The snow is falling quietly, drifting, dancing through the air.
So quickly is it laying down, my tracks, they're just not there!
Why did I wander from the trail, how could I be so bold.
The air is growing darker now, and I am getting cold!
What was that muffled sound I heard, could friends have traced my path?
I shout into the swirling gloom, the icy trees they laugh!
I glance at them accusingly, as if they really cared,
The air is growing darker still, and I am getting scared!
Getting lost is scary. I don’t mean driving somewhere and taking a wrong turn lost. Because that is almost impossible to do these days. What with cars and their inherent GPS systems and almost everyone carrying smart phones. Back in the day…. I had a female voice telling me when I got lost “What! We are lost? I thought you said you knew where the hell you were going. Seriously?” Now however, a much more pleasant female voice simply says “Recalculating”.
What I meant is getting lost in the wild. In the winter. When and where your life actually may depend on the outcome. I have to say I have a pretty good sense of direction. I don’t honestly know when I was truly last lost. There was that time at Burning Man…. but that doesn’t count. I was still somewhere on the Playa. Furthermore, that is not a challenge for Dirk or someone to drag me out in the woods to “see” how good my reckoning is either. It’s just that I typically have a fairly good idea on where I am at. Or at least where I have come from.
That is because I typically do a lot of POT before I go into the backcountry. Easy now, I don’t mean I am firing up some tasty buds as I head outside Spicolli .
What I do though is Plan, Observe and Think. Kind of like the STOP thing we drill into the 4th graders repeatedly. You know…what to do if you are lost? Stop, Think, Observe & Plan.
Case in point. Years ago I was snowmobiling with a friend and we explored new territory for us both. We ended up way up on Carpenter Ridge, easily 30 miles or so from where we had started. And unlike what we teach the kids, I had done none of the 3 W’s. Where I was going, who I was with or when I was coming back. Sound familiar. But hey, it was a beautiful day and one trail led to another. And we took the one less traveled. And that made all the difference.
As we rested on a gorgeous overlook above a valley that looked to be out of somewhere in the Swiss Alps and no sign of mankind, I handed my pal a cool brew and casually asked him if he knew the way back? He laughed and said “You’re the one with the GPS”. I nodded that was true but then added “Wish I had brought spare batteries”. You see my kid needed them for something or other and I had some in my pack that I was going to replace…. The GPS was: Garbage Per Se. Dead. Kaput.
My pal was stunned and I admit a little concerned. See, he had already gotten lost once on a sled trip and had to rely on another Search And Rescue Team to rescue them one night years ago. I believe the sun somewhat paled at that point for him. I asked him, didn’t you see me keep looking back. He assumed I was just insuring he was still with me which in truth I partially was (did I mention he had gotten lost before). But more importantly, at every possible turn, I was doing the Old Indian Trick. Now whether there is any validity to it actually having anything to do with the Native Americans or not but as a kid I was told a lot of stuff I believed. By the way, I hope Santa brought you everything you asked for this year. Anyway, the trick was to always look behind you as you adventured to identify landmarks as you went. That way things would be familiar as you traveled back along your path. I told him “ We go down this hill until we pass the lightning struck stump, turn left, follow the trail until the moss covered overhung branch, go right at the old gate….” Remember this was still during the daytime but even still, unless we lost the headlights on our sled, I feel fairly confident I could have gotten us back even after dark.
But it made me Think. Maybe we are going about our teaching of the kids somewhat wrong. That is not to say we should not teach them how to stay calm and what to do if they get lost. But maybe, just maybe, we should spend some time teaching them how to maybe not get lost in the first place. How to be aware of landmarks, sun trajectory, basic orienteering, etc. Which reminds me, and now you, we need all the help we can get in teaching these kids this January. Please sign up to help with the 4th grade winter awareness. The sign ups are on the forum but I assure you there will be a hard push ar Mondays meeting. The more team members we have at these events, the better chance we have of getting our message across to these kids.And in keeping them safe!!
Wait..I I lost my train of thought..oh yeah… back to the poem above. Of course, our searches are often when the weather is at it’s worst. When the snow is falling fast, tracks and landmarks can mysteriously disappear seemingly in front of one’s eyes. Best at those times to maybe keep your treks to areas well known.
Now for those individuals who did not stay in familiar terrain, make sure you check out the TNSAR website for the searches we had last month. Yes even with minimum snow, people got lost. A runner, some snowmobilers and a snowboarder. Not all at once mind you although the last two were a back to back search. Long night for the A-Team.
Speaking of the A-TEAM, I want to acknowledge the new members of the A-Team.
Pity the Fool who missed the last meetings (and who does not know who Mr. T is) but we have 3 new members that I am aware of. Justin Sheaf last meeting went to the A Team for Sleds, Matt Jacobs last month for A-Ski and Paul Kitano in May, A-Ski.
Good job guys. Now your pager can go off in the middle of the night!!! I meant your phone, cell phone, e-mail, text……
Probably get lost looking for my truck at Safeway now,
PS- Speaking of Lost…and Found…look what I found whilst looking for some info on Squaw. Is that a Team Member we know gliding across the ice?
I am not saying this may or not be a team member doing a little moonlighting from ski patrol but..
Cheers and Happy New Year