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Lost in the woods? How to keep yourself safe while enjoying nature

Forests and national parks have become hot spots for social distancing, especially in the summer, but it's easy to get lost if you're not careful.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They're stationed about a block away from Jefferson Memorial Forest. They know the area better than you do.

"Usually we get a call about an hour after dark that people are lost and we go in and find them," Fairdale Fire Chief Darrell Roy said.

His department trains here several times a year, and Roy said the forest has been packed since the coronavirus pandemic started. It's a hot spot for social distancing during the spring and summer months, but being alone on these trails has its ups and downs.

"They’re steep," Roy said. "The forest is unforgiving. You can make a mistake out here."

Chief Roy said his department responds to about 10-15 rescues a year for someone lost or having a medical issue after the sun goes down. Visitors who haven’t kept track of where they were going have no idea what to tell dispatchers when they call for help.

Credit: WHAS

"We’ve had issues where people wandered off the path and they end up not even in the park anymore. They’re in farmland," Roy said.

The key is to have a fully charged cell phone and know how to send your location to another phone if it has that capability.

Chief Roy said before you venture out, let someone know where you’re going, what trail you’re on, where you parked, and which car you took. Water bottles, a personal first aid kit, and a flashlight are a must.

Even if you think you're a seasoned explorer, the thick tree canopy can cause everything to go dark much faster than you expect.

"A guy called and he was lost and we came in with lights and he was 30 feet into the forest, said he saw the lights and he walked out of here on his own," Roy said.

Calls for help are even more common at the Parklands of Floyds Fork, especially from exhausted kayakers who don’t know where they are.

Firefighters from Zoneton and Shepherdsville have been working to improve that by installing mile marker signs along Floyd’s Fork and the Salt River in Bullitt County, keeping you safe every step of the way.

"What better place to get out, than in this forest," Roy said.

You shouldn't be discouraged from getting out and enjoying nature, but you do need to pay attention to where you're going and what you're doing so your trip stays peaceful.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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