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Topic: Lost< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 8:41 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The "planning site" thread brought this to mind and may have already been discussed.

What is being "lost"?
Not knowing where you are?
Not knowing how to get from where you are to point B?
Not knowing how to get out of the wilderness at all?

I've had several times I neither knew exactly where I was nor did I care.*
I've also had times that due to terrain I didn't know the best way, or possibly any way, to "get over yonder".
BUT... I've never been in a position where I didn't know how to get out of the woods.

*A friend and I once took off into the Bitterroot for 3 weeks and just hiked where we wanted for 2 of those weeks. "Hey, that peak looks good!" and bushwhacked towards it. During those 2 weeks we only roughly knew where we were within several miles but when it was time to head out, we knew which way to go.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 9:11 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Kinda reminds me of the mountain men of the 18th and early 19th centuries.  They claimed they "never" got lost.  They did get "mighty confused" for months at a time, but never got lost.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 12:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't recall the "planning site thread." But without that source, I'd say the term "lost" has no black and white definitions. There's a lot of gray area consisting of context, such as experience level, degree of risk and so on. Perhaps it's easier to consider what "lost" is not, rather than pin down exactly what it is.

We had a trip report a few months back about a couple that were stranded in a small cabin by raging flood waters. They knew exactly where they were but couldn't cross the river to get back out. So I'd call that not lost but stranded. Other hikers may not know exactly where they are but have "guardrails" in mind. They know that if they neither cross the ridge to their left nor cross the stream to their right, they will find their ways back to where they need to be. The ridge and stream are their "guardrails."

I've been "misplaced" on several occasions, but not really lost. To me, it is not just enough to know how to get out of the woods, but to have the capacity to do that.

I was once following a ridge (off-trail, of course) with several fingers of smaller ridges extending from the main ridge. I understood that if I mistook the smaller ridges for the larger ridge, I could end up dropping down from the wrong side of the mountain and be too exhausted to make my way back. I'd say that the moment I dropped down the wrong side of the ridge, I would be "lost." I would not know where I was sufficiently to get back to the trailhead, reasonably on schedule, and under my own power.

Some hikers without a lot of experience (and a few with) find they do not know where they are, and though they think they know how to get out anyway, they end up getting themselves in a worse predicament. It seems to be a common refrain among lost hikers. They were lost because they did not know where they were and, despite their suppositions, did not know how to get out of their predicament.

So I'd say, being "lost" is not simply determined by knowing or not knowing where you are. It's also determined by a reliable ability to get back to where you need to be when you need to be there. That reliable ability is not just exceptionally good luck against high risks incurred by whatever mistakes were made.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 12:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Simply put, When a person gets to point of "panic", I consider that lost. Those of us who off-trail hike are probably less likely to get "lost". We spend most of our hike figuring out where to go, not figuring out where we are.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 1:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't think I've ever been lost.  I've not known exactly where I was but known in general where I was.  Granted, Georgia doesn't have vast wild areas so civilization is only a day away.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 1:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Being able to self-extract seems to defy the underlying functional meaning of "lost".

Why is actually the basis for that segment of the Tolkein quote as I see it.
http://forums.backpacker.com/cgi-bin....2343857

The majority of my day hikes involve that sort of "wandering" as alluded to in the OP and mentioned in the quote. I stay oriented but without precise location information. When my interest is in visiting soecific areas on multiday routes knowing where those places are in relation to where I am offers the means to get "there " from "here". And back again. ( :) ) Dragons and Orcs permitting.*

* Its funny I just reminded myself yesterday to put my copy of The Hobbit: there and back again (as its full title reads)  onto my packing pile for my trip in the beginning of August. Frodo's Orc encounters definitely put the marmot issues in perspective. :D


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 1:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ya either got spatial cognition or ya don't.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 2:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A few times I've lost the trail, or intentionally gone off trail to explore - and thus didn't know exactly where I was.  But always I would've been able to backtrack and get back home if I needed to.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 2:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

When traveling off-trail, I pretty-much always know exactly where I am. The question is usually more of what route will or will not work to get me to where I'm going.

I'm not sure I've ever been honest-to-gosh lost. I've lost trails many times, which can be plenty disconcerting, but I wouldn't call it being lost, since I knew where I was, I just didn't know where the trail was.

I did waste the better part of the first day of a trip in the Beartooths once: we were on a social trail that we though was the official trail. I guess that one qualifies as being lost, since we were definitely not where we thought we were.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 2:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

My personal definition requires fulfillment of both of two parameters:
1) I don't know where I am
2) I don't know how to return to a spot at which I know where I am.

