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'It can happen to anyone': Search and Rescue Captain shares how to hike smart and safely

“It’s easy to say ‘How do you get lost on a local trail like that,’ but it can happen to anyone and in no way, shape, or form should we point fingers at someone calling for help."
Posted at 9:37 AM, Jul 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 11:37:35-04

There’s nothing like enjoying the great outdoors on a nice hike. But as peaceful as it can be, it can also be dangerous. Whether you’ve been hiking your entire life, or you’re just starting out there are plenty of precautions you should take to avoid dangerous situations.

“It’s easy to point fingers but a couple years down the line you might find yourself in a bad situation too,” said Robert Jach.

Jach has been hiking around Montana for quite some time. He says he feels comfortable on the trails, but it’s easy to get too comfortable.

Even at the M Trail in Bozeman.

“For example, I have water and food by my bike, but I’m not bringing any of that water, food, or a change of clothes with me on my hike,” said Jach.

But to mitigate that: “I’m going to be watching the weather closely and not go any further than my initial plan,” said Jach.

In fact, on July 2, one family’s day plans at the M trail took a turn for the worse.

At around noon, Gallatin County Dispatch received information that a family of six was lost while hiking the M trail. The family had run out of water, stranded on a rocky part of the mountain.

Gallatin County Search and Rescue volunteers searched for the family on foot until luckily they were found.

“It’s easy to say, ‘How do you get lost on a local trail like that,’ but it can happen to anyone and in no way, shape, or form should we point fingers at someone calling for help,” said Gallatin County Sherriff Search and Rescue Captain Scott Secor.

“You miss a sign, or take a game trail instead of a human trail…”

And the next thing you know, you’re lost.

Secor says many folks think the most amount of people they have to rescue out on trails are from out of town.

“But the majority of our rescues are Gallatin County residents,” said Secor.

He says a big culprit is technology, making people with little experience confident enough to journey into the backcountry.

“Whereas before you had to have local knowledge, or read a map,” said Secor.

But then again, Secor says technology, like cell phones, can also help you if you ever become lost on a trail.

“If you have a charged phone or a GPS communication device, those are really helpful for rescuers,” said Secor.

He also advises folks to travel in pairs and never stray from your plan if you’re unfamiliar with the area you’re hiking.

But Jach knows the M trail like the back of his hand.

“Stick to your plan and recognize the possible consequences if your plan doesn’t go right,” said Jach.