By now most of the world has heard about Amanda Eller and her 17 day ordeal lost in the wilderness of Makawao State Park. Amanda is being given celebrity status and everyone is so glad she survived. I’m glad she survived too, but I’m not going to give her any kudos for her survival skills, much less for what it cost to mount a search for 17 days.
The first thing that comes to mind is how does one become lost in Makawao in the first place? It’s kinda like becoming lost in Central Park in New York City. Consider that the main trail forms a 6.4 mi. loop and there are only 6 other loop type trails. Each trail is well worn to the point that a 6 year old could follow it. But, just to be on the safe side the trails are also marked with red arrows making it virutally impossible to get lost.
Even mountain bikers can handle these trails, but for the foot traveler, the inclines are docile and can be traversed as a challenging run or a leisurely walk.
Massive eucalyptus trees surround the entry way and can be found all along the trails. Despite the frequent rainfall, the vegetation is not dense like a central American rain forest, although the large trees sometimes make it feel like forest.
As one blog commented said, “My 13 year old son loves it, he goes with his friends and I can even take our dog. It is so beautiful and serene. If your there while it is lightly raining just listen, the wind and the rain together are blissful’ 13 year old and his friends love it, serene…blissful, get it? You couldn’t be lost in a nicer place.
But, she didn’t stay on the trail! She walked down the hillside to find a more secluded spot to take a nap.
Now it begins. The first clue this person was not the sharpest tool in the tool box, is she was walking by herself and then she left the trail.
I don’t care that if this is an incredibly blissful place, a two legged predator can be found anywhere and its always better to walk with someone. And a female or a child walking alone in a semi desolate area is never a good idea.
Next on the dumb-0-meter, she left the trail and walked down hillside into a ravine not really paying attention to her surroundings.
She said she laid down for a nap and when she awoke she was disoriented and unsure which way to go. Okay, but there is only one direction that should in consideration here…. it’s called up. I mean, if you came down a hillside you don’t need to be Daniel Boone to know you should go up the hillside to where you came from, right? How disoriented could you be to not know up from down? My personal take is, I think you would have to be smoking a lot of Maui-wowie to be this confused.
Okay, next rule of survival is, once you are lost stay put! She didn’t of course. Ms. Oblivious headed off and eventually into really steep and rocky terrain. I can’t even imagine why she did…but she keeps moving. At one point she lost her footing and fell almost 20 feet and injured her leg. Common sense says, the last thing you would want to do is to hike into steep areas while tired, lost and totally confused.
Fortunately for Ms. Eller, this a park on Maui not the Donner Trail in the Sierra Nevada’s. The weather is pleasantly cool to warm and there are no poisonous insects or snakes. There is also a constant supply of rainwater and an abundance of edibles growing all around (see left and below right). It’s like a Garden of Eden and dying there is going to take some effort, like diving into a pool of water 2 feet deep.
Exactly how she was able not to be spotted in the first day or two is somewhat of a mystery too. There are hundreds of clearings where one could hang out waiting for a plane or helicopter to fly by… remember this is not particularly big place as parks go. There’s even less areas suitable for hiking. My guess is about 80% of the park is a place where a normal person would never hike or go even if lost.
This is why I find it hard to believe that during all this time (17 days) she never once heard or saw one rescuer, but I guess strange things happen all the time, don’t they? As I write this another person is lost, but he was suffering from a high fever when he left his home and apparently had some other issues before his disappearance.
However, if any good is to come from this costly ordeal, it should be a court order that prevents Amanda Eller ever being allowed to go hiking again in a State Park without adult supervision.
Here’s some tips from SFGate: Know before you go: The state parks website also includes these important reminders: “Plan your hike by knowing the terrain to be covered, the length of the trail, weather conditions, time of day, and hazards along the trail. Allow ample time to return before nightfall by figuring 1.5 miles per hour. Carry proper equipment, including a first aid kit and plenty of water. Wear proper shoes and clothing. Stay on the designated trail and be extra cautious when crossing streams and walking on wet, slippery trails or on loose, crumbly soil or rock. Hike in a group and keep track of those in your party.” Aloha