Dipsea Trail

Dipsea Trail

We had a story today in the Press Democrat about two missing hikers who were lost in the Camp Tamarancho area near Fairfax Saturday night but were eventually found three hours later thanks to a CHP helicopter. The story mentioned that this was the third time in three days that rescuers have been dispatched to find missing hikers in Marin County.

Seems both on Thursday and Friday, hikers got lost each day on the Dipsea Trail, a beautiful stretch near the Stinson Beach coastline that I’ve hiked on several times in recent months. The original article in the Marin Independent-Journal quoted a sheriff’s spokesman who was clearly frustrated by the back-to-back-back searches. “We’re getting a little tired of it,” he told the paper.

That article set off quite an online debate with people predictably first bashing the hikers. They should pay for the cost of the rescue, they should have been better prepared, they were morons, yada, yada, yada. And as it generally goes with online bulletin-boards, ugliness begets more ugliness, and in this case, plenty of folks chimed in criticizing the sheriff’s department for being critical of doing its job, serving the public, etc., etc.

When hikers get lost, there’s clearly plenty of room for armchair quarterbacks. Invariably, you can say that they should have had a map (true!), a flashlight (true!), not started out so late in the day (true!), and had some basic directional supplies like a compass or GPS (true!). But when the cops, firefighters (many of those who show up for these kinds of searches are volunteers) and other emergency folks spend hours searching, they should do it without complaining about the cost or burden or time-drag. It’s bad enough being lost, but to feel guilty about people spending hours of their life and resources trying to save you shouldn’t be a factor. We all spend significant portions of our work day doing things we, in theory, shouldn’t have to do if only everyone were smarter. (Ironically, I spend hours of my life deleting idiotic comments from fools who post to Web site discussion boards……)

Just my two cents. What do you think?