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A step off the trail is a step into a changed world. By taking that step you are going places that most people don’t. We have become a species of roads and trails, shopping malls and limited access highways. Here in the states our trails are clearly marked with false routes blocked off with branches and markers giving distances to destinations, Off trail you decide which way is best and how far until you get there.

Root flare with too bright back pack on bottom left. In the valley of the Nam Fa.

Moving through the woods is not as difficult as it might seem, animals do it their entire lives, many of them bigger than you. By having to avoid marshy places you learn what type of trees and bushes indicate the presence of water, which side of the hill holds the most deadfall and underbrush.

Any scuff mark or track you see is from a wild animal, any scat, every bone fragment, every tree scratch or tuft of hair, all have a tale to tell if you can piece together the story. When I’m off the trail I know where I am relative to the hills and creeks around me, there is a continual mental map in the back of my head that is constantly redrawn as the terrain shifts or I catch glimpses of far off hills through the trees. Power lines above Yellow Jacket Pass below Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Power lines are a long, manmade landmark that cut scores of miles across the countryside in relatively straight lines that can be seen from far away.

Off the trail I always am aware of where I am, on a trail my mind thinks only of the trail.

Off trail you are guaranteed to have the woods to yourself, there is no one else there. No loud conversations about work, no barky dogs, no electronically connected ear buds. No joggers or geo cachet, no mountain bikes or ATVs. Often I never even set foot on the trail at the trailhead, I just simply head off into the woods even if it takes longer.

The wind, whether it is a barely felt movement of air,  or a strong breeze, either alerts others to my presence or hides my approach depending on which direction my smell is carried. Subconsciously I accommodate the wind direction in my thoughts knowing that I could well walk up on an animal unannounced or alternatively shoo them from my path before I ever get there. A big wind will mask all noise making me and all other animals in the woods slightly nervous, we can’t hear anything else that is wandering around. Bear!!

I wouldn't be caught dead in camo but I do wear dark greens and grays. No blue at all as it appears very bright to ungulates. When I have to cross a trail I try to do so carefully at right angles, I’ve no idea why I don’t want to be seen. If hikers or bikers appear simply standing still will make you almost invisible, they are looking at their next steps, not into the woods.

A couple weeks ago a friend's dad went squirrel hunting. First day he brought back ten. Second day he got eight but when he tried to walk back to his car he realized he was lost and called his wife. This guy grew up hunting squirrels in the hills and fields of his village. As a captain he commanded an infantry company on the Plain of Jars. That was then, this was now.

He told his wife not to call 911, but he had no matches or lighter. It gets cold at night, somehow he found his way out. People do get lost.
Migs and .... jars, on Plain of Jars

I’ve no tips on how not to get lost. Leave early? Turn around at noon? Maybe bring a compass and figure out on a map before you go which way to get out to a road. One thing I do know, don’t depend on a GPS. GPSs can be fickle, great tool, but you should be able to find your way around in the woods before using one. Be aware of which rivers or natural landmarks border the area you are to be walking in.

Don’t break a leg. Bring enough to spend the night. I bring two ways to make a fire, extra water, rain poncho, warm coat, and down the bottom of my pack a space blanket. Also bring your senses. Not only a sense of realism, the ability to correctly gauge your abilities and possibilities but also an open pair of eyes, ears that listen, nose that smells.

Dipterocarp Forest above Muang Sing PDR Laos

Originally posted to ban nock at DKos on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:28 AM PDT.

Also republished by Backyard Science and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks (15+ / 0-)

    For an interesting read. It is a nice break from the constant handwringing and outrage the election season has brought us.

    “The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.” - Gore Vidal R.I.P

    by eashep on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:57:29 AM PDT

  •  Bear? Or Bigfoot! (9+ / 0-)

    Inquiring minds want to know. :)

  •  Please note (30+ / 0-)
    step off the trail
    In some parks and forests and sometimes on private land. It is illegal to go off trail.

    I have encountered this most frequently in desert environments where there are still wagon tracks in places.

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 05:23:50 AM PDT

    •  I certainly have noticed (25+ / 0-)

      Most heavily used trails that go up hill have signs about switchbacks. Also people like to wander over to obvious places to take in the view.

