“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tranquility Base


Things are very quiet here today.  I haven't got any plans to go down off the mountain.  It's cool and breezy,  low humidity . I've had my coffee, watched the news and weather, and read the blogs I always read.  That's my normal routine for morning.

My daughter called and told me my son was lost in a big park up there.  He likes to spend his weekends hiking,  and he goes to parks that have heavily wooded areas with both day hike trails and longer duration trails. He has a cell phone with GPS, and I can get on my computer, find his phone , and get an air photo or topo map showing where he is. I can scale it up or down. The system is called AT&T family map and it works quite well.

I got on the web page and he had already found his way out and was doing fine.  He frequently gets "lost" which means he is not sure exactly where he is, but he has a sixth sense about navigation in the woods, is good with a map, and since he grew up in a much denser forest than they have up there he's at home.


He carries a few things with him in a back pack,  primarily based on Cody Lundin's two books.  98.6 Degrees, the Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive,  and When All Hell Breaks Loose . Both  are excellent books. The first deals more with unexpected adventures in the wild, and the second with major catastrophes.  My son likes both of them because they are heavily illustrated and the important points are summarized at the end of each chapter.


 He doesn't carry a firearm, because the laws in the state he currently resides in make it difficult to do so legally.  Other than that, the same things he used to haul around with him here, are what he carries there.

He doesn't have a hand held GPS.   I'm not sure he needs one, given the capability of his phone, but I think I will send him my old one. I don't use it as I rarely go hiking in areas I don't know intimately anymore.  I navigate primarily with a compass and map, and so does he but it can't hurt to have the GPS.  It's an old Magellan Navigator system for hikers.  Not as colorful or gadget filled as the ones today but perfectly functional.

He doesn't have a dog with him, and that makes me really uneasy. Since he lives in an apartment, keeping a dog would be tough. Still, there's nothing like a good dog or two if you are going into the forest. These days forests can be dangerous places, with all the lunatics, sociopaths and assorted wing nuts who seem to gravitate there.  Big dogs can make goblins go look for a softer target.  My son has his martial arts training and a hefty hiking staff, so I guess that will have to do for now.

Other than short walks in the woods around my place, or a trip down to the water falls,  I think my hiking is over.  I used to go all over these mountains, but not now.  Most of the people who hike up here now stay on the marked tourist trails, and a lot of them still manage to get lost. I know because I hear them plaintively calling on their sports radios, trying to figure out where they are. When I worked at the state park, they'd get lost and call in on their cell phones. They would say "I am standing by two big trees" or something like that when they tried to tell you where they were. I'm not making that up.

When they were truly lost, having wandered off the trail, the search and rescue guys had to go out and find them, while the Park Ranger set up a command center.  When they were found and brought back to the park, it was never their fault they got lost. They may have gone into the dense forest on an overnight trail with no compass, no map, no GPS but the fault lay with the forest service because the trails were "inadequately marked."  I lasted at that job about five months before I got so sick of that kind of thing, and other issues, that it wasn't fun anymore. Fortunately, it was a temporary seasonal job for seniors and came to an end.

Hiking is a young man's game.  People like my son are just the right age.  Oldsters who won't admit the limitations age imposes on you  often wind up having to be carried out of the mountains on a stretcher, at great expense to the forest service and the fire and rescue boys. Wasn't it the Greeks who said "know thyself."  There are some Jack LaLane people out there who are old and can still cut it in the mountains. I just don't happen to be one of them.

19 comments:

  1. Two very good books. Like you, my hiking days are almost over. I do stroll with the wife and if she steps from the sidewalk I have her six....

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  2. I wind up going over to the little lake and walking the trail around it. There I meet nothing more dangerous than the little "foo foo" dogs old ladies on the trail are carrying with them.

    My wife likes to walk there too. Also, they have a nice camp store (the one I worked the "senior" job in) and you can get coffee or whatever when you finish the trail around the lake.

    Maybe I should get a golf cart. There's a back road in this county that runs out to a big pond, and there are RV lots all the way around the pond. Right now it is full of expensive RV's from Florida. The older folks who live in them drive their little golf carts around the pond in a continuous circle, visiting with one another. Beats walking.

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  3. The only animals to worry about in the woods are the two-legged ones. Sadly, my backpacking days are coming to a close. My usual suspects that I go camping with have resorted to car camping. It's still good to get out in the woods, but it's not the same.

    BTW, You might find today's post of interest. Your comment was expanded into a post, with proper credit of course.

    Enjoy your day, and Keep Right On - K

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  4. K, I'll swing by. I'm up for a good read this morning.

