Hiking Tip-Navigation

The Long Trail-Vermont
The Long Trail-Vermont

Look at the picture above. A good trail path, easy to follow, right? But say it’s mid-day and overcast, and you’re not paying attention. You stop to break and remove your backpack. You void on the right side of the trail, come back over the trail and snack on the other side. You grab your camera, cross back over again and take a picture. Back and forth you go, cropping pictures, poking around, and when you pack up to leave, you head off in the opposite direction from which you came.

Happens more than you might think. Especially when everything looks the same, as in this picture.

Tip: Pick the same side-always-and lay your poles, or something, on that side. I’m right-handed, so I always lay my poles on the right. When I pack up, I’m never confused about direction.

And the most important time to do this–when you tent at night. Have one pole tip pointing in the direction you want to head out in the morning. Twice, on thru-hikes, in the morning, I saw another thru-hiker poling to me, as I hiked toward him. We both knew one of us was heading wrong, because both times we knew each other and our mutual goal. One of those times I was wrong. Not anymore.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hammock in Sunrise on the A.T.

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020. www.RayKAnderson.com

2 thoughts on “Hiking Tip-Navigation

  1. I was a hunter before a hiker so learned to trust my Grandfather’s hand me down compass. Hunting was NEVER on marked trails and was often into the densest cover. Usually no problem when the sun was out and a simple glance told me what direction to go to find my starting point. Howsumever, one dreary day I got befuddled and found the stream I was following seemed to be flowing in the wrong direction. I was SURE I was headed in the right direction and had a spirited argument with that old compass. It won and I soon walked out quite near where I had intended. Hiking marked trails can lull one into basic navigation indifference. I don’t carry the hunting arms anymore but that old compass is still tucked into my pack.

    1. What you say makes a lot of sense. I still carry my compass, but only used it once or twice on the AT. Blazes were frequent, and you were headed NNE. The PCT required a compass and I relied on it several times. The CDT was so rarely marked, that I used my compass all the time and got lost several times. Like you, I still carry a compass.

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