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How do y'all stand geocaching without getting lost in woods.?


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I know some of you guys probably think I'm crazy, but how do you guys find your way back to freedom? I had to call 911 on myself, today because I couldn't find my way out of the woods, there was thorns everywhere, poison ivy, etc. I mean I love geocaching, but I don't wanna quit, because I keep getting lost in the woods trying to find a cache. This is the 2nd time, its happened to me, and I've only been geocaching for a few months.

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I haven't gotten lost yet*, but I've often thought of what would happen. When you called, did you give them your coordinates? Did they give you directions out, or did they send in a Search and Rescue team?

 

I'd love to read more about your experiences.

 

* I like to think it's because I have good topo maps on my GPSr, a reasonably good sense of direction, and a good habit of using the Tracks feature on my GPSr when I'm going somewhere unfamiliar. In reality, I just haven't had the guts to cache anywhere I could get lost. :anibad:

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living in the Pacific Northwest....NW trails is a huge program to help prevent that in a given woods. However, without that, I mark my parking spot of the car, have spare batteries. I may get turned around or not know which way to go, but I have yet to get truly lost while geocaching.

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If you have tracks turned on on your gps, you can always follow out the same way you came in.

 

Great advice. Often it isn't the most efficient route back, especially if you've been wandering quite a bit, but it will get you back. OP: This is called Track-Back, at least on some brands of units.

 

Always mark the trail head or your vehicle as a waypoint.....you just follow the arrow back out.

If you're going for a long walk mark a couple of additional waypoints as you go along at trail intersections, etc.

 

How often I forget this step! But it should be as routine as making sure you locked the car doors.

 

Well actually I don't have a gps. I have a gps app on my phone.

Ahhh.... there's the problem. Does the app have some sort of track-back feature? Like Hansel & Gretel following their bread crumbs out of the forest.

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Assuming you can rely on your phone or GPSr to get you out of the woods is a mistake. What if the device breaks, or the batteries die?

 

Safer and more reliable approaches for navigating in unfamiliar areas involve visual and situational skills that are not difficult to master. Learn to follow trail markers, and carry a map. Think about the position of the sun when you leave your car, and think about how that can help guide you on the return trip. Try to avoid leaving the trail. When you come to a trail intersection, look around you (especially looking back in the direction from which you just came) and memorize the path you'll need to take when you approach the same intersection later on the return trip. Pay attention to any type of visual clues, and think about how these clues may be useful later.

 

Capturing your parking coordinates is a great idea - I do it all the time, and it comes in handy as long as my GPSr is functioning properly. But always take into consideration the possibility that any electronic device is prone to failure, and plan accordingly.

Edited by cache_test_dummies
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A combo of all the above. I have NWtrails on my gps, set a wpt for my car if using my iPhone only, or turn my tracks on if using my gps.

Also, I keep a mental note of the trail names.

Pay attention to the mountains, the sun, creeks, etc... just basic hiking awareness.

 

And always have extra batteries. But this weekend I dropped my iPhone down the trail again. Well, I slipped and fell, and the phone fell out of my hand. So that quickly you can be without your lifeline.

 

Don't be embarrassed. Many people have made their situations much worse by refusing to ask for help for fear of embarrassment.

 

Do you have an REI where you live? They offer map and compass classes usually about once a month.

Edited by JesandTodd
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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Key to this strategy is having a compass. I carry around my neck a combo compass/whistle, just in case:

 

51Zw9ZiJNYL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

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I don't usually do any caching in the woods with my phone.

 

I use my GPS for that kind of caching. Usually I mark where the car is (which is usually somewhere near to the trail head). I use the methods from post #15 a lot. I look back more frequently though I think. Everything looks different when you're heading back out so familiarizing yourself with how it looks so it's not a visual shock when you turn around is a good thing. Before going in anywhere I analyze where the major roads are and figure out my "back up" plan. As in I could keep walking straight and end up hitting something for example. If i'm going to go further into the woods then I take out a map and look at landmarks like rivers or rail roads that I can follow back to civilization. And if all else fails I carry a compass for those treks too.

 

But usually for shorter trips it's marking the car, marking where I go off trail, and looking back frequently. If it's twisty and turny I'll mark some other points too.

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surely we all tried to get lost, the ones who say newer, just lie, or forget fast :-)

we all need to start to learn a few tricks..