      Places like Arches National Park or the more heavily used parts of Canyonlands have laws as you mention. Places where they don't have laws one should still stay on trails or more heavily used paths. I first noticed this as a climber. Climbers leave a heavy foot print all along the base of popular rocks. In places such as Indian Creek or along the river outside Moab, the foot traffic is very damaging.

      The damage from 4wd, ATVs, and the newest scourge, mountain bikes, has been disheartening.

      But of course I was talking about stepping off the trails in forests. Not switch backs, and not touristed desert, but forest. And in the forest in dry places where footprints can stay for a year, all the tracks I see are animal, no people.

      Most wilderness areas have no rules about trails, and lack of a trail mostly guarantees an area won't be used. We keep out motors, and bikes, if we made it so that to ride a horse or hike you had to find you're own way, wilderness would be come more wildernessy.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 05:36:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sometimes (not often) it's better to go off trail (5+ / 0-)

      When you are in high alpine meadows that aren't very busy, it's better to spread out, if you're with a group, and not follow in each others footsteps.  Those meadows usually won't have a problem with a couple boot prints in the same spot, but more than that can create a deep trail.

      •  Bullshit. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1, ColoTim, greengemini, peggy

        Alpine meadows all over the Cascades have been beaten to death by hikers wandering off traii. Trails limit human impact.
        If you want to preserve wild lands, you might think about losing your sense of entitlement to walk wherever you choose.

        •  Sorry, but you didn't understand what I said. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ban nock, BoogieMama

          I said:

          When you are in high alpine meadows that aren't very busy
          I have seen deep trails, in little used areas, because groups will walk one after the other in the same spot.  Once the vegetation can't recover, the rain and snow starts to dig channels in the meadows.

          You can't do this in desert environments like in Canyonlands, because 1 step will destroy the delicate cryptogamic soils.  But in little used alpine environments, spread out and try not to walk in anyone elses footsteps.

          •  Respectfully disagree, as to the alpine Cascades (5+ / 0-)

            Leaving the trial is a huge no-no. Erosion, crunching fragile plantlife etc etc.

            Now, IF there is no trail, use your best judgement. Get up to speed on how to tread oh-so-lightly in an environment that, to be blunt, has seen waaay too much human impact.

            I'm not being a misanthropic birkenstock snob here.
            The alpine meadows belong to us ALL.

            We have it in our brains, our hands and our boots to preserve them for our future generations.

            The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

            by ozsea1 on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 01:48:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I know that in Nahanni Ntl. Park in Canada... (6+ / 0-)

              Hikers are specifically advised by the official guidelines to spread out and not overstay in any given area, to reduce the impact.  

              It depends on how busy an area is.  If an area has a lot of human traffic, trails are good, as they concentrate the damage.  You basically declare one area to be "damaged" and tell everyone to stay there.  If the human population is low enough, however, it's best not to have any "damaged" area whatsoever.  I mean, it gets to a point where, if there are bears trodding around, clearly the wilderness is designed to take some degree of animal traffic.

              Up here in Iceland it's sort of a different feeling from when I was back in the states.  You know, when I was hiking over Fimmvörðuháls with some Norwegians and they picked up a hot rock from the lava flow to take with as a hand warmer, my first instinct was, "Hey, you're runing the place for everyone else!"  And then I rememered, wait a minute, that rock is only a year old.  100 years from now it'd probably be buried under a dozen meters of additional lava / ash / whatnot.  It literally makes no difference whether they take it or not.

              I've sort of taken the concept that the older the terrain is, the more it's "dying", the more you need to take care of it.  So I tend to tread lighter on older mountains than I do on young ones.  I feel bad walking across a scree slope of an older mountain, for example, and seeing how much debris it knocks down the side.  That scree is the bones of the mountain.  It'll fall on its own eventually, but my walking on it speeds up the process.

              But on young deposits in volcanically active areas that are likely just to get flooded again, I've had to remind myself that, you know, it really makes no difference whether a rock gets out of place here or not.

