Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finding North to Help You Stay Found

It is easy to find yourself a bit disoriented and, lacking a compass or other navigational equipment, being unable to figure out which way to travel to go home!   One of the fundamental skills that an experienced outdoors man or women relies on is the ability to determine the cardinal directions (North, East, West and South) from the sun or from Polaris - the North Star.  Blake Miller of Outdoor Quest has done a great job of showing you how to use Polaris to determine North and then based on knowing where North is,  determine East, West and South.  Check out his blog   But what about during the daytime when you can't see Polaris?  What can be done then to help you determine your way back to your truck?

It easy assuming you have a clear sky and can see the sun.  Cut yourself a thin stick, 1/4 inch works well, 15 inches in length and sharpen one end to a point.  Find an area in the sun and clear away any debris from a circle about 18 inches in diameter.  Drive the stick into the ground while pointing the opposite end of the stick directly at the sun in such a way that the stick casts no shadow.

Let twenty - thirty minutes go by and then observe the shadow that the stick now casts.   Regardless of latitude, the time of day or the hemisphere you happen to be in, the shadow that is cast points East.  Depending on the time of year it may not point exactly east but it is accurate enough to give you a general easterly heading and again, knowing where east is you can determine the other cardinal directions.

So how does this help you.  For the sake of argument let's say you parked your truck on a generally North-South road and walked away from the truck to the west to spend the day hunting.   Let's say  that you didn't pay as much attention as you should have and you find yourself "a little disoriented" when it was time to return to your truck.  Lacking any landmarks to guide your way you have no idea which direction to go but you do know that you are west of the road. If you just had a way to figure out which way east was you could at the very least get back to the road on which you left your truck.

Find a sunny spot, cut the twig, drive one end into the ground and wait for the shadow to develop.  Since it is difficult, lacking a compass,  to maintain a straight line when walking through the woods it may be necessary to repeat this process several times before you reach the road.  You probably haven't navigated right back to your vehicle but you are at least on the road where you parked it!

So you now have two tools to use to help yourself "stay found" when next you become, as Danial Boone is supposed to have experienced "a mite befuddled!"

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