 

use a GPS, or phone with proper GPS software,

MARK the car as a waypoint or what it may be called on your device,

learn how to store and how to find a such mark !!

also turn on a trail, you "draw" a track on the map/screen when you walk,

and can zoom in and follow this back, very usefull.

Phones tend to use batteries fast when on for a long time,

they are designed for short use, and stay with screen off most of the day = long total standby time,

a real GPS unit is designed for long active time, and use normal batteries you can change out in the woods,

this is also a very important safety issue, cary extra batteries !! both for your GPS device

and for your flashlight.

and ALWAYS carry a flashlight even at day, and always mark the car parking, even if it is just that short and fast one !!

you newer know, you walk 10-20-30 mins from car, find that one cache you wanted, oh darn another one pops in the screen

ok lets take that one too, now the weather and all is great.

I can not remember how many times, that one little simple one, turns into a halve day hike..

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On your phone there should be a satellite map of some sort, whether on the geocaching app or just the phone's regular map app. As long as you're in cell service, your location on that map should marked with a dot - the dot should move as you move.

 

So even if you're totally lost, you can zoom the map out and see where the nearest road is. Walk a little bit and see where your dot moves on that map - now you know which direction you're going relative to that road. You can go cross country if need be (easier said than done if you're facing walls of stickers) until you reach that road (just make sure the dot on the map is getting closer to that road).

 

The "tracks" feature on a real GPS has saved my bacon before. If there's some app you can get for your phone that will leave a dotted line on the map for you to follow out, that's worth it's weight in gold.

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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

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On your phone there should be a satellite map of some sort, whether on the geocaching app or just the phone's regular map app. As long as you're in cell service, your location on that map should marked with a dot - the dot should move as you move.

 

So even if you're totally lost, you can zoom the map out and see where the nearest road is.

 

And what if your phone dies? Or you drop it down a hill and lose it?

 

In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

 

Panic azimuth. What a cool saying! Think I'll look into orienteering.

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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

 

If I understand you correctly, doesn't that often turn out to be the path of most resistance? I'm assuming you are referring to a beesline to the road, which could easily take you down ravines, up steep hillsides, and maybe worse.

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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Key to this strategy is having a compass.

 

The equally important key to this strategy is having a clue about which direction would be useful. I carry a compass myself, but I think there are people who won't be helped by it.

 

On weekends, I often give directions to the disoriented in the nearby state forest: bikers, horseback riders and occasionally hikers. The toughest part is figuring out where they're parked. Many are clueless. The forest is bisected by an east/west running road (partly paved). Most of them are parked along it, so if they know that, I can send them there. But people don't know. And some of them aren't parked on that road, they've come down from the small town on the northeast, or some other entry.

 

This isn't some vast wilderness,. If you pick any direction, and keep going that way, you'll find the forest edge, and houses. But that's not as useful as having a clue about whether you've been traveling north mostly, since you left you car. And people don't seem to know. Especially the off-road bikers - talk about lost....

 

I ran into a biker in tears last weekend. No cell phone reception, and separated from her group. A compass would not have helped. (I was able to walk with her out to the road she was parked on, and point in her the correct direction. Figuring that she should just go to the parking and wait, they'd find her...)

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Safer and more reliable approaches for navigating in unfamiliar areas involve visual and situational skills that are not difficult to master. Learn to follow trail markers, and carry a map. Think about the position of the sun when you leave your car, and think about how that can help guide you on the return trip. Try to avoid leaving the trail. When you come to a trail intersection, look around you (especially looking back in the direction from which you just came) and memorize the path you'll need to take when you approach the same intersection later on the return trip. Pay attention to any type of visual clues, and think about how these clues may be useful later.

 

 

I was raised in South Carolina, so for me it is very hard to get lost in the forest. I find its much easier to get lost in a city.

 

As for helping you out what is quoted above me is a good start. The main thing to remember if you get lost is DON'T PANIC! (let the hitchhikers guide references begin!) :laughing:

 

If you do get lost, Stop walking, and take a few deep breaths. Then look around look for landmarks that you saw coming in to the area. Look for trails, this is not as hard as it sounds, the ground on a trail is going to show signs like hard packed dirt and leaves pushed off to the side. broken branches and tall grasses that have been crushed. The wider the trail the bigger the creature that uses it. if the sun is on your right side going in. then put it on your left going out. Make sure that if you start in the morning and this happens in the afternoon then this would be switched. One more thing, the edges of forested areas can grow a very dense underbrush, so dense that if you inside the forested area it looks like the woods just keep going and there is no end. When all you had to do was push through that and your in the clear.

