Teva Tip 13 - Fears of Nature: Getting Lost
We asked 200 Jewish professionals, students, parents and singles across the United States, "What are your greatest fears of nature?" The
results are interesting.
The number one fear is large animals (the type of animal depending on the geographic location of the respondent). The number two fear is snakes. Number three is spiders and insects (bees, mosquitoes). The forth most common fear is getting lost. And number five is "going to the bathroom in the woods." Over the next several months, I will offer insights into dealing with each of these fears. While it is important to be aware of potential dangers in the outdoors, there is nothing "out there" which cannot be managed nicely.
Getting lost is not a matter of having a poor sense of direction. I have seen many hike leaders get lost who have an excellent sense of direction.
The number one reason for getting lost is losing one's concentration.
Most often this happens when people head off while they are talking and enjoying themselves. They forget to look at their surroundings. One of the easiest ways to keep from getting lost is to become aware of such things as rivers or streams. If you walk into an area with a stream on your right side, you know it will need to be on your left side when you walk back. Likewise, be aware of the position of the sun. If the sun is over your left shoulder when you hike in, it will need to be over your right shoulder when you hike out.
Equally as important is becoming aware of unnatural sounds such as the sound of traffic on nearby highways. Recently someone was lost in the North Woods
of Maine for two full days. Yet, throughout this time the sound of a massive logging operation was audible for miles in all directions.
In fact, the lost hiker later admitted that he heard the chainsaws at work but never thought to head to the sound.
On any clear day, one can orient oneself by using the sun.
As everyone knows, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The further north is your location, the more the sun's rising is in the southeast and its setting in the southwest. At noontime, your shadow will point due north.
Finding direction at night is just as easy if there is a clear sky. There are countless ways to use the moon and stars to locate direction.
For example, when the moon is full, it too will appear to rise in the east and to set in the west. (CHECK OUT THE NATURE QUIZ THIS MONTH TO LEARN HOW TO USE A CRESENT MOON TO FIND DIRECTION). If you know any of the major constellations at this time of the year, you can easily locate direction. Use the Big Dipper to find the North Star. Or find Orion's Belt (once called Nimrod's Belt) and you will be looking southward if it is before midnight.
What lost hikers must do is to decide whether to find their way back or to stay in one place to await rescue. Know that the average walking speed on
flat ground or road is about 4 miles per hour. Walking through like underbrush in the daytime reduces the speed by half.
Walking through heavy bush or in wooded areas at night can reduce your traveling time to a quarter of a mile per hour or less. Chances are likely that if you get lost near to evening that you should make yourself comfortable where you are and stay there.
To keep from getting lost, pay attention to where you are going and be aware of your surroundings. The first thing you do when you realize you are lost
is – SIT DOWN, TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND KNOW YOU WILL BE FINE AND HAVE A GOOD STORY TO TELL ONE DAY.
If it is still early in the day, use the Spoke Method to try to find your way out. Walk in a straight line for several hundred yards to see if you can find your path. If not, return to the place where you sat, turn 90 degrees to the left and repeat. Do this until you've made a number of treks. If you cannot find your way, return to your sitting spot and look for a good place to spend the night.
If possible, make a signal fire, a well-protected campfire that has a stack of wood and leafy material that will smoke. Keep your fire going and produce
as much smoke as possible.
This technique is only good during the day. Take care of making a shelter to protect yourself against wet or cold weather. If nothing else, make a pile of leaves as large as yourself on a cold night and climb inside of it. Leaves provide good insulation and some protection against wet weather.
Next month, I'll talk about going to the bathroom in the woods (which is a lot easier than doing it in the desert!)