    I've noticed too that people don't go off the roads much anymore. I used to just set a course line or follow topographic features. That way I got off the trails completely and saw places where there weren't any people and no trash. I wonder if GPS hasn't degraded land navigation skills to the point where folks just don't go off into the woods unless they can follow their GPS along a marked path.

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    1. I forgot about the trash! You could always tell how close you were to the trail head by the soda/beer cans, and the closer you got the cigarette butts were more common. We usually followed topo features, and tried to find new waterfalls in our next of the woods.

      GPS has allowed more people with lesser survival skills to go deeper into the woods than they have any business doing.

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    2. Any place there are people, there's trash. On the one hand, you have the folks who pack out everything they take in. Then you have the ones who throw their McDonalds food wrappers all over the highway, then when they get out on the trail they toss empty cans, paper wrappers, etc. At the park I worked at, volunteers humped out huge black sacks of other peoples garbage to make up for the sorry sob's that thought the world was their litter box.

      GPS is a real two edged sword. I use it with the "trust but verify" procedure. My main navigation tools are a good topo map and a compass. I use the GPS (or did, when I still went out in the woods on hikes) to confirm what my maps told me. Those who go out with nothing but GPS are asking for trouble. Particularly in the mountains, where you often can't lock onto enough satellites for the thing to work.

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  5. AT&T family map sounds incredible. Never heard of it - it should be available world wide , given the horrific number of kids that go missing every day, week, month and year.

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    1. Dani,
      It's a good tool. With the proper cell phone, you can find your kids down to about an 8 ft radius. It is an AT&T product, and you have to have the right kind of phone for maximum effectiveness. It comes in handy. Do you have AT&T phone service in your country? You don't need cell service at your place, just in the area they person you want to track is.

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    2. Nope - no AT&T - only Telkom, the government service (which is useless), and normal cell phone providers...

      That's the difference between 1st and 3rd World countries :(

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    3. Well, don't feel badly. We are doing everything we can here to obtain 3rd world status ourselves! ;-)

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  6. In high school JROTC we did an orienteering day, at a large park. We used compass and maps. I think this is a lost art. Too many folks use GPS in their cars. I like to use MapQuest or even Google Earth before I go someplace so I can find my way around. When gas was cheaper, I would drive to a location before had to find it.

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    1. At MCB Quantico you had to pass a night compass orienteering course to get out of the school. I thought it was slap impossible to do what they asked you to do, but just about everybody passed it on the first go. It gave you immense confidence in your ability to get from A to Z with a compass. Even so, there was a saying prevalent at the time, and perhaps still out there. "There is nothing more dangerous than a Second Lieutenant with a map."

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    2. How about one with a flashlight at night??

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  7. That's so good you could find your son. YIKES! What if he didn't have you to help him?

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    1. He was fine. His sister wasn't even concerned. She had called to chat with her mom about relationship issues and only mentioned my son being lost in the woods as an aside when it was my turn to talk with her. Lost to him doesn't mean what it would to most folks. The Family Map system helps me relax when he is off on a hike. He is,after all,my only son. : )

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  8. My boss does a fair amount of hiking looking for projectile points (i.e arrowheads) alone and his wife insists he carries his SPOT use in case he has some type of attack or other medical emergency that prevents him from travel.

    Good points made above by the depending on GPS to navigate. I know a lot of folks who don't even own a road map. Dad used to collect free maps given out by National Geographic and we still retain that zippered container, even though many of the maps are long outdated. The standard procedure for us when we drive on vacation is I'm the navigator and tell my wife when and where to turn.

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    1. I trust maps, and a compass. In the back of my head there's a little voice that keeps saying "This GPS thing is not a good piece of gear." I keep remembering the time the one in my car got me into a traffic circle in Asheville, North Carolina and just kept taking me around the circle.

      I like a GPS for backup and to confirm my own calculations with a topo map and a compass, but not that's it.

      Those SPOT devices are good gear. My brother wanders all over the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, and the Sierra Nevadas in California and Nevada. He has one of those things because he's had cancer and wears out easy. If he ever goes full stop in the woods, he'll need it.

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  9. When I was a kid in Germany (1960s) we would "hike" the trails in the mountains. We would zoom past some old "Grampa" who looked to be about 90 but was probably more like 75. After an hour, when we were sitting resting, he would come trudging past. Now that I'm approaching his age, I can't do it - my fault, but those old Germans were proof that it can be done fairly late in life. They were old and slow, but they just kept going.

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    1. The Germans are some tough people. I had a shooting buddy who had been a German soldier in WW2. The guy was way older than I am now, but he was a hell of shot. Always did his share cleaning up and repairing the range, and never complained. He died of a stroke, and we all miss him even now.

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