A Day Hike Can Turn Into a Nightmare in a Matter of Hours

Day Hike Safety

Stranded on the Trail Is Where You Come Face To Face With Reality and Possibly Death

How many more hikers, snowmobilers, anglers and hunters need to get lost or stranded and die along the trail before others that venture out into the wilderness wake up to the harsh realities.  Nature does not adapt to you, you adapt to it, and if you refuse or simply cannot then you may very well die.

Take this horrific story for example: Illinois father and two sons freeze to death during hike (Murphy, 2013).

Decareaux, his wife and five children of Millstadt, Illinois, were staying at an Ozarks lodge, and according to those that knew the father stated he was an experienced hiker and Air Force veteran.  The father and his two young sons decided to go hiking along the Ozark trail. The weather starting out was 60° F. They were all dressed in light jackets, sweaters, and with nothing else with them expect for a flashlight and cell phone according to the report.

Once along the trail it started to rain, and the temperatures dropped into the 40’s and apparently, they refused a ride from a passerby back to their cabins after three hours into their hike. According to the report, they probably took a wrong turn along the trail in the dark.

All three were later found dead and medical experts concluded all three died of hypothermia after spending the night unprotected in the rain and deadly cold. The temperatures near early morning had dipped into the 20’s. Soaking wet and exposed to below freezing temperatures.


Why not accept the ride back to the cabin, why no backpacks with a few bottles of water, why no rain gear, or gear of any sort and why just light clothing. It was winter in the Ozark Mountains. Of course, it is easy to say now he should have known better.

Was it pride, was he showing off for his two sons, what was going though his mind. Furthermore, what will be going through your mind the next time you decide to take a short hike, along a well-marked trail?

The father obviously did not realize he was in a survival situation when a passerby offered them a ride. In any survival situation, you have to be ready to take advantage of every opportunity. You have to know the dangers so you can counter the perils. Like a child that does not know, that playing in the streets is dangerous until they gain the knowledge. Until they are taught, the skills needed to survive.

Think Before You Act

Before venturing out in any situation, you need to know the most likely dangers and the not so likely. Wintertime in the Ozarks means snow, freezing rain and hypothermia. Even survival experts get lost, but they survive because they prepared themselves for the possibility.

If you have no idea on how to start a fire or build, a shelter in the rain and cold then you had better stay home. Sunny and 60 degrees’ starting out does not mean it will be that three hours into the hike. Know the possibilities so you can prepare for them.

It is tragic and unfortunate but ego probably played a role. Everyone that has ever hiked along a trail knows the dangers for the most part, but people tend to assume that tragedies befall someone else, some stranger.

The father knew better but went ahead anyway, that is what makes it so heartrending. The fact that the deaths could have been avoided with just a small backpack and some materials and provisions will leave family and friends pondering “why” for the rest of their lives.

Heavier clothing, a tarp or small tent and fire making tools and materials could have saved them, probably would have saved them in all likelihood. The father had a cell phone and flashlight with him. The cell phone battery was dead, and the flashlight did not work.

You have to learn from this horrible event. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. If you do not have it with you, then you will not have it. If you cannot carry a backpack with a few supplies and materials with you on any outdoor adventure then you have no business wandering around in the woods, especially in the wintertime.

People will still think to themselves even after reading the above story, “It is only a few hours hike along the trail, what can happen to me”. A day hike can turn into a nightmare in a matter of hours, even in a matter of minutes in some cases. 

You cannot learn survival skills on the job. You must have the needed skills and knowledge before you need to use them to save your life. You will need to practice to the point that there is no question of your skill. No question that you can start a fire in any weather condition, no question you make a shelter and no question that you always have what is needed in your pack and on your person. Forget pride and egos die along with the person that left unprepared.

Like the father along the trail you may have others that depend on you for their survival, do not let them down.