A woodsman’s wisdom

Conlon Kane, Staff Writer

When venturing into the great outdoors, it’s important to know where you’re going, how to get there, and most importantly, to have a reliable navigator.  

Any time you step into the wilderness, you should have a plan. Where are you going? How long will it take to get there? What will you do once you arrive at your destination? How long will you be staying at your destination?  The most critical question you have to figure out is who will get you there?

Because going into the woods alone is just a bad idea all together, any hiker knows to take a buddy; however, that buddy may not always be the best map-reader in the world.

On the first hiking trip my dad and I went on together; we had everything planned out perfectly.  We had a map of the area, marked our trail, packed our bags as though we were going on an overnight trip, though mostly for the weight training.  Everything was all set and ready to go.  I had picked a trail for us to follow that would give us our desired hike length of around eight miles.  

While hiking along the trail I had picked, we noticed that large parts were snowmobile trails. My dad, deciding he didn’t want to hike on snowmobile trails, changed our plan.  After hiking for a while, we lost sight of the trail and ended up in a large clearing with a large rock creating a fork in what we thought was our trail.  I sat down next to the rock while my dad wandered around attempting to figure out where we were.  As I was attempting to stand back up, rather unsuccessfully with my pack on, my dad decided that we should continue along the “trail” and we would be back at the car soon.  It wasn’t until we ran into another hiker that we found out we were headed in the wrong direction.  Luckily for us, it added only a few extra miles onto our trip, which was about ten miles in total.

On another hike, this one in New Mexico, our navigator plotted our path the night before we left, as had become our custom over the first week we had been on the trail.  He picked what he thought was the best path, but didn’t know how to read a topographical map.  We found out that next day that our path, while the straightest, shortest trail, would have registered as being a class three hike on the Yosemite Decimal System, meaning we were scrambling on our hands and feet for the majority of the hike.  

Having a navigator who knows how to read a map and navigate using one is the single most important thing to figure out before leaving for a hike.  If you don’t know how to get where you are going and can’t find the best path to take in order to get there, your trip will not be fun.

Similarly, having a plan when doing even the most common things can make them more enjoyable.  While the planning doesn’t have to be as meticulous, knowing what you are doing, who you’re going with, how you’re getting there, and how you’re getting home can make a night out significantly safer.  Having a plan and telling someone who will not be joining you is the best way to ensure that should something go wrong, people know where you are.

Always making sure that your navigator knows where they are going is of the utmost importance; getting lost is bad, but getting lost with someone who refuses to admit that they got you lost is exhausting.