I would just like to repeat a few tips about (not) getting lost, put out by Mountaineer Search & Rescue, based in Emporium. These folks have 20 years experience in search and rescue in Cameron County — it should follow that this would extend to nearly any county in the state, possibly the country.
First of all they cover prevention, as the best search is one that doesn’t have to happen.
The basics are: use map and compass (in the case of the STS or just about any trail, the guidebook is also very important), carry matches (and firestarter), dress properly (especially a windbreaker), as the old mountain-man Bill Williams said, “I’m afraid of only one thing, a cold wind. It’ll kill you for nothing, you’ll just die like a derned fool.” Prepare for weather extremes, and inform someone about where you are going and when you’ll be back.
Then if you are lost, stay calm and don’t panic and get hurt, or get yourself more lost. Walk downhill, and/or follow a stream downstream; they always come to roads and people. If darkness overtakes you, find a sheltered spot, sit down and relax, and build a fire. Eat your chocolate bar and look and listen.
Signal every hour, on the hour if you have a whistle, air-horn or firearm. Sounds travel very well at night, especially if it’s calm. Personally, I would not fire three shots; one loud boom will be heard just fine. And at night they will know that it’s not just a hunter, who has spotted some game.
If I understand correctly, the searchers will be on the high points with a big fire and something that will make very loud noises, i.e. an air horn or siren. And don’t worry about it being night time; these men and women are trained for night time rescues.
Don’t be like the poor lady hiking the AT in Maine. She went off-trail for a privacy break, and somehow got herself lost. She kept trying to get a cell signal by climbing up to higher ground. All this time she was only about five miles from a highway.
Eventually there were a lot of people out searching but by then she was so far off the trail, they never could find her. She set up camp on the high terrain, and just remained there until she died. Her remains were found by a forester quite some time later.
You would have to try pretty hard to get lost hiking the STS. If you ever do find a confusing junction, turn, etc., let me or the club know about it so we can correct it. As I’ve said many times, if you have the guidebook and maps you’ll enjoy your hike that much more. Happy trails!