I've been lost a few times (never on foot). It's terrifying.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 3:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think just like how folks who start a sport when they are tiny kids tend to master that sport much more easily and thoroughly than people learning it the first time at age 40 or 50 -- the same goes for the skills/confidence in backcountry hiking.

I took up hiking for the first time when I was well past 40.  Yeah, I'm a lot better at it now, but it still doesn't really come natural nor am I terribly confident.  When hiking with others, I become too complacent (the trail instincts are just not that ingrained nor do they kick in naturally) -- and when I hike alone, I get pretty worked up making sure I really know where I am -- kinda like a still-new driver holding on to the steering wheel with a death grip.

I haven't gotten lost -- but when hiking alone -- I get real nervous when I am the least bit unsure of my location...   :(


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 3:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This is a fun discussion.  A lot of folks agree that they don't care to know where they are, only how to get to where they need or want to be.  This makes a lot of sense.  But it seems to be dependent on the situation.

For example, if you're in a vessel at sea its often critically important to know where you are wth some degree of precision.  Not knowing can not only get you truly "lost", but dead.  The same is true of aviation.  Not knowing where you are in an airplane with some precision can get you very dead very fast.  Just ask the pilots of the Asiana 777 in San Francisco.
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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 9:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

There are three kinds of backpackers...those who are lost, those who are about to get lost, and those who lie.

Call it what you want...turned around, temporarily disorientated, whatever.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 9:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Lamebeaver @ Jul. 13 2013, 7:26 pm)
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There are three kinds of backpackers...those who are lost, those who are about to get lost, and those who lie.

Call it what you want...turned around, temporarily disorientated, whatever.

But am I really lost if I know how to get back to somewhere known and am physically capable of doing so, even if I don't know where I am now?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 10:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd say you're lost if you can't get to point b. I've only been lost to the point of panic once. Doing plant survey work in N. Minnesota, we were never more than a mile or so from a road. But our stand was in the middle of a horribly dense scrubby oak & hazelnut thicket with visibility in all directions (including up) of maybe 4-5 feet.  Almost impenetrable. Map was of no use as there was no topography/features to distinguish where you were at. No compass/Gps with us.

Actually found out stand point, got our work done. Got turned around and thought we were heading out when we were just heading deeper. Think we ended up walking in circles for almost two hours. Finally found the road, my partner (who is the most les stroud/Jeremiah Johnson person I know) sat down and was visibly relieved.

The claustrophobia of it I think what really made it bad.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 10:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
But our stand was in the middle of a horribly dense scrubby oak & hazelnut thicket with visibility in all directions (including up) of maybe 4-5 feet.  Almost impenetrable.

Wander through something like that... and then find the steaming pile of fresh grizzly scat. THAT makes the hairs on your neck stand up...


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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 13 2013, 10:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd say if you don't know where you are, you are lost.  Eventually figuring out where you are doesn't change that.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 10:42 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Montanalonewolf @ Jul. 13 2013, 9:48 pm)
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But am I really lost if I know how to get back to somewhere known and am physically capable of doing so, even if I don't know where I am now?

In my opinion if you don't know where you are with some degree of precision, you are lost.  If after wandering about in a lost state you figure out "how to get back to somewhere known", you remain lost until you arrive at that "known" place, and not before.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 10:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Lamebeaver @ Jul. 13 2013, 7:16 pm)
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I'd say if you don't know where you are, you are lost.  Eventually figuring out where you are doesn't change that.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

If I know I am on the main ridge heading SW and I am east of a particular river below the large waterfall with the upper flats above but I don't exactly where I am on the ridge, I am not lost. I can get back to my exact start location at any time. I can also get to my exact destination(s) at anytime as well. Determining my exact location is not necessary, nor do I care. "The main ridge", "east of the river", "below the waterfall", and "upper flats above" is plenty enough for me. I don't need to know my exact position at all times. I've traveled 50 miles off-trail without knowing my exact position for plenty of it. Being on the flanks of a mountain is plenty enough for me. I don't need to know if it is three miles or five miles till I hit the lake that will lead me up to the saddle. I'm walking through the meadows on the west side and that is more than enough to navigate to my destination.

