Quicker Backcountry Routes

I recently decided to put the theory to the test.  On paper, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? Except when that paper is a map and you’re navigating that terrain in the real world. 

Here was my self-challenge: I visited an area that I was unfamiliar with and brought a map.  It was a mildly hilly area with a wide stream, woodland, a snowed over farm field and uneven ground.  I tried to cross from one corner to the other quickly in two different ways. 

The first time, I hiked across in a straight line.  It took me up and down hill and I ran into woodland obstacles, such as downed trees, along the way.  The second route, I took the path of least resistance, involving the stream’s shoreline and the forest’s edge by the field.  The second method actually took about the same time but required less physical effort on my part

Here are some ways to navigate to cover more ground quickly:

  • Use established trails where and when available;
  • Follow animal game trails (made by big animals, of course, as rabbits have a significantly lower clearance than 90-some odd percent of hikers, I think);
  • Walk along waterways and shoreline, when available,  to avoid dense vegetation;
  • Cross feilds and meadows (except in winter, when it looks like a snowed over meadow but is really a half-frozen lake); and
  • Take the high ground, as many ridges and elevated features may provide clearance and ease of navigational references.

In all cases, using good orientation skills are a must!  Take a good map and a compass you trust, even if you go with a GPS.  Also, bring an altimeter when you’re in travelling up and down the higher elevations.  Well, thanks again for visiting. 

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