Lost in the Woods

I’ve just (belatedly) started telling Lesley where I’m going when I head out alone in the hills or on the beaches. In case I don’t get back and someone has to come looking for me. Yesterday I was taking off for a long bike ride and mushroom hunt, and I said I’d be home by dark. “In case I break both legs,” I said. Ha ha.

So I got out, deep into the woods, left my bike leaning against a tree, and set out, finding nothing much but death caps (Aminita phalloides), but it was nice being in groves that contained, in addition to bay trees and conifers, healthy live oaks not hit with sudden oak death. I stalked and wandered for maybe an hour and decided to head back to my bike, and at that moment congratulating myself on my sense of direction. I usually can track my way back to the starting point.

Well, smart ass, after a few steps, I realized I didn’t know where I was. Nothing looked familiar. I knew west because of the setting sun (yeah, brilliant, no compass), but I had no idea of the direction back. After 20 minutes, following various deer and coyote trails, I realized I had maybe an hour before it was dark. For some reason I had a phone connection, and I called and left Lesley a message, I’m OK, but lost and it’s possible I may have to spend the night out here, so don’t call in the troops…

I started jogging, decided to head for what looked like a canyon, because I figured it would run west and that would lead to the road. I was getting a bit worried, shit, it was gonna be a cold night. I finally got to the canyon and the opposite wall looked almost vertical.

BUT then I spotted some red banners. and started following them down to the bottom of the canyon,  and there was a faint trail going up the steep west side. Never been so glad to see trail markers.

AND at the top, I spotted telephone poles. Eureka! Bushwhacked over to them, then hiked a mile or so back to my bike, got home just after sunset, dog tired and happy. A great adventure.

Anyone have ideas for a good GPS app for an iPhone 6s?

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

8 Responses to Lost in the Woods

  1. Second on Gaia, which is built around trail maps, and (I'm pretty sure) does not require cell dat access just GPS access, which just needs a line to the satellite.

    Actually, I thought you already had it on your phone, though you need to download maps.

  2. Been there, done that!

    In this area (coastal BC) getting lost in the woods can be a serious matter. Every year, a few people get off the trail and can't find their way back. One year it was a young mother and an 18-month old child out mushroom picking!

    In the fall and winter, if you are not properly equipped, you are lucky to last two days before hypothermia gets you. Usually, Search and Rescue manages to find you before that happens, but not always. Even if you find a logging road, you are not saved. Follow it the right way and you may hit the highway. Follow it the wrong way and you could end up at an abandoned logging site deep in some very rough country indeed.

    Don't rely on cell phones or GPS. They may not always work, especially if you are 500 feet down a ravine.

    Obvious 100% hindsight solution: (1) Know where you are at all times and how to get back; (2) Be properly equipped for the country and the weather; (3) Don't rely on technology to get you out of the mess.

  3. Glad you are o.k..

    Amongst a few small emergency survival items (wouldn't take much room), please pick up a bunch of whistles. Cheap, light, easy to attach to most things. Worst comes to worst you can use the whistle to signal.

    just brings to mind,
    Geraldine Largay, an experienced hiker hiking the Appalachian Trail. Apparently left the trail to answer a call of nature, and somehow got lost. Two yrs later her body was found in a tent. Myself, I wonder, as how far did she go off trail for a whizz? Apparently from reports I read, the searchers had come quite close to where she was found in a tent. (Moral of the story, is, if she had been blowing a whistle on/off,searchers likely would have found her)…

    Whistles, please.

  4. Lloyd, you are an adventuring sort, but even the most adept can have an accident, break a leg or worse, and get stuck and lost overnight…

    how about a PLB,
    $250 to $500 or so on eBay…?

  5. Lloyd,

    Another vote for Gaia GPS. I am an avid mushroom hunter, and have taught wilderness navigation to hundreds of people over the years. I have researched at least 10 different backcountry GPS apps, and Gaia is the best. You do not need cell phone coverage for the GPS to work, battery life in the newer iPhones is exceptional, it works in airplane mode, and the interface is terrific. Yes, it does cost $20, which is kind of a lot for an app these days, but when you consider I can replace a $300 GPS receiver, that is a screaming bargain. Customer support is excellent, they are based in Berkeley, and there are some great YouTube videos tutorials to help get you started, just search YouTube for "Gaia GPS".

    It's my personal belief that anyone who goes on adventures outside should at the very least know how to find their latitude longitude coordinates on their phone and use them if needed to call 911. For iPhone users, the easiest way to do this is the built in compass app on your phone, which displays your latitude longitude coordinates on the bottom. Please note that you need to turn on location services for your compass to display latitude longitude coordinates.

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