Moss Grows On The North Side of Trees, Right? (10 Essentials #3)
Number 3 on our list of Essential Dame Necessities is a map and compass. Now, I will be the first person to tell you that a compass will be fairly useless if you don’t know how to use it. I have added compass to this list because any list of important items to take into the woods should include it. However, most people don’t have the foggiest idea of how to use one. And unless you have a topographical map and know how to use that, all of it is wasted weight in your pack. So, the next time you notice a parks and recreation class on orienteering or map and compass use, I would highly suggest you take it. I have taken several and they are a lot of fun! You will meet other people that love the outdoors and you will feel so prepared and self-reliant the next time you hit the trail.
Before you take that class, though…..what should you carry? Our assumption here at Trail Dames is that you are not doing cross-country hiking. Or that you are not striking off trail through the underbrush. For anything like that, you absolutely must have map and compass skills. But for the well-marked trails we take, be it a simple loop at a local park or a four mile ‘in and out’ hike on the Appalachian Trail, I suggest that you head to the internet. Every hike I have ever been on has had a description on-line somewhere. There are several websites that list hikes and include maps and details, and I highly recommend spending some time getting to know them.
My personal favorite here in Georgiais www.georgiatrails.com. These are the same people that do that fantastic book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Atlanta. They have listed tons of trails and each has a complete description and directions how to get there. For any of these hikes, you should print out all of the details and carry them in your backpack. Something as simple as a notation of a road crossing can help you keep your bearings when you are on a new trail. In addition, I would print up every description of the trail that you can find on other sites as well and throw them all in a little plastic bag to keep in your pack.
Finally, before you go on a hike, write on the map and trail descriptions any emergency contact numbers you might need. You should know what county you are in and the nearest towns as well as the phone numbers for emergency services in the area.
This brings up the question of personal safety. We will explore these ideas in more detail later, but for now, ponder these questions…..
Should you carry a cell phone and should you hike alone?
As for the cell phone question, this has long been the point of a lot of contention in hiking circles. No one wants to walk along a trail and hear someone else’s phone ring. Or better yet, have to listen to your loud conversation! However, I would strongly encourage you to carry your phone with you at all times. There are lots of places that it will not work…..for instance, when you are down in gaps, or on the other side of the mountain. However, if you get injured or lost, it would be stupid to not have the possibility of the help that a cell phone would provide. Carry it and have the numbers that you could potentially need programmed in it.
As for hiking with someone, for the purposes of this blog and Trail Dames, I am going to say always take a friend. Again, we will re-visit this topic later but for now, enjoy sharing the outdoors with someone that can laugh with you when you slip in the mud and revel with you in the beauty that you are walking through.
Do you know how to use a map and compass? Click the comment link below and tell us your opinion……
Anna aka Mud Butt