Finding North

Finding North is easy, if you know how. You don’t even necessarily need a compass. Of course we know that the sun sets in the west, so if it’s late in the day, one need only look about 45 degrees to the right. That’s probably one of the easiest ways to do it, and I can think of several more. Sadly, my BF and I had trouble with cardinal directions this weekend while playing with the pathfinder in the trails of Rainbow Falls. Oh sure, we found north. Trouble is, we were trying to find south. Funny, the one time we bring a usable map, we get lost.

When we first arrived at the park, we had a bit of trouble finding the starting point on the map. We actually ended up driving right by it, passing through a camp area, before finally being encountered by a fence blocking us from private property. BF did find a small trail near the campsites that he tried to get on, paying me no attention when I told him that it was too narrow for our vehicle (it looked more like it was for ATVs and dirt bikes.) Soon, the pathfinder was quite slanted with me looking out my window and directly into the ditch. I figured if he rolled it, I could at least say “I told you so.” Eventually, he gave up and headed back.

We located the start point and picked a fun trail (no, seriously, the final leg of it was listed on the map as “fun trail”,) that was blue for moderate on our map, with a bit of green for easy near the end. It was a mostly easy trip. There was one area that was very steep with very loose dirt that had to be taken very carefully. I got out so I could help guide him as the path was narrow. More than once, the pathfinder continued to move even as brakes were applied. In another area, we were faces with a narrow gap between some trees. I got out to guide once again, but the rocks were loose and sharp and when I got cut up quite a bit when I fell.

We stopped a few times to explore in the woods a bit. BF never seems to like sticking to established trails. I usually like to stick to or at least near trails because a. they usually lead somewhere, b. I do less damage to the environment, c. I’m less likely to disturb an animal, and d. because it’s easier to not get lost. BF has a GPS system that tracks the route he takes so he can find his way back, but what if it breaks or dies?

As it got late, we decided it was time to go. The route we were on, according to the map, was supposed to eventually lead to a county road. However, we couldn’t tell how far as the route went off the map with an arrow. Eventually, BF decided to turn around. I found what looked like a quick, easy way back. We got to the trail I picked, and went on. I tried to use the map to mark our progress, but things weren’t adding up and there was only so much that I could blame on the map. Soon, we realized that although we had picked the correct path, we’d been going the complete opposite direction. We were going north, and hadn’t noticed. We needed to go south.

So we turned around, found a path, and headed on. Amazingly, we somehow managed to go north again. Wrong turn somewhere. It was sometimes hard to tell what path we were on as the path markers weren’t always clearly visible or present at all.  Now it was getting dark. We hadn’t intended to be out this late, but it was a good opportunity for BF to test the roof lights he’d just installed. Sadly, they weren’t bright enough for him.

I found a route back. It was supposed to be quick, a blue that turned to a green for a ways before finally meeting up with a clean dirt road. This time, we were sure we were on the right route and going the correct heading. This time, the map was wrong. Nowhere on that path did we encounter a single yard of trail that would have been green. Some of it seemed like it should have been red (difficult.) At one point, we had to climb a large, rocky hilltop. The ledges were huge and a few times the pathfinder got stuck trying to get up. It wasn’t equipped for rock climbing. I was worried we’d ruin a tire. At some point during that climb, the new roof lights stopped working. The relay went bad, it seemed. Well, something has to break every trip, right?

We hoped that things would be easier after that. It didn’t. What was supposed to be a moderate/easy trail was surprisingly difficult. We started contemplating turning around as we continued to encounter rough terrain. We wondered if we’d somehow left the trail or if we were ever on the right trail to begin with. Then, something weird happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, we saw a nice-looking sedan and wondered how the hell it could have gotten there. Sadly, there wasn’t a living soul in sight to ask. The path we’d come from was treacherous for us, and the continuation of the path, which we discovered was a narrow, deep, banked wash, wasn’t much better and was even harrowing for our Pathfinder. BF decided that the sedan must have been air-lifted in while I comforted myself with the thought “a wizard did it” as we finally found our way out and headed home.

So, lessons learned:

  1. Verify heading. Seriously.
  2. Bring actual food. Beef jerky and trail mix just wasn’t cutting it.
  3. Dress for hiking, even if I don’t plan on hiking.
  4. Bring a buddy vehicle. Off-roading alone = bad ju-ju.
  5. Don’t be surprised when the CB radio starts to make Star Wars sound effects. Seriously, WTF was that all about?
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Posted on 2011/06/07, in Colorado, Diary, Lessons Learned, Mountain, Offroad, Outdoors, Vehicle and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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