              •  also how resilient the place is you are stepping (8+ / 0-)

                High Uintas pointed out elsewhere about the Cryptobiotic Soil which as I remember is a tiny crust of fungus that grows on the desert sand and is the foundation on which other plants depend. I've been in places with that type of soil and you could see where someone had walked a year ago. One set of tracks. The area gets so little rain, and the crust breaks so easily, that any traffic is visible for a long time.

                I worked in that area and our job was walking. We walked where the surveyors told us to, and we walked on a lot of soil. Walked in a straight line from the edge of Canyonlands up and over the La Salles, then at a right angle up across the Colorado River and E of Arches.

                The upside was that every plant was so good at using it's tiny bit of moisture and they grew so slowly that every place seemed like an intricate  garden. Animal tracks too stayed for a very long time. Sometimes you'd see the old bones of a rabbit or lizard laid out as if at a museum. Ravens must have missed them.

                When I went to live on the east coast I was appalled at the foot traffic and abuse of the ground at the tops of popular rock climbs at the Shawangunks other places east, yet when I looked at those same climbs in the spring they were grown over with new bushes, leaves and grasses. Lotta rain, good soil.

                How big is your personal carbon footprint?

                by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:39:16 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Same here for Colorado's high alpine areas (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          greengemini

          One bootprint can make a depression in a damp area that will last for decades.

          I have a real problem with the diarist's unequivocal recommendations for going off-trail.  Maybe it's my history as a park ranger for the NPS and USFS.  Maybe it's my wilderness management classes for my MS.

          Yes, maybe one person can go off trail in a woodsy environment, but that's a selfish view when this country's parks and open spaces can have very heavy, even overuse.  People see someone off trail, and they think they can go off trail, so they do.  And then they damage the environment, they bother wildlife that tries to avoid people areas like trails and they get lost because they don't have the things the diarist thinks ahead to pack.

          I really, really have a problem with this diary.

    •  Stay on the trail in deserts! (15+ / 0-)

      The reason is Cryptobiotic Soil. It can take years to come back, and it is vital to the ecosystem.

      "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

      by high uintas on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:38:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Depends, of course, (6+ / 0-)

      on where you are.  I've walked from the floor of Death Valley to the top of Mt. Palmer and down into Nevada without seeing a soul . . . and had you been a day behind me I doubt you could have found my track.

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:48:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Flat Tops are great! (7+ / 0-)

    My flat tops story:

    Many moons ago, I went packing up in the flat tops with a couple of friends.  One of the friends was from Louisiana, one of the flattest states in the country.

    We were hiking up in an alpine meadow.  I could see from the terrain that if we climbed this very gentle rise, there could be a really nice canyon on the other side.  So up we go with the Louisiana guy following.  When I got to the top, there was an unbelievably spectacular glaciated canyon dropping about 1500 feet straight down.  A Beautiful glaciated alpine lake at the bottom with some snow fields surrounding it.

    When the Louisiana guy got to the top, he took one look over the edge, and turned white as a ghost and a look of complete terror came across his face.  He immediately dropped to the ground and dug his fingers into the alpine turf so deep I thought we would need a claw hammer to get them out.

    To me, it was as if someone had just looked at the Mona Lisa and was absolutely terrified by her smile.

    Needless to say, we did not invite him back for more mountain trips.  

    •  When I was 6 I hiked to the peak of Mt. Dana (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock

      with my family. Near the top there's a lip of snow that overhangs the cirque and glacier below. I walked out on it and my dad had a very tense but quiet hissy fit, until I walked back. Then he pointed out that I had been poised about 1,500 feet above the rocks, held up by a shelf of late-summer snow. I was fine with it (I was six, after all!) and he chilled after a while.

      Maybe that's why the slog the rest of the way to the peak was so fast! He had a little bit of nervous energy to burn off!

      PS when he was 90 we went a little way up that trail again, through the wild flowers. I'm so glad we were all able to do that again. Too bad my Mom couldn't be there with us; she had passed a few years earlier.

  •  Of course, there is a second reason for trails. (21+ / 0-)

    They are not just to keep the rubes from getting lost.
    One of the sad realities of 21st century life is that the footprint of humanity is getting very heavy upon the earth. In this case literally.

