Monday, December 12, 2011

Bending the Map

I am still having an incredibly good time running in the Parsonsfield woods! There are rumored to be over thirty miles of single track mountain biking trail in the area and I have found about half of it. The exploration and mapping of the area is becoming an addiction. I am thinking about calling in sick for physical therapy tomorrow so I can check out a new trail head I found today. That's how bad it is.

This kind of trail running is doing wonders for my weekly mileage. I don't ever run for less than two and a half hours out there. I just have to see what's around the next bend. I wore Scout out completely today.

Sadly, my map making skills are a bit limited. I came out of a very long stretch of single track onto a tote road today. I knew just where I was, in my mind. But why was the pond on my right The map showed it on my left?! I ran down the road a ways, turned and went up the road, turned and went back down. I repeated this over and over, trying to figure things out. Scout thought it was a ton of fun, running back and forth like that. When a person tries to make the map work to fit what he thinks things should be like, it's called "bending the map," and this always leads to disaster. The first rule to wilderness navigation is to trust your map. Yet here I was, an hour before dark (sound familiar?), and my map wasn't fitting with what my brain was telling me.

Finally I decided to go with my gut...but for only fifteen minutes. If I wasn't somewhere I recognized within that fifteen minutes I would re-trace my steps back over the twisty turning single track and hope to be out of the deep woods before full dark. Well, my gut was right. Within ten minutes I was out on a recognizable dirt road. For once, bending the map worked. On the drive home, I figured out that I had been mistaken when I drew the map in the first place. The tote road I came out on was on the opposite side of the pond as I had mapped it.

I think the lesson is to stay calm and stay disciplined. The fifteen minute limit I allowed myself to locate my position was reasonable and if it hadn't panned out, I had allowed myself enough time to retrace my steps. Also, as much as I would like to have trusted my "map," I have to admit that it is a home made map and it might not be 100 percent accurate. Was I scared? No, I had a plan and I knew I'd get back home one way or another. Will I be out there again tomorrow? You bet!

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