By Steve Hickoff
In the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel got lost after animals ate the breadcrumbs they’d left along the wooded trail. To teach our impressionable minds how not to get in such an unfortunate situation, my dad used to quiz my younger brothers and I about the truck’s distant location on the dirt road at the bottom of the hills we hiked over while hunting and fishing. Shame burned our faces if we ever answered wrong.
To this day, whether I’m on a Yamaha Grizzly, or on foot, I use that approach in the woods. Forget that I have a new global-positioning system (GPS) that remains unused, and that my old compasses sit in drawers suffering the same fate. Satellites may circle the globe for some, providing direction for many, but for others, landmarks do just fine.
I’ve always learned new ground by parking the rig, then moving along trails, past certain trees, recognizable farmland signposts and structures, until that place became ingrained in my still viable photographic memory.
It’s simple: study your way in, and follow that path of travel back out to your four wheels.
My only final comment on using the satellites to navigate involves an anecdote of a buddy of mine hunting Kentucky one spring turkey season.
His movements were replete with all the usual bleeps and blips of a global-positioning system, head down, walking like a zombie. I on the other hand was falling back on the landmark method my dad had taught me as a kid.
While my mental picture—and I’m not asserting ego here, it’s just the way I was taught—involved a trail, a length of hogwire fencing and posts, a hilly rise, a big oak tree with a blue X on it, a creek, and a rocky gorge, his included the GPS “map,” assuming he could translate it.
Several miles from the four wheels we’d driven in on, he cursed the hand-held apparatus, and said, “Where in the (blank) are we?” I reiterated the gorge-to-trail mental picture to him, and he said, “Well I’m glad you were paying attention, because I’m going to toss this thing in the creek.” He didn’t, but you get the idea.
Not getting lost has its own learning curve, while my GPS stays in the closet.