Ken Knight's disappearance paralyzed me. I turned into a news junkie via Twitter, Google news and BPL. I passed the word: I tweeted and re-tweeted, contacted major news outlets in my area (TV (4), print (3, plus New York Times) and radio (1)), contacted a local scout executive I previously worked for and a few friends who are well-connected. I was glued to my computer screen, constantly hitting refresh. I didn't post on BPL outside the missing thread. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, it freaked my trip.
Everything else fell by the wayside. Anything hiking-related that did not involve finding Ken were irrelevant; they did not matter and I let them slide. It was purely paralyzing. I have never met Ken. My only knowledge of him prior to this event was his Twitter account; that said, I did not check out his blog or his videos that he linked through his tweets. Now that he is home safe, I can breath easier.
In the aftermath, if it can be called that, evaluation of his actions will come. Ken's situation must be examined for cause, effect and prevention - if only by Ken himself. But that will come, if Ken wants it to. I'm not sure the hiking community or BPL will ever get Ken's side of the story - something I am OK with. The emotions, thoughts and ideas must be processed and they must be a massive burden to digest and jot down.
I have never been seriously lost. There have been a few times where I have been unsure of my location, but never lost, off trail without a clear path of where to go. For example, while hiking the SHT above Grand Marais in May '08, my brother and I were walking down a long access road. The trail followed the road, but at some point left the road to venture back into the covered woods. After some time of walking down the swampy road, I stopped, worried. I hadn't seen a blue blaze for a while, or any other SHT marker. What were we to do? We knew the trail went through the road, but we lacked a definitive marker on our exact location. Triangulation was not feasible because of vegetation and almost-flat topography. My brother marked our location with some sticks and we kept going, counting paces. We eventually reached the turn off - we simply had not yet come it yet and started second-guessing our actions. But it certainly threw me for a loop for those 30 minutes. I cannot begin to fathom what Ken went through during his time.
All that said, Ken got himself into a nasty situation, and then got himself out, alive to boot. Reading the FAQ, he did everything right. He realized he was lost, found water, stayed put and started a signal fire. He hunkered down and waited to be found.
What would you do? If my life was in serious danger, I can't say I would do anything else. I would fight like hell to get out alive. It is not my (or anyone else's) place to pass judgment on his actions.
Ken, we're glad to have you back.