 

Also if your using an ipod or MP3 player. stop using it, it could hide the sound of something like cars going by or someone calling your name.

 

These are a few of the basics, if you want more great ideas. Read a copy of the Boy Scouts Handbook. there is a bunch of great info in there, for camping and hiking as well as a bunch of other stuff as well.

 

I hope this info has helped.

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All good suggestions. I will add that I always leave home with 3 sets of GPS batteries. One set in the unit in whatever charge condition and 2 fully charged in a plastic case in my bag. If I ever were to run through set 2 and be forced to insert set 3, its time to head home. (my batteries last 8-12 hours on a full charge).

 

And, if ALL the above fails, walk in a straight line in one direction until you find a moving body of water (a river or stream) follow it downstream until you find civilization. This works as long as you are ambulatory.

 

Always make sure someone knows where you will be and when you expect to return. Leave a note on your dashboard with the caches you plan to visit and the order you plan to visit them. The "person who knows" will call SAR when you are overdue. They will probably find your car and the note on the dashboard will give them your last known route. It's a lot less effort to retrace a route than finding volunteers to hand search 3,000 square miles of outback. Makes it easier to get to your body before the squirrels.

Edited by ras_oscar
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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

 

If I understand you correctly, doesn't that often turn out to be the path of most resistance? I'm assuming you are referring to a beesline to the road, which could easily take you down ravines, up steep hillsides, and maybe worse.

 

Sure. But when I saw this, the audience consisted of ROTC cadets who were learning land navigation, not experienced troops. I guess the trainers figured that if we could use terrain analysis effectively, we wouldn't need a panic azimuth.

 

Also, Army land navigation training tends to take place in the back country of a base, which is same general area as marksmanship training. Thus, used properly, the panic azimuth also ensures that lost sheep do not wander onto a hot rifle range or impact area.

 

Edit to add example: if you're on the St. Lo land nav range at scenic Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and you go too far south, you will hit a rifle range eventually. But if you use the panic azimuth of 270 degrees, you'll eventually come out on Wildcat Road, safe and sound.

Edited by hzoi
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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

 

If I understand you correctly, doesn't that often turn out to be the path of most resistance? I'm assuming you are referring to a beesline to the road, which could easily take you down ravines, up steep hillsides, and maybe worse.

 

Sure. But when I saw this, the audience consisted of ROTC cadets who were learning land navigation, not experienced troops. I guess the trainers figured that if we could use terrain analysis effectively, we wouldn't need a panic azimuth.

 

Also, Army land navigation training tends to take place in the back country of a base, which is same general area as marksmanship training. Thus, used properly, the panic azimuth also ensures that lost sheep do not wander onto a hot rifle range or impact area.

 

Edit to add example: if you're on the St. Lo land nav range at scenic Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and you go too far south, you will hit a rifle range eventually. But if you use the panic azimuth of 270 degrees, you'll eventually come out on Wildcat Road, safe and sound.

Ahhh.... when I saw the "when training" wording, I thought you meant that you trained them to always set a "panic azimuth" in case they got lost. You mean, only during training. That way, if they get lost trying to get back the proper way, AND somehow manage to survive the panic azimuth route despite waterfalls, quicksand, and cliffs, then you may actually want them back alive to continue the training. Otherwise...

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In Orienteering there's usually a "safety bearing" which is a direction in which you can head which will lead to some kind of a catching feature like a highway or river.

 

Yep. In the Army, when teaching land navigation, we call it a "panic azimuth." Same concept -- if all else fails, walk this way until you hit a road.

 

If I understand you correctly, doesn't that often turn out to be the path of most resistance? I'm assuming you are referring to a beesline to the road, which could easily take you down ravines, up steep hillsides, and maybe worse.

 

Sure. But when I saw this, the audience consisted of ROTC cadets who were learning land navigation, not experienced troops. I guess the trainers figured that if we could use terrain analysis effectively, we wouldn't need a panic azimuth.

 

Also, Army land navigation training tends to take place in the back country of a base, which is same general area as marksmanship training. Thus, used properly, the panic azimuth also ensures that lost sheep do not wander onto a hot rifle range or impact area.

 

Edit to add example: if you're on the St. Lo land nav range at scenic Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and you go too far south, you will hit a rifle range eventually. But if you use the panic azimuth of 270 degrees, you'll eventually come out on Wildcat Road, safe and sound.