Being able to determine my exact position when I want to is more important and different than knowing what it is when I don't care. I'm still not lost. The terrain helps guide me toward my destination, not a point on the map.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:06 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I usually know exactly where I am at. Give or take a couple miles. Temporarily misplaced is what I call it. I like being lost in the forest rather than the city because at least I can avoid the embarrassment of asking for directions.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:09 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Tigger @ Jul. 15 2013, 10:56 am)
QUOTE

(Lamebeaver @ Jul. 13 2013, 7:16 pm)
QUOTE
I'd say if you don't know where you are, you are lost.  Eventually figuring out where you are doesn't change that.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

If I know I am on the main ridge heading SW and I am east of a particular river below the large waterfall with the upper flats above .....

In my opinion, under such circumstance you DO know where you are with sufficient precision for the circumstances and are therefore NOT lost.

Under different circumstances the same level of precision may indicate you are lost.  In my  opinion, the definition of lost is highly dependent in the situation.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:10 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Tigger @ Jul. 15 2013, 8:56 am)
QUOTE

(Lamebeaver @ Jul. 13 2013, 7:16 pm)
QUOTE
I'd say if you don't know where you are, you are lost.  Eventually figuring out where you are doesn't change that.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

If I know I am on the main ridge heading SW and I am east of a particular river below the large waterfall with the upper flats above but I don't exactly where I am on the ridge, I am not lost. I can get back to my exact start location at any time. I can also get to my exact destination(s) at anytime as well. Determining my exact location is not necessary, nor do I care. "The main ridge", "east of the river", "below the waterfall", and "upper flats above" is plenty enough for me. I don't need to know my exact position at all times. I've traveled 50 miles off-trail without knowing my exact position for plenty of it. Being on the flanks of a mountain is plenty enough for me. I don't need to know if it is three miles or five miles till I hit the lake that will lead me up to the saddle. I'm walking through the meadows on the west side and that is more than enough to navigate to my destination.

Being able to determine my exact position when I want to is more important and different than knowing what it is when I don't care. I'm still not lost. The terrain helps guide me toward my destination, not a point on the map.

I think it's relative, and a matter of perspective and magnitude.

In some areas, if you are one ridge over from where you think you are, the difference may be only a few hundred feet, but if you keep following that ridge, you'll end up a couple miles from your destination.

Other times, you may be 1/4 mile from where you think you are, but if you keep going you know exactly where you will end up.

Those of us who travel off-trail know how easy it is to get turned around, and usually it isn't too hard to trust your compass and eventually stumble across a landmark to get you back on track.  It's also OK to admit you're lost once in awhile.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:27 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think the term "lost" becomes rather meaningless if we apply it too rigidly. It could include half the hikers in the backcountry and half the drivers on any highway. If the term "lost" is too vague, then so are the terms "where you are" and "some degree of precision."

So defining one vague term with another doesn't help a whole lot.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:36 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I got lost in the A&P once.  I started crying and my dad found me.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 11:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm with Marmotstew, I prefer the broad definition of "lost" to the tight a$$ed, control freak definition of the people that would miss seeing the moose or orchids while they are looking at their compass or map. While some situations require precision, I like to wander off trail enjoying the serendipity. I don't always come out where or when I expected, but I am usually prepared for delays, and have always enjoyed the adventure. After more than 40 years of back country travel, and one serious injury, I've never needed to activate an emergency beacon.

I temper this attitude with the locale. The places I've been where I was a map nazi were The Everglades (where I came to appreciate GPS), The Maze District of Canyonlands where locating water holes was essential, The Boundary Waters where minimal topography makes it hard to match shorelines to the map, and the North Cascades, where you can't see the magnificent topography for the trees. One wrong turn in some places can result is a significant "misplacement." Twice I've just stopped and made camp on ice fields, because blizzards made map and compass work impossible. I'm cavalier, not foolish.

My favorite place to wander is the Beartooth Plateau, where you can ignore the map for hours or even days. I've spent a couple of weeks at a time there fishing lakes that were rarely fished, then climbing a mountain to decide where to go next. I spend plenty of time reading maps at home. I love to hike somewhere where reading the land is the highlight.

I have some epic stories of being misplaced, but I'll save those for another time. Suffice it to say that they were entertaining more than life threatening.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 1:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jul. 15 2013, 11:27 am)
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I think the term "lost" becomes rather meaningless if we apply it too rigidly. It could include half the hikers in the backcountry and half the drivers on any highway. If the term "lost" is too vague, then so are the terms "where you are" and "some degree of precision."

So defining one vague term with another doesn't help a whole lot.

You made a good point.

However, everyone gets to set their own degree of navigation precision based on their experience, their equipment, and the circumstances.   All three play into the navigatin precision requirements.

