Went hiking a week or two ago with team from work at Wallace Falls, up to the Skyhomish Valley Overlook. Two or three interesting observations. Not much in the way of wildlife, just people and their dogs. Clear day, cold in the morning but it warmed up, as one might expect.
First, even though we had looked at the posted maps and had plenty of cell coverage, we ended up taking a little detour out to about the DNR road I think? The social dynamic, in particular, was that management thought they knew where we were going and junior engineers were correctly skeptical but didn't speak up loudly enough. So this poses a pretty funny potential explanation for getting lost with increased party size, and a reason that navigation shouldn't necessarily just scale with the number of characters with Navigation proficiency - it's a "never bring two clocks to sea" sort of situation, if one navigator gets it right and the other gets it wrong.
So this is why I'm not really sure how far we went, or how much total elevation change we did. Our highest point was about 500 feet above our starting point. It took us around three hours, which would make sense for about four miles each way plus elevation. But... even looking at a map now I'm not sure how that could've happened. Backtracking off a wrong turn is doubly expensive I guess.
In any case, getting lost is definitely a topic which I should think more about, for developing a gameplay loop for wilderness adventures.
Second, I pulled something in my knee (IT band I think) about a quarter of the way in, and boy howdy the rest of the hike was fun. Didn't do anything particularly stupid, just walking and gradually ow. The wilderness damage is real.
Finally, splendid visibility, leading to some observations for the "describing the wilderness" problem. More than I expected! Although I suppose 500' is a fair bit of climbing to do just for a view; might be some interesting choices and tradeoffs during wilderness adventuring, spending time climbing stuff to see more hexes away.
To the south, a dirt road on the hills on the other side of the river, about 10 miles away and I reckon 12-15 feet wide, was clearly visible to the naked eye as a result of contrast, yellow dirt among green trees. I hadn't considered the visibility of preindustrial roadways in adjacent hexes before. A sandy island in the river, a quarter mile wide, was easily visible at a similar distance, again by contrast.
Turning further west, the Olympic mountains, about 70 miles away over the Sound, were likewise visible. The gap between the last line of near hills and the mountains is very hazy, almost a white line; I'm not sure if this is due to humidity off the water, or something with the horizon. If it is a water humidity effect, it might be useful for signaling to players an intervening, distant large body of water. If it's a horizon effect, then it might be useful for signaling that the mountains they're seeing are further than the calculated horizon (about 45 miles, at the elevation we were at). The edge of the Sound was about 45 miles away, so hard to call either way.
And then to the east and north, the view was pretty well blocked by the mountain we were on.
This whole post-hike process that I do, where I go correlate stuff I saw to things on google maps and try to figure out where it was and how to get there, seems like a much looser version of the exploration loop that you'd get in the wilderness with a paper (er, vellum?) map in hand.
Finally finally, for all that "door or cave hidden behind a waterfall" is a bit of a trope at this point, it seems like that would actually be rather dangerous, given that the pool into which the water falls tends to get deep and be churned up.