Navigation can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other on a clear path. It can also be a confusing, shifting & often a mentally taxing, dangerous and difficult task indeed. Here in Florida it can be a snake, alligator, and the state bird (mosquito) infested pathless challenge one minute and a rut that even the newest hiker can easily follow the next. How you prepare for your next hike makes all the difference. What research do you do? What navigational aids do you use? When do you break out the compass? When do you break out your Inreach Explorer? Of all the decisions you make while hiking. One of the most important you have to make is when do you NOT use your dead reckoning skills? Simple decisions; but they are some of the most important decisions you will make as a hiker. When and how you answer those questions will make the difference between being lost a mere hundred yards off course; to finding yourself lost, totally turned around, and at the mercy of Mother Nature. Remember the acronym KISS … always “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Define your level of navigational expertise and act accordingly; before you hike! Don’t make the mistake of overreaching. Don’t ever convince yourself that you know what you are doing. When the going gets rough and decisions seem to be a jumbled mess – remember SYAD – sit your ass down – don’t make stupid mistakes. Think your way through it. It is easier to hike back to the last point you knew where you were “exactly” or blunder straight ahead and get totally lost. Hikes should be broken down in segments. The more confusing the terrain, the shorter the segments should be. In the first photo, you better be taking compass readings and orienting your self to the sun often. By that, I mean every few minutes. In the second photo … you can go all day without taking a compass bearing. Its remembering that when the path changes. Get a bearing … start out on the right foot … and you’ll end up on a clear path shortly. It is so easy to blunder forward, look at the wildlife, the flowers, the fauna … opps which way is up? Its then that the decisions you make will define whether you have a great hike or an “O crap” I’m in the weeds now experience.
This series will focus on whether there is no path or one that is clearly defined. We need a simple and straightforward plan for each and every trail we take. It would be nice if all trails were a clear path that even the most challenged of us can manage. Each of the paths above presents unique difficulties. When do you admit that I’m a bit out of my depth? My take; it is ALWAYS before you begin any hike in a new area. Prepare for the worst case scenario and you will always be ahead of the game.
The same can be said for all the seasons. Its just as easy or perhaps easier to find yourself lost in the snow as it is in the swamp or a beautiful forest. Keep watching … more to come.