 

We were taught that the 'miltary officer' never gets lost, ever. They do make extensive 'tactical deviations' however. Frequently.

 

Doug 7rxc

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All good suggestions. I will add that I always leave home with 3 sets of GPS batteries. One set in the unit in whatever charge condition and 2 fully charged in a plastic case in my bag. If I ever were to run through set 2 and be forced to insert set 3, its time to head home. (my batteries last 8-12 hours on a full charge).

 

And, if ALL the above fails, walk in a straight line in one direction until you find a moving body of water (a river or stream) follow it downstream until you find civilization. This works as long as you are ambulatory.

 

Always make sure someone knows where you will be and when you expect to return. Leave a note on your dashboard with the caches you plan to visit and the order you plan to visit them. The "person who knows" will call SAR when you are overdue. They will probably find your car and the note on the dashboard will give them your last known route. It's a lot less effort to retrace a route than finding volunteers to hand search 3,000 square miles of outback. Makes it easier to get to your body before the squirrels.

 

Thanks for mentioning my favourite topic on the 'lost' scenario. I'll toss in my usual sample of a trip plan (this one Canadian sourced) but has the mostly international questions covered when it comes to a Missing Persons Questionaire when needed.

Trip Plan

You can usually find one from your local SAR group or outdoor store etc.

 

to the OP:

Most of these forms are based on ICS documents used by SAR groups, so we have the right information to avoid those 'extended' searches where possible. Once one of these forms is posted with someone, ALWAYS remember to CANCEL it when you are done.

 

Small trips don't need even this much information. Large trips require more. But it is just like telling parents where you were going when you were a kid... and smart to boot.

 

Doug 7rxc

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Here is my 2cents worth of advice.

1. No phone (any type) is a substitute for a quality GPS. The battery life is too short, they are relatively delicate and quit immediately if they get wet. (Also phone antennas are inferior to GPS antennas if you are in any type of overhead cover.)

2. Save the phone for urban caches.

3. Always mark your trailhead with a waypoint. Enable the breadcrumb trail on your GPS. Maps and compasses are great backups as others have said.

4. Tell someone where you are going. Don't panic. Be careful stomping around after dark, you could make a bad situationn worse. Stay positive, you will get out or be found.

Edited by Peoria Bill
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Some great advice so far.

 

I would add emphasis to the classes at REI. Well worth it.

Find someone to hike with who is good at navigation. I have taught many people.

 

I honed my skills many years ago by hiking in parks surrounded by streets on 4 sides. Find out the name of the streets , take a compass and go in and wander. I worked up to tough, confusing parks at night, and got good at navigation. If I got confused, hiking in a straight line would take me to a street and I could find a street sign.

 

Best would be classes, and find someone to hike with to teach you.

Try your local area forums.

Also, get a real GPS.

There are some programs for phones, but you can't count on the batteries.

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I think most of it is allready said.

but beeing able to navigate without ANY kind of hi-tech electronic equipment

can also be a very usefull thing to learn,

at least just to get sort of in the right direction to where you came from.

 

I often think of the Hansel and Gretel story :-)

when I see Scout marks in the forrest.

They do something very simple and smart,

take a stick, like 1m long or what ever (halve your height)

put it 45 deg up a tree, put them at a distance where you can always see the next one,

now you can find your way back, it is free, easy, fast, and dont polute the forrest.

 

Another trick

dont look at your GPS constantly.. look at the location, and look for special marks,

most people dont realize how different the area looks in different directions even from the same spot,

so the trick is to turn arround every 2-4 minutes and have a look at where you came from,

this will be the look you aim for when you go back,

if you have not seen this, the way back will look compleetly different from when you walked out,

take a little note in your head of all the special things,

if you just see alot of trees like just alot of trees - you have failed,

they are not at all exactly the same, you just need to look at them and enjoy the little special there is about them.

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another thing..

The feeling of getting lost, can be very fustrating to some,

when it is very bad it can lead to panic.

when you are in panic, you can get tunnel vision, not think and not react smart,

you can get very scared and if bad even start to cry, like the other one mentioned.

 

you can actually learn how to handle stress and fear so it dont lead to panic,

by traning.. by pushing your limits in a controlled envioment,

my panic-traning as a diver is very important to me, and also very usefull when not diving,

when pushed to a limit in any other situation,

I now know how to read the erly signs and handle my mind to stay calm and focused on the task.