    Many wild(ish) areas are very fragile. Disrupt the surface soil and tenuous vegetation of a desert hillside with your Gore-Tex lined waffle stompers, and you leave a scar that will be there for years. If a couple dozen people do the same thing, pretty soon the whole hillside is eroding and slumping into the gully with every rain. And God forbid someone plow through it with an ATV.

    Trails serve to limit the damage inflicted by millions of eager hikers on wilder places by channeling those heavy footsteps. This is something I find that even nominally environmentally-minded folks just can't get their heads around. "But I love the environment. I drive a Prius. And I'm just one person." Yes, but you and the fifty (or five hundred, or five thousand...) people coming after you can inflict cumulative damage.

    •  I'm glad you and most stay on trails, and we (15+ / 0-)

      are talking of different places of course. Your gortex waffle stompers only venture off trail in the desert or above tree line where it's easy to see where you are going. The footprint of off trail use has never been lighter. No one but no one goes into the woods without a trail, except of course hunters.

      Elk and moose leave a much deeper footprint than humans, and their disturbance only enhances habitat by churning the soil, and enriching it with their scat. Usually the only sign of humans I ever see are rarely an old casing, or steel can still rusting from before people were more careful with trash. A careful look shows the rocks of an old fire ring.

      If wilderness areas had no trails no one would go into them. Deadfall and brush, creeks too deep to rock hop and swamps to walk around.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:59:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ironically, it's a lot easier to go off trail... (9+ / 0-)

        in areas that have been undisturbed by humans for a while, at least here in the Northeast. Recently logged areas, former farms and so forth get overgrown with dense thickets of scrub and brush within just a couple of years, to the extent that they are almost impenetrable. You can spend hours slogging through brambles, vines and brush just to cover a quarter mile.

        But after 20 years or so, the rapid growth of trees shades out the understory, and it becomes a lot easier to move across the terrain. And after 50 years, when you've got mature forest re-established, you can stroll comfortably underneath a high canopy with clear sight lines all around. Until it gets logged over again.

      •  Population density varies inversely (7+ / 0-)

        with the square of the distance from and the cube of the elevation above the nearest road.  Trails too . . .

        Speaking of which . . . trails are for trail bikes, and trail hikers.  When that's what you're doing, stay on them.  I do.  For going from "here to there" (if "here" and "there" are on a trail) the trail is almost always the "easy way".

        When I'm "off trail" the mark of my VFFs is far less than that of the deer track I'm likely following (not because I'm hunting them, but because they usually find the "easy way" and beat their own "trail" where humans haven't).  In the desert animal tracks go from water to water.

        GPS is a great tool, and absolutely worthless after a dip in the creek or the batteries run dead.  The more you depend on it the more likely it is to fail you.  Keep your compass, map and matches dry, and on your person, not in your pack.  And if you wear glasses carry spares . . . a pair of mine have been in a High Sierra stream for over 40 years now . . .

        Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

        by Deward Hastings on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:31:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  In my twenties I used to go off trail (10+ / 0-)

        In the shenandoahs at the fall and spring equinoxes and just sit in an isolated place and listen, reconnect, center. I shared the space closely with lots of critters and came awfully close to more than a few deer who just stared.

        Looking back I can't believe I did it alone. Sometimes with weed. And never with anyone knowing I was there. This was before the days of cell phones. But it was immensely peaceful and reaffirming. I'd walk until it "felt right" to stop and then sit for hours. Total space cadet, I was.

        Those were some of the best times of my life. Maybe I'll do it again. Thanks for the diary.

        For the record, I am not a member of Courtesy Kos. Just so you know. Don't be stupid. It's election season. My patience is short.

        by mdmslle on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 10:11:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Slow down to see more (16+ / 0-)

    I started hunting like many people--stomping my way up logging roads and hoping I'd see game along the edges. It didn't work.  At some point I moved off the roads and got comfortable with trailless woods.  Eventually I realized that stealthy doesn't mean silent, it merely means unobtrusive to the senses of sight, smell, and sound.  I remember:

    *  Crouched in a game trail while the lead doe among a half-dozen whitetails pawed the ground and snorted at me from maybe 30 yards.  I remained motionless until she wrote me off as a rock or stump.

