The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 16, 2013

Our View: Tragic reminder of nature's power

— Some of nature’s finest features exist in our region, and that includes hiking trails that lead us to inspiring places.

There’s the path that will take us through spectacular forests or the prairie plains. Birds, animals and exquisite wildflowers are all there, providing us with a sensory feast.

But make no mistake about it. The elements of nature should be studied, understood and taken seriously.

Experienced hiker David Decareaux, of Millstadt, Ill., failed to heed forecasts for ominous weather Saturday when he and his sons, ages 8 and 10, set out on the Mark Twain National Forest’s Ozark Trail in southeast Missouri, dressed only in light clothing.

The day turned cold, and freezing rain made it worse. The hikers’ bodies were found the next day on the trail. Only their dog survived.

While they had taken some food, they had no compass or supplies for cold weather. Decareaux turned down a ride back to a Reynolds County lodge where his wife and three other children were staying.

As the day grew darker, the father and his two sons became lost. By the time they were found, it was too late.

In an Associated Press story released Tuesday, Pete Olsen, the American Hiking Society’s vice president of programs, said it is important to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return, giving an idea of where searchers should look if you’re late.

No matter how nice the weather starts, we are all too aware of the fury of nature. A simple walk through the woods, in this case, turned tragic.

It shouldn’t have ended this way. A funeral for the three will be held Friday.

We would urge our readers who frequent the many, many trails in our area to be mindful of the basics of hiking. Prepare for the worst in order to come home safe.