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Oh God, I think I'm lost!


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Had an interesting little adventure today.


Around 10 this morning I decided I was going to take the car and go on a little hike in the Alleghney National Forest in central Pennsylvania. I loaded up a bag with provisions, charged the batteries on my GPS, and headed out.


I followed the little map on my Garmin-III GPS sitting on the dashboard. I headed through Union City, Youngstown, and about five other pissant little Pennsylvania towns. After an hour and a half, and a quart of oil (I found the car's oil level was dangerously low- an oil change was missed. Yikes.) I reached Heart's Content Park, where the trail was. I got out and headed down the 11 mile trail.


Now mind you, this isn't a standard trail. It was very basic to say the least. Trees with yellow paint marked where the trail was.


It was a really great place. The air was pleasantly cool. I had my trusty hiking pole, billion-pocket-vest, and my old school backpack containing a gallon-jug of water, a first-aid kit, and a US millitary survival manual. In my pockets I had two of these Kavli Go-Lean bars, pocket knife, GPS, and cellular phone. (The latter was pretty much worthless in the woods.) Plus, I took my digital camera in my side holdster.


After about an hour and a half, and a few stops to mark my location on the GPS and take pictures of the woods and some bracket fungi (polypores) I decided to head back. I passed back through the woods, and hopped the steam I just crossed before. So far, so good.


But then I noticed that I wasn't seeing the yellow trail markings on the trees. No problem, I thought. I was probably just a little off to the side of the trail, I'd find it in a few minutes.


About 10 minutes later and no sign of the trail, I started to worry. I got out my Garmin-III GPS unit, and tried to find my location. Now, when I really needed it, the satellites wouldn't lock on. That was when I realized that I was lost.


Fortunately, I kept my cool. I realized that I would have to move until I could find a decent clearing in which to get satellite locks. I kept moving, and eventually came back to the stream I had just crossed. Then I realized that I was really screwed-up orientation wise, and two words popped into my head "Blair Witch." I checked my clock. It was 3. I had 5 hours until Freedy, or Jason, or the Blair Witch, or George Michaels would jump out from behind a tree and kill me. But, I realized how nonsensical most of that was, and managed to keep calm.


I had packed my emergency wilderness survival guide from the US Millitary (circa 1958) with me, so I wasn't terribly worried. There were plenty of streams with water, and I was sure I could eat some plants or chew on those polypores for some prescious calories.


I kept moving in the "I think this is the way" direction, but I couldn't really tell. The sun was at my back, and I was actually moving kinda south-ish. I eventually got a spark of hope- I ran into a set of signs indicating that I had reached the edge of the Wilderness area. I kept moving along that line until I reached a massive clearing! Now I could use my GPS!


I whipped out the GPS, and instantly got all the satellite locks I needed. My location was far from where I suspected. I thought I was to the West, when I was actually more South. I headed through some private property, and managed to hit some dirt roads.


I headed back towards the trailhead. The GPS guided me, but it was up about a half-mile of a 15-30 degree incline, which completely sucked. I eventually made it back to the trailhead, and my car. Phew!


Anyhoo, just for the hell of it: a photo from today's little trip:



Note to self- next time, bring a @#$@#$ing compass and some matches.


Anyone else ever get lost in the woods?





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Well, the car itself was not the waypoint. The address of the parking area/visitor's center was the waypoint.


Even without the GPS, I would probably have been OK. If I wandered five miles I would have hit a road of some sorts. Plus the terrain wasn't too bad, and I had my trusty hiking stick with me.


It was quite an adventure. Yeah, there was a risk of getting hurt, or not making it back. But that's what life is all about, really. Calculated risks.


I probably had a greater chance of dying on the drive back (undivided highway, 55 miles and hour which means a 110 mph speed-delta in a head-on collision) then from getting injured or lost in the woods.





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My new geostick that El Diablo is making for me has a compass built into the top.


After a few wanderings, I now waypoint my car and take a compass and pay close attention to my track lines that I leave behind on the GPS. When I am ready to return I shoot compass bearings, but have yet to lose my satellite lock completely. But the leaves are coming......



Not all those that wander are lost. But in my case... icon_biggrin.gif

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My biggest fear was that I would hurt my ankle or something and be unable to walk.


It turns out I didn't get too badly lost. If I kept moving in the wrong direction, it could have gotten kinda hairy though!


Again, though, I had a good gallon of water with me, there were plenty of streams and water sources, and there were acorns and other edible stuff along the ground I could have muched on. Even if I was rendered unable to walk normally, I probably would have made it back OK.


It's really wierd- the GPS seemed to have been woriking perfectly, and then when the satellites get into a certain position, it makes it really hard to get locks. Has anyone ever seen this happen?





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I have never gotten lost yet....


going to caches I have the GPS on then when I get there I turn it off. I even went cross contry one time (left the GPS on, but didn't look at it much).


And most of the caches I've been to, I'd be able to go back to with out the GPS.




W8TVI's Geocaching Pictures


GeoX Geocaching gear!

That torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull. And I....was never here.

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I haven't been to Hearts Content since high school. Only time I've gotten "lost" was when I was still hunting. Following deer tracks, and went through the ice on the swamps by route 408 near Cambridge Springs. Couldn't return the way I came and knew, the ice kept breaking and dumping me in frigid water. HAd to hhof it towards a far off road I could hear traffic from. Eventually got a ride from some other hunters.

