This is a tale from a few years ago while guiding a group into one of the mountain ranges here in Hokkaido. We were on our third day of an eight-day trek when we noticed a small plane circling around the area.
What are they doing?” asked a guy in our group.
“I think maybe someone is lost.” I responded.
The next day we spotted the same plane joined by a couple of helicopters off in the distance. Soon an army of helicopters were overhead. That’s when I was sure someone was lost.
As the sun slowly hid behind a nearby mountain, we made our way to the campsite. We were met by a group of policeman. They told us a guy at this campsite made a day-hike to some nearby peaks but had not returned. “He’s been missing for three days,” said one of the policemen pointing to a tent and some gear, “that’s his stuff there.”
After we put up our tents and put some food on the stove, we noticed a group of guys coming into camp. This is when things got interesting.
This was the search party of local guys who knew this part the mountain range real well. Most looked well over fifty, some over sixty. As they set up their tents and unloaded their backpacks, I was amazed to see them pull out several bottles of whiskey, sake and six packs of beer. I don’t recall seeing food, but I’m sure they must have had some underneath the pile of alcohol.
Sure enough, later that night there was a “search party” going down in their tents and no one else in the campground could get any sleep. Awake in my tent, I thought about the guy lost somewhere in the mountains while these guys were having a grand old time.
In the morning we were up early after a sleepless night. By the looks of it a few guys from my group made their way to the “search party” tents. “Did you have a few?” I asked. The big smiles on there faces answered my question.
When we moved out there wasn’t any movement coming from their camp. I wondered they could find a lost hiker if he fell out of a tree onto their tent. I hope the lost guy wasn’t pinning all his hopes on these fellows.
Luckily the lost hiker made it out alive five days later. I’m told he followed a river until he ran into a fly fisherman who helped him to safety. It was a good end for a guy who had been out in the woods for nine days, no thanks to the search party.