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7/17/2019 12:28 pm  #1

On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

Hi folks, like many of you I was greatly concerned when I heard about the two lost girls in the Park.

I am experienced in the wilderness yet I can easily picture a scenario where I might become lost. As a result, I keep trying to learn about survival skills. For those who think like me, here are a couple of great reference materials I have come across in recent months:

Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods - book (and audiobook) by Cary J. Griffith.
An immensely engrossing retelling of two true wilderness rescues (one Minnesota, one Ontario) from the point of view of those who were lost and also those who were searching for the missing.

YouTube video
Why Hikers Should ALWAYS Carry A Compass reallybigmonkey1
A very entertaining and educational video showing how to get un-lost by using a compass.

I'd appreciate it if anyone else has resources they could share in this thread.




7/17/2019 2:04 pm  #2

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

I used to hunt moose in "fly-in only" wilderness and I can tell you that even with a map and compass you can still get turned around. Mountain tops (of the Canadian Shield variety), valleys, or trying to "belt" a mountain (i.e. walking around a mountain in order to avoid following a bearing that would take you over the top and then subsequently trying to pick up the original bearing) can be humbling experiences. Surveyor's tape can help but unless in a true emergency should always be taken down on your way back out. Every so often (very often) stop and look from where you came - the forest can look totally different depending on your direction of travel. I once crossed an open, hard wood forest and glanced back at my tape - I could see at least 4 markers and there was a curve to them. I then realized that my compass was being affected by my VHF radio - I did a complete 360 on the spot and the needle never moved. Not a great feeling and without the tape I would have been in a bit of a jam.


7/17/2019 2:39 pm  #3

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

I don't have a book reference to share, but I do have a technique that some of you may already know.  In substitution for a compass, if you have a real watch (I dislike calling them "analog" watches), you can use it to determine your bearings.  Point the hour hand toward the sun.  Midway between the twelve and the sun is (within reason) south.  It works pretty well (in the northern hemisphere anyway). 

If you are in a circumstance where you can't quite make the location of the sun, run a stick in the ground to see if you can get a shadow.

In the absence of the watch or the compass, you can improvise the technique if you have a reasonable feel for time of day, but.....well, your mileage may vary in that instance.  If you have the watch, but it is 6pm....well, I like to think you can figure it out....

There are lots of ways to establish your bearings absent a compass, but the watch technique is so fast and simple and easy to remember that it stands out to me.  If you haven't tried it before....well, I bet you just did sitting in front of your computer and thought to yourself "hey....that does point you in a pretty southy direction." 


7/17/2019 4:19 pm  #4

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

When walking out to Clover Lake early this spring I found that I was constantly checking my compass. Overall I was using my phone's GPS plus Jeff's Map for overall position and to choose a bearing, but even with the lack of foliage I found that I could walk about 50 m and then find that I'm almost 90 degrees off my intended direction. Maybe I would do better if I was concentrating more on maintaining bearing than trying to find the path of least resistance.


7/18/2019 2:12 am  #5

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

I was going to type something earlier but yeah, anyone can get separated and/or step off in the wrong direction at any time. I've lost my way a few times, once in the company of a "senior trip leader", a person who had been leading group hikes for decades. I sort of twigged to the fact that we'd missed a few markers FIRST and alerted my little group, so there you go.

Windy days in autumn under deciduous trees can be particularly vexing - the downed leaves can obliterate a previously-visible path in a jiffy.

The last time I was at Canadian Tire I noticed that those loud boat horns now come in different sizes, from pocket size to really big. As they say "a word to the wise..."


7/18/2019 1:02 pm  #6

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

I too have been lost a few times . Though i should qualify that by saying i am single trip portaging with a canoe over my head. This limits my visibility . I have even brought a small can of spray paint so i can mark trees on old logging trails as i walk by - ie don't have to stop, drop gear and get out flagging  tape  . Also carry the park map, related topo of the area and even an aerial photo.  A gps would be nice but getting a signal through the canopy can be tough . 


7/18/2019 11:34 pm  #7

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

Just to chew the fat a bit, maps do seem to be generally getting better. It's been a while since I bought a topo and I wonder if the turnaround time -- for new cartographic information say, to make it into wide distribution -- is any better. For a while there topos were based on overflights that happened in the 1950's if I'm not mistaken... the result being beaver activity could completely change a shoreline in between the time that the topo was put together, and how it looked when you went paddling by.

It used to be that you could buy photos from the MNR that were based on 9-inch square black and white negatives but I don't know if that service is still available.

In the early 1970's the "Canoe Routes" map was sort of interesting and, but not very detailed. For the Highland Hiking Trail you got a black and white, mimeographed sketch. I think the nice, colour printed version came out around 1975 if memory serves.

I tried to drag the little man in Google Maps onto Hwy 60 the other day. I got a bit of coverage, feels like you're walking on the side of the road I guess, but at Mew Lake the coverage switched to somebody's picture that they took, standing in the middle of the frozen lake! Not sure what the thing that looks like Nessie is... ice fishing?

Last edited by Roman_K2 (7/18/2019 11:36 pm)


7/19/2019 10:38 am  #8

Re: On the topic of being lost in the woods - references

Interesting video Blob, thanks for the link. Glad to see those good old boys will be ready if a sword fight breaks out



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