Finding Your Way Through the Woods
Amy: John, exploring the outdoors induces a sense of wanderlust, that we definitely cannot experience in the city. But every year, people die from exposure to the elements, because they get lost outdoors. But, this is completely avoidable. How can we enjoy fully enjoy ourselves, and not get lost?
John: Amy, here are a few steps for those whose hearts and minds are called to explore outside common-day life. For those with a free spirit, we’re not saying you must plan everything minute to minute. Now, some folks do like to plan out every detail. And neither approach is incorrect. First, it’s imperative to designate a *reliable* emergency contact person when planning your hunt or outdoor trip. Let them know your intended destination and potentially how long you will be gone. More lengthy trips should result in a bit more information to your contact person. Such information includes, where you will stay each evening, what outdoor sites, campground or landmarks you’ll be near, and if there are any contact numbers for reaching you. On more dangerous adventures, where limited emergency services exist, a simple call to check in at a specific time is important.
Amy: So, I’ve been told that wherever I park my vehicle at the site of my outdoor excursion, it’s good to leave a note on the inside of my windshield, with my contact info. Are there any pros and cons I need to consider?
John: Placing a note inside your windshield with your name, phone number and approximate return time, will signal to onlookers that if your vehicle is still vacant, hours after that return time, you may be in trouble. Indicating your return time sounds like an invitation for automobile break in, but in an emergency, where time is of the essence, it could save a life. Just remember to lock up, and secure valuables out of sight. Also, don’t put home addresses and names of spouses on these notes. You don’t want complete strangers knowing your address, or that your loved ones are there alone.
Amy: What should we remember about making sure we, as well as others going on the trip, are in good enough physical shape?
John: Amy, the stamina you had at age 20 may not be the same at age 40, or 50, and so on. The exertion we experience when trekking on various terrain and elevations, is different from the flat, paved surfaces we’re used to. Even if you are young, start with small adventures and work your way up. Even experienced hikers know they need to start long journeys with short treks each day. Setting a goal for the distance to travel each day is a good motivation. Getting to from Point A to Point C on a map is much easier, if there’s a point B in between. Even if someone doesn’t make the entire trip in one day, the desire to go back and finish the trail can again motivate them to work harder in the areas I mentioned.
Amy: What else should we have with us?
John: Most of us think accidents won’t happen to us – until they do happen. Have a small first aid kit, that fits inside a daypack. Pack your daypack according possible risks the trip may incur. If you use daily medications, pack those. Be sure to pack your epipen, for any allergy needs. Always have flashlights and batteries. Keep a mirror with you. No, it’s not to check your appearance, but to reflect light toward your location through trees, and other dense terrain to potential rescue by air. Knowing the direction of travel is very important. It’s important to know without a doubt, where you are and which direction to travel. Yes, today’s smart phones have internal maps. However, phones are notorious for running out of power and/or signal at the most inopportune time. So make sure it’s fully charged and capable of service, if it’s to be the primary navigation device. Get a portable charger. If service is limited, the phone shouldn’t be the sole navigation source. As for a GPS device, it’s actually able to determine location using satellites, instead of cell phone towers. GPS is far more reliable, and uses less battery life. Also, it can instantly recharge with fresh batteries. The compass has been a tried and true for navigation, for hundreds of years. Everyone should know how to read it, as it’s rather simple. A good compass has a needle that points towards magnetic north. Simply knowing the direction that you are facing, can at least keep you walking in a straight line. For instance, if there’s a landmark, or a town is to the east, then by walking in that direction, one will most likely enter some type of civilization. Do your best to stop at a public place, instead of at a stranger’s house, though. Also, learn to read a map! Even if it’s not very detailed, you’ll have an idea where roads and/or trails lead. A more detailed, topographical map may be needed for locations with rugged terrain and elevation. It often also shows landmarks.
Amy: Today, we’ve been speaking with Dr. John Long, Mississippi State University Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist. I’m Amy Myers, and this has been Farm & Family. Have a great day!