Recently, the TV news began with another story of someone lost in the Adirondacks; it is a story that never ends. My file of newspaper reports of those lost in the Adirondack wilderness continues to fill up with tragic stories of those who find the dense forest more than they can handle. It is easy to get twisted around, walk in circles, and to get caught by darkness on an Adirondack hike. Fortunately, not all lost stories end in tragedy, there are those searches that end in success.
The headlines tell the stories: AUTHORITIES SEARCH FOR MISSING HUNTER, TWO TEENAGERS STILL MISSSING IN THE ADIRONDACKS, MISSING AUTISTIC MAN FOUND BY ADIRONDACK SEARCH PARTY, LOST YOUTHS IN ARIETTA ARE SAFE BUT BUG BITTEN, BODY OF MISSSING HIKER FOUND, LOST HIKERS SURVIVE SNOWSTORM, HIKERS FOUND ON TRAIL, SEARCH FOR HIKER ENDS, INTENSIVE SEARCH FOR HUNTER CONTINUES, SEARCH ASSISTANCE SOUGHT, HIKER SEARCH ENDS, THIRD HIKER SOUGHT IN ADIRONDACKS, LOST IN ADIRONDACKS-HE PRAYED, BOY SCOUT FOUND IN ADIRONDACKS, SEARCH FOR MISSING HIKER FINDS ANOTHER,GIRL MISSSING THREE DAYS IN ADIRONDACKS IS FOUND, LOST YOUTH FOUND IN WELLS AREA, SEARCH CONTINUES FOR CONDUCTOR, HERKIMER COUPLE SPENDS NIGHT ON TRAIL BUT ARE FOUND IN GOOD SHAPE THIS MORNING, AND LOST HUNTER FOUND IN SPECULATOR.
The "lost" stories go on and on.
Did you notice that one word that cropped up in many of the headlines-"SEARCH?" Search becomes a part of almost every "lost" story - and volunteers play a major role in the success stories. News stories often define those who are out in the wilderness looking for the missing persons: "Mountaineering group members continued a search on Wednesday," "dozens of volunteers suspended their search at six p.m. but will resume this morning," "a search team struggled through deep snow and rugged terrain," "assisting in the search were volunteer from the Wells area," "more than 100 rangers and expert volunteers searched for the girl," "a total of 10 rangers and 40 volunteers combed the cliffs of the 3,500-foot mountain," "about 75 people were sent out to comb the mountain," "40 volunteers have searched for three weeks for the lost hiker," "30 volunteers and two dog teams have been searching," and so the list of volunteers goes on.
The Great Camp Santanoni, owned by we the people, once became the catalyst for creating a more formal search and rescue program to find the lost Adirondack hikers. A young boy was lost in the Newcomb wilderness in 1971 and, although volunteers and rangers searched for days, he was never found. Based on the lack of an organized search and rescue procedure, Governor Nelson Rockefeller authorized DEC to formalize the search and rescue program. Search teams began training in 1986 that are now activated by forest rangers whenever needed. Some teams have more than 100 well-trained volunteers. They receive a DEC shoulder patch and certificate designating them as official, trained search volunteers. One of the search teams, Search Team 5-1, in the southern Adirondacks, began with the Broadalbin Explorer Post 51 under the leadership of John Washburn, longtime search and rescue trainer. It includes those from mid-teens to the early '70s.
For those who have the misfortune, for whatever reason, to get lost in the Adirondacks, it is comforting to know that those teams of unselfish volunteers give of their time and resources to join the search in that Adirondack wilderness. It would be well, however, for all of us to become safer hikers.