Hawaii Tip No. 5: how not to get lost

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GETTING SWALLOWED BY THE LAND

At popular mainland parks, hikers are advised to stay on trails to avoid destroying a fragile ecosystem. In Hawaii, the tables are turned and the smart money is on the flora. Dense snarls of greenery make it impossible to find your way back to a trail after straying only a short distance. Throw in a little rain or fog, and you can become rapidly, hopelessly lost. To complete the horror show, add the hidden promise of earth cracks and lava tubes.

How not to get swallowed by the land: Stay on the trail. People have been walking these islands for centuries, and if there isn’t already a trail, forget about getting there.

If you lose a trail, backtrack to a known point. If the trail becomes hard to follow, you’re not on a trail. Many trails are not signed or poorly marked, although some will be marked with plastic ribbon. As you proceed, look back occasionally to memorize the return route.

Also memorize junctions, where you can leave a marker arrow with sticks—though remember to scatter the marker upon your return. Note your departure time on a hike, and make sure to begin your return when you have used up less than half the remaining daylight. Don’t rely on GPS to hike by direction; hiking cross country is mostly impossible.

Even fit hikers will be lucky to make two miles an hour on Hawaiian trails, which often squiggle in all directions, have poor footing, and offer many reasons to take a scenic pause. If you do get caught out at night without a flashlight, stay put. If hiking in groups, stay together.

an excerpt from No Worries Hawaii, a travel vacation planner full of good advice.

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