    *  Straddling a log, one leg doing the sewing-machine dance as fatigue set in, while a totally oblivious deer stood munching on browse just a few feet from my position.  I could have poked this one with my rifle barrel, and had spotted it while I was sneaking along a game trail.  Finally, the imp in me could no longer resist saying "boo!".  How strange it must have seemed to the deer, having me materialize out of nothing.

    *  Sneaking slowly uphill through a stand of dense second-growth called 'dog hair', and first seeing the deer at maybe 30 feet, and realizing I have not been spotted.  Timing rifle movements with the animal's feeding--head down, move a little; head up, freeze.  I forgot one important detail--the safety--and the deer melted into the brush before I remembered to thumb the lever to "off".

    A vital component of stealth is being totally comfortable with one's surroundings, but humankind has forgotten how to be comfortable with wilderness.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by DaveinBremerton on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:34:05 AM PDT

    •  True that (9+ / 0-)

      covering 100 yards in thick cover over the course of half an hour allows the forest to get on about it's business again. Squirrels stop chattering, deer go back to browsing, jays find someone else to get excited about.

      I've got a thumb safety, forward to fire, I push it automatically when finally raising the scope to my eye, finger off trigger.

      I can't hunt this year, torn tendon in foot, I miss it.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:04:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  slower is better (13+ / 0-)

      “There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who's always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”
      ― Edward Abbey

      Granny Storm Crow's MMJ Reference List-686 pages of hyperlinks in PDF format Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift and that's why it's called "The Present".

      by elkhunter on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:54:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lot to be said about the calorie burn from walking (6+ / 0-)

        The last few weeks I've been salmon fishing on the Tahuya River.  1 mile walk upstream from the car, followed by hours of slowly scrambling up and down the banks.  Meander back downstream, fishing as I go.  Maybe 3 miles traveled per session.  Good fat burning workout, with a bonus of the occasional coho.  I've had several on and brought two home.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

        by DaveinBremerton on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:44:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  funny thing about deer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, DaveinBremerton, ER Doc

      that I noticed when I was living in Washington (State), in a heavily deer-infested area . . . they were "normally" skittish when I was moving around the woods with cloths on, but I could almost walk right up to them when I wasn't.  Never figured out what it was (about cloths) that they were alerting on, but the difference in behavior was significant.  It was especially noticable in open meadow where they could see me coming and weren't startled, but even in the woods I often walked within a few yards of one which just looked up, cocked its head, and went back to grazing . . .

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 01:42:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's probably your laundry soap (5+ / 0-)

        I'm a fanatic about scent control and UV control.  Most laundry soaps contain brighteners that reflect UV.  To a deer, your clothes glow.  I use nothing but hunter's laundry detergent for my hunting clothes, and once washed I store them in a plastic bag with some of the soil and a few bits of tree branches from the area I hunt.

        Another aspect of not being seen is to "think peaceful thoughts".  I know this sounds weird coming from a hunter, but I focus much of my mental energy on not being too focused on stalking.  I think peaceful thoughts, stay obervant, and move really really slow.  Not acting like a predator seems to work.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

        by DaveinBremerton on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:49:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I often go off trail in the forest, (6+ / 0-)

    mostly following deer trails, unless it's high canopy and easier going on the horse. It is a wonder to be where so few have traveled. Though I am sometimes surprised to see a pop can or Vienna sausage can sitting out, trashed by the hunter people.
    The necessary items, as you mentioned, plus a pressure bandage kit...

    Only thing more infuriating than an ignorant man is one who tries to make others ignorant for his own gain. Crashing Vor

    by emmasnacker on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:49:01 AM PDT

    •  I forgot to mention a headlamp too (7+ / 0-)

      once found the plastic wrapper from one of those cheese cloth game bag things along with a pair of latex gloves. Yikes! my fellow hunters! In an area I go to a lot there are footprints of other hunters during the season, plus fat snow tires of a mountain bike from this woman who tries to catch people shooting within 450 foot of a building or over the line onto county property. I think she also tries to make noise to scare game. People have considered putting up no trespassing for mountain bike signs but figure it's not worth being unneighborly.