In some situations, knowing you're on a certain ridge is plenty precise enough.  In an area with many similar ridges, that may be a useless measure.  Or if a nasty storm is inbound, that may be insufficient information to get you off the ridge in time and you spend a miserable night on an exposed ridge.

My point is that a good hiker needs to know his limitations, his equipment, and the circumstances.  For example, being just a little confused about the ridge you're on while hiking the upper Himalayas could be deadly.  Being just a little confused about where you are along a ridge can ruin your outing if your intent was to climb a certain cliff face along that ridge.  Being just a little confused about your location in Texas can put you on a hunting ranch where people will be shooting high powered rifles and trespassers are frowned upon.

Even on the same outing, circumstances will change the necessary navigation precision.  A nav precision of 10 miles on day 2 of a 10 day Alaska outing is no big deal if you're just out to enjoy the countryside and drown a few worms or shoot a caribou.  If a storm is closing on you, you'll probably want better precision so you can find a safe place to hunker down and wait out the storm.  And if it's noon of day 10 and you're scheduled to meet a bush pilot for extraction at a specific place at 2 pm, your navigatin precision had better be MUCH better.  At best, the alternative is very expensive.  At worst the alternative is death.

Hike Your Own Hike, but know your limits, know the risks, and set your nav precision accordingly.  It WILL vary.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 1:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think it is highly reasonable to be "intentionally lost;" i.e., what Montanalonewolf describes (not knowing exactly where you are, but you know how to get back.

I have been "lost" one time, and even then I wouldn't call it a full-bore lost. I was hunting mushrooms (Morels) in Oregon, and became separated from the people I was with.  I was so focused on finding 'shrooms that I did not pay attention to my surroundings. Anyway, I wasn't scared by any means because I knew my friends would start hollering for me before they left. I stayed where I was and waited. Sure enough, after about 45 minutes, I heard them calling for me. I called back, and one of their dog came right to me. I followed the dog out  :)

I have gotten turned around on trails before, or took the wrong one, but always quickly realized the error of my ways and got back on  track.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 1:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The way I look at it, in my 55 years of solo hiking, no one has ever had to look for me, so I was not lost to them. And in those same years, I've always found myself when I looked, so I was never lost to myself.

Any definition that wishes to correct me can get lost. :D


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Woods Pouncer
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 2:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I was lost once, or should I say...didn't like where I found myself to be. Once I figured out where I was, getting out was easy. I just didn't like the route I had to take. At that time, I didn't have the navigational skills that I have now. I definitely was "lost" although I had an idea of where to go to get out. That was twenty five years ago.

From that moment, I made it a priority to learn navigation skills (triangulation, map and compass, and easily enough...a GPS). Beyond that, I've learned to count river, ridges, observe plant life to help determine location and elevation. Off-trail, I've navigated through white-outs, and hike in the dark on a regular basis in "new" terrain, go cross-country in mid-winter. I regularly take the most challenging terrain I can comfortably navigate on purpose and often on purpose, in the worst weather.

Do I know exactly where I am at all times? No. I have a good sense of where I am and if I pulled out one of my maps at a given time, I could probably nail it to within 500 ft. most of the time. Do I need to be that close for off-trail navigation? No. When the woods are thick and I have no visuals, I use natural features to help navigate me where I want to go. I look for features on the map like rivers, ridges as a guide, valleys, meadows, or other features to help me guide my way. I've used the speed of the sun setting along with the southerly direction, and a far off mountain peak to get me to my end goal on occasion.

What I have learned over the years is that creeks dry up and disappear or they flow underground. I've learned that navigation downhill has been much more difficult that navigation uphill. For me, I stop at dusk if the weather is sour in regards to navigation - fog or heavy snow combined with dark equals stop in my book.  

Do I get lost? No. Do I stray in a direction more than I want on occasion and have to readjust my route? Yes.


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If I'm going to be lost, in the woods is where I want to be...
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Obsessive Island Hopper...
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 15 2013, 3:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Closest I've ever been to genuinely "lost" was on a solo trip in Alaska, a few years back.  Crossing a 3-mile icefield in a white-out fog.  I eventually found my way without incident, but not without a bit of worry first.  The wisdom of doing such a thing can be easily debated, but in the meantime folks seemed to find it a decent story at the time I wrote it up:

Baranof Island, 2010 Trip Report: Day 9

Although honestly, I fully agree with Travis' definition more than anything.  'Far as I'm concerned, I was far more "found" than many people desperately stuck in a box in the city knowing exactly where they are but having no idea why.


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Wealth needs more.  Happiness needs less.  Simplify.

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