Lesson learned: never, ever go hiking without a whistle; lots of water; food; blanket; and phone # of the ranger. Also, try to go in the daytime and with someone--when it gets dark, hiking gets scary if you're by yourself. I got lost hiking last weekend in Almaden Quicksilver park and walked, in fear, for 3 hours straight before finding my way out.
My sole saving grace is that I had lots of water, which saved my hide. Without the water, I could not have walked that long, even with fear as a motivator.
My friend Marlene B. had these recommendations:
~Always bring your phone--you never know where you'll have a signal.
~ Always have water
~ Bring a snack
~ Wear sunscreen
~ Hat... you can put a solar kind of emergency blanket in your pack.
~ NEVER HIKE ALONE! I don't care if you're a boy!
~ Take a map unless you know the route for sure
Other people suggested toilet paper, a headlamp and a GPS. One really good idea was attaching a bell to your backpack and letting it ring. It's the best way to make noise to make the predators look up and away instead of startling them. (Thanks to Mike I. for the recommendation.)
I was not expecting that level of wilderness on the side trails (which I went on accidentally). I couldn't see a darn thing, and the path got really narrow. I expected better signposts, maybe even lightedsignposts. When it got dark, I could barely see/read where I was going. One disconcerting but apparently normal event was that my hands felt inflated--I had a hard time making a fist. (If anyone knows the science behind this phenomenon, please post a comment.) Then, birds started chirping, so I started singing to let the animals know I was coming. At least my night hiking trip is going to be a funny cocktail party story. I guess state parks are one place where the lawyers haven't been able to make the experience foolproof. That's a good thing.