      Hunting in Wilderness my radar is set on high for horse tracks, one set is a rider alone, two is maybe one with a pack horse or two. Many is the dreaded outfitter with clients. Horse people are the only sign of humans I see very far from the road. Wish I had one.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:01:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You're inspiring me to go out (9+ / 0-)

    and get lost in the jungle soon... one of my favorite pasttimes when I can make it to the tropics (agreed about desert soil though). I remember once hiking in Na'apali Park in Kaui and untentionally getting very lost with a group of other experienced hikers, and it took us hours to find our bearings again -- this was pre-GPS -- best hike of my life! To be sure, that's some luck, but we stumbled across some of the prettiest spots I'd ever seen, and it's not like what was on the trail was shabby.

    Beautiful diary, happily tipped and rec'd.

    •  Off-trail on Oahu (4+ / 0-)

      I remember looking for the elusive Lulumahu Falls near Pali Hwy, and becoming disorientated going in a circle til we found familiar ground.  We tried again later on, this time with a compass, eventually finding the way into the mini-valley that hides the Falls.  This area is one of the wettest spots on Oahu and so very lush and overgrown.  The Falls were beautiful, the valley narrow with steep walls, and huge boulders all around us. Knowing you are off-trail, your senses are at their peak.  And of course what a feeling to see such a beautiful sight on Oahu knowing not many have even heard of it, much less seen it.

      Elizabeth Warren 2016!

      by windwardguy46 on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:53:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A big thank you to community spotlight (12+ / 0-)

    In the past I don't think I've given the rescue rangers the thanks they deserve, for getting more eyeballs on my post yes of course.

    But in the larger sense a big thank you for the effort to cull all the posts and act as editors. I follow Community Spotlight (by clicking on that little heart thingy next to the name of the group) and I'd urge others to do the same. If you are short on time Community Spotlight is a good place to maybe get the posts you might have missed. If there are many posts on a similar topic Spotlight often picks out a great one for you.

    I've no idea who the rescue rangers (RR) are, but their efforts are appreciated.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 10:07:29 AM PDT

  •  love the jars (9+ / 0-)

    If only that was the type of thing you can find wandering around these days.

    In add'tn to this:

    I bring two ways to make a fire, extra water, rain poncho, warm coat, and down the bottom of my pack a space blanket.
    I suggest a headlamp, food, and preferably a water filter or iodine tablets. Extra water is good but heavy. the ability to make unlimited drinking water is better.

    And remember: if we fail on climate change, nothing else matters. - WarrenS

    by LaughingPlanet on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 10:28:24 AM PDT

    •  I added the headlamp in a comment above, it more (5+ / 0-)

      than many things has helped me out. Night just means slower going. I bring way too much stuff on a walk, lots I didn't mention, mainly a small coffee pot and tiny stove for tea, I like a brew. It covers the water purity part if need be. I go fine without food. Camera, binoculars, kitchen sink.

      I envy you your travels. Haven't been anywhere in almost 3 years. Hope your path is all slightly downhill where ever you are.

      How big is your personal carbon footprint?

      by ban nock on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:14:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  good advice, ban nock (6+ / 0-)

    My most recent (and most memorable) off the trail hiking experience was just two weeks ago. It was my first trip to Yosemite, leaving the Mist Trail to climb down to the base of Vernal Fall, sitting next to the pool of water, double rainbow in the misty waterfall.  Joyful tears ensued.  

  •  I went off trail and came face to face with... (6+ / 0-)

    ...a coyote. I don't remember exactly where I was, somewhere in the Montana Rockies, about 30 years ago.

    There was a place to park and a trailhead to the north, but to the south was an open forest, not too densely packed and sparse undergrowth. I decided to check it out.

    I started out going uphill, just bushwhacking, but soon found deer trails that would run for 10 or 20 yards and peter out. A few steps up or down would put me on another little trail.

    For the most part, the trails skirted the slope, not going uphill, only gradually gaining elevation.

    I'd been out for a couple of hours when I rounded a sharp curve in the trail and a coyote appeared right in front of me, maybe 15 feet away, on the same little trail I was on, heading towards me.

