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Be prepared when planning a mountain hike

WICHITA MOUNTAINS, OK-- You don't want to go hiking in the Wichita Mountains unprepared.  And not because you'll get attacked by wild animals, but more likely because you could be injured or get lost.

Just last weekend a man hiking along Sunset Trail fell into a ravine.  Fortunately he was prepared; he had a flashlight, and rescuers were able to find him.

Mark Ellis, a search and rescue EMT and firefighter, is the one who gets the call when hikers go missing in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.  He says people underestimate the mountains and therefore easily get lost.

But even if you get lost or injured in the afternoon, it could still take hours to find you, and suddenly it's night, and you're all alone.

Ellis says there are several "tributaries" leading off of groomed trails, so people often get disoriented and start following the wrong trail.

But you can better your odds of getting rescued, and staying safe, if you take the right things with you:

Bring the common things like water, some food and warm clothing.  But you should also bring along items that will help save you, like a whistle and a flashlight.  This will help rescuers find you faster, lessening the chances you will be left out in the dark.

Also remember to wear the right footwear; proper hiking boots will help prevent common injuries like rolling your ankle.  And wear long pants to protect your legs from being scraped by brush.  And even if you have a hiking partner, make sure to tell other people where you are going and when you plan to be back -- so if you don't come home, someone can call search and rescue to go out and find you.

And don't think you can always rely on your cell phone for help, they often don't work in the refuge.

Finally, always be aware of what time the sun sets, and plan on being back at your car before twilight.

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