Summer is here, if not by date then certainly by temperature. Time to put away the snowshoes and skis, take the snow baskets off the trekking poles and get out the lite hiking pants. I know that most of us are eager to get into the mountains and get some color back onto our arms and legs. I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend the navigation refresher put on by Scott Farquhar and participate in an off trail hike using the map and compass skills taught in the classroom session. I had forgotten the pleasure of hiking off trail. For the most part my hikes are on trail or marked by cairns.
Getting out and matching the terrain to what is depicted on a map and relying on a compass to stay oriented is downright fun. But there are navigation skills necessary to by off trail safely. If you didn’t get the opportunity to take the excellent course offered by Scott, get out your copy of “Freedom of the Hills” and review Chapter 5which is an excellent primer on navigation. And while we all think that we know how to read a map and compass, when did we last update the declination on our compass? It had been 20 years for my compass and as I discovered, the magnetic declination actually changes over time.
Sitting down at home with your map and plotting your course out to and back from a destination and then going out and following your planed route is a great way to start off the hiking season. Remember that it is never a good idea to off trail in the back country by yourself. Always hike with friends or family. Our four-legged friends don’t count when it comes to reading a map and compass. Be safe and enjoy!