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Getting lost is not a lost art
Jan 16, 2013 12:00 am
Awhile back I read a story about three teenagers who spent several days lost and adrift in a tiny boat in the South Pacific, and it reminded me of the time I got turned around in a neighbor’s woodlot one afternoon.
OK, it wasn’t exactly the same – unlike the Lost Boys I didn’t have to subsist for days on raw fish and sea gulls before finding my way home in time for supper.
But like most outdoorsmen who spend a lot of time, well, outdoors, I’ve had lots of close encounters of the lost kind. (As Davy Crockett once said, “I’ve never been lost, but I was once turned around for a few days.”)
I went on a fishing trip in the Canadian wilderness one summer and the grizzled old Gabby Hayes-type bush pilot who dropped us off on the fly-in lake gave us some parting advice: “Stay in sight of the gosh-darn cabin and for gosh-sakes don’t go wandering off in the gosh-dang woods.”
A few minutes later I had, of course, wandered off into the woods. Suddenly I was completely disoriented. Every fir and birch – all hundred gadzillion of them – looked identical, and the needle-carpeted ground afforded no trail of footprints.
I recalled my Boy Scout training: when lost, remain calm and don’t panic. I recalled it but I didn’t follow it. In a panic I went crashing off through the forest.
The lake is located inside a huge provincial park that’s crawling with bears. Thoughts of spending the night lost in Bear Country ran through my mind as I ran through the woods.
Suddenly off in the distance (in the opposite direction from which I was crashing) came the faint drone of a boat motor. I reversed course and followed the sound to the lake, then followed the shoreline of the lake to the cabin. Behind me in the woods I could hear hungry bears muttering in disappointment.
I don’t have to be in the wilds of Canada to get lost. A few years ago I was deer hunting on a farm in Sumner County. It was my first hunt there, and the land-owner had showed me around the previous day.
We walked over a ridge where he suggested a good stand. That’s where I was sitting at dawn the next morning when a forkhorn walked by and I squeezed off a shot with my muzzleloader. The buck bounded off into an adjacent hollow, where it fell. I walked down, field-dressed the deer, and started dragging it out.
An hour later I was still dragging. Where had the ridge gone?
Turned out, the hollow had two forks, and I’d taken the wrong fork. I decided to drag the deer back to the starting point and start over. To save time I took a short-cut back to the starting point and – naturally -- got lost again.
Finally I left the deer, back-tracked until I found the way out, then went back and got the deer. The only thing worse than being lost is being lost while dragging a dead deer behind you.
Once, returning from a trout trip to the Caney Fork River, fishing buddy Bob Sherborne and I got lost in the hills and hollows of Smith County. After a series of twists and turns, Sherborne confidently declared that we were finally on our way – until I pointed out that the sun was slowly sinking in the East.
We eventually stopped at a country store and asked directions. Turned out the sun was right – we were headed in the wrong direction.
I’ve been lost so many times over the years that I felt a special kinship with the three South Pacific kids adrift in their boat. I’ve been up many a similar creek without a paddle.
As I continue to wander the Great Outdoors perhaps eventually my sense of direction will improve and I’ll get in touch with my inner Pathfinder.
Then again, I may be a lost cause.