Staying Found on the Trail

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Staying Found on the Trail

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    02-04-2010, 06:04 PM
Staying Found on the Trail

I was reading a back issue of The Trailhead the other night and after reading about a couple of particularly harrowing trips I started thinking about the great campfire stories I’ve heard over the years. They all involved situations that could have been avoided. Knowing that I’m not ready to give up my gambling problem (I ride horses, therefore I gamble with my life every time I get in the saddle) I decided to reduce the other risks I take when I go onto the trail. One risk to mitigate is getting lost, which we all agree can be a real bummer. Unfortunately, getting lost is all too easy to do as evidenced by the many Search and Rescue operations carried out every year for missing hikers, horse riders, etc.

You can’t get lost if you “Stay Found”, I wrote Staying Found as an introduction to a land navigation class for a mounted search and rescue unit a few years ago. We’ve all been in situations where we knew something wasn’t quite right but we weren’t sure what it was. Maybe you didn’t remember the last fork in the trail on the way out or a landmark you don’t recognize is now staring at you. Maybe I don’t have enough of an adventure seeking personality but I don’t like that feeling and do whatever I can to avoid it.

By “staying found” we can avoid the unpleasant results of getting lost (especially the ribbing you’ll get when you do, finally, make it back to camp!) The most important parts of staying found are accomplished off trail, at home. Preparation includes: Learning how to read a topo map; learning how to use a compass and operate your GPS; and researching your spring and summer highcountry trips. Staying Found addresses the basics of these ideas and gives good jumping off points into other further trip planning / navigation information.

With spring and summer approaching, now is a great time prepare and ensure that we’re around for many more trips in the coming years.

I hope this information helps you in planning your trips and staying safe for the coming riding season!
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    02-05-2010, 01:29 AM
I usually don't have too much trouble staying found during times of high visability. I've spent a lot of time hunting in the mountains of the west. My difficult times come at night in the darkness, or in snow storms where visability is limited when I'm in new areas.

There has been a couple of times when I just had to trust the horse to find our way back to the trailer. I wasn't too concerned about getting lost. I always knew I could find my way home in the dayight the next day. But rather I was more concerned about having to spend a night on the mountain with out a tent or sleeping bag. Or getting slapped in the face with a tree branch in the dark.

I spend a lot of time teaching my daughters during rides to observe the trail. We play the game of "What if I got hurt and you had to go for help" Could you find your way back to the truck? A few years ago, I ran across a couple from MN or MI who were out to Utah to hunt Elk. It was getting late in the afternoon, their horses, not being used to the altitude and work of the mountains, were tired, They wanted to know the quickest route back to their camp. I asked them where they were camped at. I told them to follow me. I lead them down another trail for 2-3 miles until I needed to turn off for my own camp. The folks were nervous about how to continue the last couple of miles back to camp. I told them to just keep following the trail marks that we had been following. They gasped, what trail markers. I asked if they had not been seeing the markers as we passed them. I had to give them a crash course in back country trail markers. Tree blazes, rock cairns etc. They had the easy route, I had to bushwack over several ridges to find my way back to camp.
    02-07-2010, 10:44 AM
Green Broke
Getting lost would bite especially if you were in a place at dark or snow, or rain. UGH. I am a total sissy but I have been blessed with a fairly decent sense of direction and memory for places. Even if I get turned around I am pretty good at realizing it quickly and being able to get back on track.

I do note the position of the sun when I take off so I have a good sense of north, south, east and west. That always helps me...but I haven't taken off into unmapped areas either! We just started riding in a hunting club with a maze of roads - lol I don't want to get lost there!

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