    He was as surprised and freaked as I was and he bolted away.

    Thanks ban nock for bringing this memory back to me!!

    Existence always was and always will be.

    by Seattle Mark on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 02:37:25 PM PDT

  •  Missouri has thousands of acres of National Forest (6+ / 0-)

    and I've been in most of them. It's amazing how underused they are. I have only very rarely seen another person or even a sign of another person once I've gotten off the beaten path.  If you can't take a four wheeler in then most people want nothing to do with it. A few comments above talk about the damage that hikers do when they get off the trails but where I'm talking about there are very few trails and very few visitors. The state parks are filled to capacity and overflowing all season long but those crowds avoid the national forests like the plague. The forest lands do get a little use from hunters during deer season but even that is limited as deer hunting is actually much better on the edges than deep in the forest because of the lack of food sources within a hardwood forest. Especially when along the edges they have corn, soybeans, milo, and lush grass to eat. Nothing like that to be found a mile in.

    Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

    by burnt out on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 04:43:35 PM PDT

  •  You're lucky to have this skill. I can get a bit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, greengemini, foresterbob

    turned around in deep woods without the trail (or stream)  to guide me

    I know where I am relative to the hills and creeks around me, there is a continual mental map in the back of my head that is constantly redrawn

    Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

    by Catskill Julie on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 08:28:47 PM PDT

  •  Great diary, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, foresterbob

    and great arguments. I live near Pisgah N. Forest, I consider it my playground! Funny how people hug the backroads and trails, and "truck camp". Most of them won't walk 100 ft. from their truck to take a dump after dark! They would be sure a bear would eat them. I'm glad most are that way, more room for me. But our biggest problem is there are 7 billion of us tromping this planet.

  •  Amazing how few people bring a map & compass. (3+ / 0-)

    Everyone relies on a GPS. Now, a normal GPS can be fairly reliable as long as you aren't in a steep canyon with no satellite signal.  And all you need is that coordinate signal from the satellite, since a conventional GPS has the maps stored in its memory.

    But... lots of people opt for the smartphone gps instead of a real gps these days.  Smartphone GPS relies on your wireless carrier to transmit the map to your phone, the maps are not normally stored internal to the phone. End result = no phone signal, no gps capability.  This leaves a lot of people in a lurch if they don't think this through.

    There are apps to load maps into your actual smartphone memory. I highly recommend these to anyone hitting the backcountry where these may be limited cell coverage.

    But even more so, I recommend bringing a god map and compass and knowing how to use them. In all my years of backcountry hiking and canoeing I have used a GPS exactly once. And even then I could have lived without it.

    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

    by bigtimecynic on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 05:51:00 AM PDT

  •  Excellent topic! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, northsylvania, vcmvo2

    In my line of work as a consulting forester, I am constantly off-trail.  It's literally required that I do it, or I don't get paid.

    Despite the population pressures, there are many millions of acres of land where nobody goes.  Case in point: the area in Idaho that I wrote about over the weekend Central Idaho Photo Diary was a combination of Forest Service and timber company land, all open to the public.

    In 8 days of working on the steeper ground near the river, I saw exactly one other human being, a hunter on his ATV, sitting in the middle of the road waiting for Bambi to show up.  Other areas that were more open, and easier to drive to, were crawling with hunters.

    Even in the eastern states, there are isolated places you can go to.  In most such places, a set of human footprints will do no damage whatsoever to the landscape, which evolved to withstand animal traffic (but heed the warnings about desert soil, and the over-trampled parks).

    And being able to build that mental map as you're navigating the ground, it's a vital skill to have.  Virtually all foresters I know are able to do it.  Add a decent map and GPS, and you should never get lost.

  •  Whether on- or off-trail, please remember to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, ban nock, vcmvo2

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 09:10:55 AM PDT

  •  Maps can be deceiving (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, vcmvo2

    and even trying to pick out trails ahead of time on Google satellite can be futile in country that gets overgrown overnight. Visualising geological landmarks and understanding terrain is a handy thing even for casual hikers. You may find yourself off trail at a moment's notice so it's best to be prepared and comfortable with the prospect of an unexpected adventure.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 01:08:55 PM PDT

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