GPS will get you there, but it might be a jerk about it!

Great... a Horse Crossing, Thanks Garmin.

Getting lost seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout my life. Most of the time it makes a fun and interesting addition to any journey, but not always.  I am truly amazed by the impact of of GPS, 15 years ago I was leading a course on a brand new, 5lb, shoe-box sized GPS units for the National Guard. Today it seems that almost everyone has a GPS installed in their phone or car and depend on it solely for finding their way in the world.

This past week I was out on my own exploring a bike trail I’d never been on. I had a map and a GPS, yet I was still so lost. I seriously rode an extra 15 plus miles, but I had the daylight and considering I was “exploring” it wasn’t so bad, this time. Don’t get me wrong, GPS is a great tool for Biking, Hiking and of course driving to get to the place you want to hike and bike. My problem lies in hitting a fork in the road and finding your GPS searching for satellites or sending you on the most ridiculous route! i.e. one that includes downed trees, a series of dirt roads and a horse crossing. Yes that was ONE trip.

In reality we’ve all misplaced ourselves at one point or another, so what things should you consider when you and Garmin go on an outing… Look at the full map before you set out, not after you are knee deep in Where the hell am I. Take a solid look at your route, mentally note important items, i.e. you will stay on the East side of the river (Meaning the river is on your left & the water is flowing from right to left.)

Don’t forget to look up. I’ve stared at a dirt path for hours and totally forgotten that I was in a tropical rain forest. I didn’t even look up when I heard monkeys and bird calls. What a Dummy! It’s important to watch for trail & road names, landmarks like hilltops or bodies of water  or anything that can give you a solid reference point. This is especially true when you are pushing hard to get to your destination. Think of it as taking a moment to stop and smell the roses and acknowledge how far you’ve come. The actual journey is so much a part of being in the outdoors.

Feeling lost can be a very overwhelming feeling. Take a break, take a breath and take your time figuring out where you are now. Because of the frequency of my misplacement, I often just stop for directions or flag down a passerby. The can you please help me, I’m just a lost little girl look usually works pretty well. Also locals often offer hidden gems that weren’t on your original plan. But do be smart about it, you don’t want to end up like a scene out of Texas Chainsaw massacre.

In all cases, I think we should be leery of too much technology.  Bad weather, tree cover and the remoteness of your location all affect the quality of detailed GPS maps. Acurate to 1000ft is not particularily accurate when you consider that it is a radius of 3 football fields. I guess the take away is, don’t solely rely on GPS, take a minute to really do the first things first, be present in your surroundings and pack appropriate gear (clothing water snacks enough fuel.) If you’ve done all this, then perhaps you won’t really care if you take a detour or two on your way.

Til the next time…


p.s. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

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