Sit – You may be anxious, panicked, or even afraid. but don’t let fear take control of you. Many hikers have perished (even when they had everything they needed and were not far from the trail) because they failed to just stop, think, observe and plan.
Think/Observe – How did I get off the trail? Did I walk down a wash instead of the trail? Can I back track to get back on the trail? Do I know what direction the trail goes. i.e. north to south ? Do I know which direction I went off the trail? Do I have a way to orient myself? If I walk in an oriented direction, will that put me back on the trail? Or, am I completely lost with no way to get back to the trail? What do I have with me to help my situation? Is water nearby? What kind of natural materials around me can I use? Is it safe where I’m currently located?
Plan – Will you stay put or will you attempt to get back on the trail? If staying put, you need to make a plan to shelter in place and secure water, build a signal fire, mark an opening with a signal that can be seen from the air, put out a bright cloth (bandanna) that might be seen from the air. If attempting to get back to the trail, mark your current location to help a rescue team find where you realized you left the trail. Leave marks (such as arrows made from stones, pine cones, or wood shaped like arrows) showing your direction of travel. For average hikers, the best course of action is almost always to stay put and let rescue come to you. Only consider moving should there be no hope that rescue will come looking for you or will not be able to find you at your current location.