The Grand Traverse Conservation District is warning people hiking the trails to be careful and keep your bearings.
The warning comes after a family of hikers got lost on Empire Bluffs Trail in Leelanau County Monday night. Local hiker and former 9&10 News reporter, Peter Forton, found the families belongings.
“I go to the Empire Bluffs Trail several days a week because I live 25 minutes from it. If you go out early you’re all by yourself. You can go by the lake, it’s beautiful, it’s a great hike,” Forton says.
Forton was shocked when he went for his morning hike and found gear sitting right next to a 350-foot steep bend.
“In that area as I was hiking I walked up on a backpack. A Michigan State University backpack, some tennis shoes and socks. There were no footprints leading to them or going away from them. So, I immediately knew just from history out here, someone was in trouble,” Forton states.
Forton talked to park rangers who say they responded around 10:30 last night to a family that got split up when a couple of family members went off the trail. Park rangers reunited the family around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The Grand Traverse Conservation District’s, Tom Vitale, says he’s noticed more people heading up to hike on the trails. He says the best way for hikers to stay safe is to stay on the trail.
“Stay on the trail as much as you can especially during the twilight hours. If you’re staying on trail you’re going to run into an intersection at some point. It can help you orient yourself a little better,” Vitale explains.
He says folks should pack sunscreen, bug repellent and lots of water, as well as planning ahead of time to know the distance and duration of your hike.
“Just be very careful, and really think about something before you do it. Even if it looks easy, that’s what’s getting people in trouble a lot of times, it’s not,” Forton says.