Ice water sucks.


Two roads diverged in the woods and I,

I took the one less traveled,

and that is how I found the cache.

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Originally posted by The Alpha Operator:

Had an interesting little adventure today.


Around 10 this morning I decided I was going to take the car and go on a little hike in the Alleghney National Forest in central Pennsylvania. I loaded up a bag with provisions, charged the batteries on my GPS, and headed out.


That story reminds me of myself. Several years ago, before I had my gps, I got lost in the woods.


Two friends and I were just getting involved ih back packing. We headed out to a state forest in southern Ohio, for a day hike with full packs, to help get our selves conditioned for a week long back packing trip.


We were doing a twelve mile loop trail, and then on back to the car. We followed the trail in a few miles, and then lost site of the orange blazes. We went back a little ways to see if we could pick up the blazes again and could not find them. It wasn't very long at all and the three of us seemed to all have a different opinion as to the proper direction to go. It was hot, and we were in thick brush and thorns. It didn't matter which way we went, we could just not find the trail again. I have been in the woods all my life, and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me.


I can't for the life of me figure out how all three of us could lose our since of direction. After several hours we took off our packs for a break, and I suddenley found the whole situation very funny. You see we each had our packs stuffed with fourty five pounds of nothing but water! (The water was just for weight.) No first aid kit, nothing to eat, not even a compass. It was just an afternoon hike on a well marked loop trail, so why would we need anything other than water.


I can read the head lines now.... "Three backpackers were found dead in the state forest yesterday. The authorities are still trying to find out how they could have parished when each of them were carrying over five gallons of water a piece."


We eventually came out on a service road, that leed us back to the main highway, but we could not figure out which way to go. Of course we ended up walking about three miles up the road the wrong way before we figured out which way the car was.


Lesson learned. Boy scouts motto "Be Prepared!!"


Take Care


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Just curious, does the III have tracking and a trackback function? Isn't the III more for car use than on the trail?


One thing that I found helps under tree cover, if you set the GPS down so it's not moving at all, the satelllte reception improves especially if you in a marginal area where the sats are coming in and out.


Glad you're OK.



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This totally happened to me a week ago!


My husband and I were due to go to a wedding and had to leave our house at 1:30. I told him at 11:30 I was tired of sitting around and would go do a cache about 3 miles from our house. I told him I'd be there and back in 30 minutes.


I arrived at the trailhead and fortunately, took the time to read the sign. The trail had three branches, one marked yellow, one red, and one blue. The red was the main trail and the yellow and blue were side legs off it.


The cache itself seemed to be off the yellow trail. Because I am a landmark traveler, I always make mental notes of the visual landmarks I travel past, under, or over--streams, funny looking trees, a piece of trash in a strange place, flowers, etc.


Unfortunately, the cache was out in the middle of a dense forest canopy and my GPS kept averaging. It put me at 5 or 6 different spots where I was supposed to be less than 10 feet from the cache. Each time I seemed to be close, the GPS lost the signals and started over.


Then the warning went off that the battery level was dangerously low. I had to shut it off.


No problem. I hadn't found the cache, but I was only two tenths of a mile from the car. I had followed the yellow trail. I could do this.


I turned around and followed the yellow trail. Nothing looked familiar. I went over a bridge over a stream, and while I remembered going over a stream, the bridge was not what I remembered. I seemed to be walking a long time and not finding the entrance to the red trail. I came out on the wrong end of a barbed wire fence and saw I was in someone's backyard.


So I was faced with leaving the woods and not really knowing where I was or where my car was and trekking through someone's back yard, or to go back and try to find where I had been.


For whatever reason, I decided to go back in the woods. I was a little nervous, and I had no idea what time it was, and I heard a man in the woods whistling. A dog barrelled up to me. I have a vivid imagination when it comes to that kind of thing--was convinced there was an axe murderer on my tail.


I returned to the last place I remembered being. I looked at the trails leading out of that part of the forest and looking forward, decided to follow a stretch of the blue trail. As it happened, this stretch of blue trail led directly into the yellow trail I followed when I left the red trail from my car. I was able to quickly get back into the car and was only an hour late getting home.


By the time I got home, my husband was worried and about to call the police. Unfortunately, I do not own a cell phone, but from now on, if caching alone, I will bring our ham radio with me for use in a pinch. I also learned not to use the spare batteries on my camera without replacing the ones for the GPS and to program in the waypoint for the car/parking lot. It was genuinely scary, but I picked up some good lessons out of it.

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I can't say that I've ever been truly lost. It may be the terrain I'm used to. In California and Colorado, I've done tons of solo, lightweight hiking and "lite" mountaineering. Since I always carry topo maps, it's easy to distinguish features and get your bearings. I'm sure the story is much different in the eastern and northern forests. Especially before the dawn of GPS!


The only time I ws lost (sort of) was about 20 years ago is northern Yosemite. I was backpacking with a group of 6 people including some seasoned ex-girlscouts. We were in heavy tree cover and high enough that the local peaks couldn't be seen. While everyone else argued about where we were, I sat down with the map and compass and determined where we had to be. To make a long story short, I was right and the trip ended happily. On the other hand, I've hiked with people who couldn't find their car in an empty parking lot..... it can be scary!

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