 

when someone like the OP say, needed to call 911, he for sure did feel a NEED to do so

this is no joke, the feeling must have been very bad..

Edited by OZ2CPU
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I go orienteering to keep my skills sharp.

 

I carry a trustworthy unit (60CSx) with topo maps and track log turned on, and study it carefully while navigating.

 

Plus all the other good advice mentioned above.

+1. Although I don't go orienteering as much since I started geocaching. :lol:

 

I use Geocaching to train for Orienteering.

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<_< Get a BIG ball of string.....

 

I think you got your name wrong. Shouldn't it be spelled, W i s e g u y? :P

 

I've gotten turned around a time or two while caching in the woods but those times were at night. Luckily the gpsr was working fine and recorded a tracklog on those couple of times. It would probably pay to use a compass to note bearing going in and keep that in mind just in case the gpsr decided to give up at an inopportune time. :unsure:

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Here is my 2cents worth of advice.

1. No phone (any type) is a substitute for a quality GPS. The battery life is too short, they are relatively delicate and quit immediately if they get wet. (Also phone antennas are inferior to GPS antennas if you are in any type of overhead cover.).

 

Yawn. None of the above is true, as usual.

 

While I'm sure that the GPS app on most smartphones is quite adequate for many things, I'd also like to point out that you can also get a bubble level app, but I wouldn't attempt to build a house with it.

 

Luckily, we aren't building houses. We're hiking. There's quite a big difference there.

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The main thing to remember if you get lost is DON'T PANIC!

Patrick F. McManus wrote in "The Modified Stationary Panic"*:

I disagree sharply with most survival experts on what the lost person should do first. Most of them start out by saying some fool thing like, "The first rule of survival is DON'T PANIC!" Well, anyone who has ever been lost knows that kind of advice is complete nonsense. They might as well tell you "DON'T SWEAT!" or "DON'T GET GOOSE BUMPS ALL OVER YOUR BODY!"

 

He then goes on to explain how to panic without getting into more problems (which involves various dance steps and Austrian drinking songs), but you'll have to read that yourself.

 

*A Fine And Pleasant Misery 1981

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Here is my 2cents worth of advice.

1. No phone (any type) is a substitute for a quality GPS. The battery life is too short, they are relatively delicate and quit immediately if they get wet. (Also phone antennas are inferior to GPS antennas if you are in any type of overhead cover.).

 

Yawn. None of the above is true, as usual.

 

 

In my experience Peoria Bill's assertions are spot on.

 

I love smartphone caching, and I'll take a smartphone caching in an urban environment any day. I've fallen in love with posting field notes in the field.

 

But in deep woods, or when I'm canoeing, my water-and-shock-resistant 60CSx and Colorado with their big, sensitive quad-helix antennas win every time. I turn them on in the car about a half hour before I get to my destination, and turn them off hours later.

 

Horses for courses.

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I will echo much of what others said

 

I was an Orienteer for a while and learned a lot about reading maps and navigation. i can navigate almost anywhere with map and compass. It is a trick, but you can learm to see the area around you and then be able to put yourself on the paper map.

 

I agree, invest in a dedicated GPS for remote GC. Make use of the Breadcrumb feature. Mark the parking ( often included by the CO when you upload) . Save the iPhone for urban areas.

 

But beyond tchnology.

 

Learn to observe the environment around you, Can you hear freeway, river, airport? I know of people lost in an urban park 1 mile square. They asked me how to get out, I said go down this trail and walk towards the sound of the freeway, that is where the parking lot is. Notice the trees and clearings. The slope and the generatl direction of the contour as it relates to your car.

 

When you upload the caches from this site, do it from looking at the map. study the ground features and put yourself in the larger environment. What are the named roads, named trails. Where is the town, is there a large feature like a water tank, structure pond or lake? Is your Geocaching area on a map, ( state forest, state park, ranger district) invest in these maps or download and carry a hard copy of your target destination. I have not tried, but can you make a screen shot of your larger destination and print out where the caches are upon the map? Dont mark the cache as found in your application until you get home ( if your application removes the cache from the front of the queue), that way the references will remain if you need to backtrack to familiar area. I use a paper and pencil pad to mark notes about my finds and drops.

 

Map and compass are two of the 10 essentials for wilderness recreation.

 

an observant mind is number 1A++.

 

Make sure you are well hydrated and well fed, even a little snack. I find I make the most foolish errors when I am likely needing a little snack or a lot more water.

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