigns such as this one was.

As part of their training, a good crew boss before hitting the woods with a crew will always brief their crew members on as many relevant physical and other details of the subject as are known, along with reminders of proper search procedures which include crawling if necessary to look under the densest most wicked blow down (everybody sooner later has a turn at those in their search lane), through briar patches, behind and on all sides of trees and logs as they are passed, and also to look upward in trees, among other places of hiding. Could he be missed by being up there somewhere? Sure it is possible, but not terribly likely, not in the prime search zone.
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:56 PM   #38
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Unless Mr. Messick was a fitness guru, it seems hard to fathom an 82-year old man climbing into a tree stand and then planning to climb back down. That would be a very dangerous endeavor for anyone his age.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:17 PM   #39
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Unless Mr. Messick was a fitness guru, it seems hard to fathom an 82-year old man climbing into a tree stand and then planning to climb back down. That would be a very dangerous endeavor for anyone his age.
I was thinking he would have climbed up screw in steps or other implements that make climbing a tree much easier.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:31 PM   #40
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Has it been considered that he could be "up"? Perhaps he noticed a tree stand and climbed up to it; suffered a heart attack or other natural fatal event and is still in that tree stand?
When I did my SAR training years ago, we were taught to often look up, and also back behind us. Sometimes looking for potential suicides; they can be hanging in trees... (Grim, I know, but a fact...)
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