Lost in the Woods

Imagine yourself lost in the woods without a compass or GPS. An accurate sense of direction could save your bacon; so which way is north or south? In the Northern Hemisphere the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At noon the sun will appear in the middle of the horizon and directly south. Walk facing the sun and you will be heading south, sun at your back sees you trudging north. For the Southern Hemisphere simply reverse the process.

Not noon, don’t know the correct time – here’s another method. Find a stick about a metre long, drive it straight up into the ground of a sunny spot. Mark the end of the shadow it casts with a rock. This will be west. Wait about 15 minutes then mark the end of the cast shadow with another rock. This will be east. Draw a line between the two points for your east/west position and another at a 90 degree angle for your north/south line.

No sun? Look for moss on trees – moss on the southern side is usually greener and thicker. Ants also build their hills on the warmer southern side of trees or hills,just  as snow melts faster on southern exposures.

What if night has fallen? If the moon rises shortly before sunset the bright side will face west. If it rises much later around midnight, the brightly illuminated side faces east. If you can’t see the moon but the sky is clear enough to find stars, look for the Big Dipper, next find the Little Dipper and draw an imaginary line between the two brightest stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper to the brightest star in the handle of the Little Dipper. This should take your eye to Polaris or the North Star; the bright middle star in the constellation Cassiopeia.

I’ve only ever been lost once, and that was in a department store when I was four. If I ever find myself lost in the woods – at least I’ll be able to find my direction home.


9 thoughts on “Lost in the Woods

  1. I got hopelessly lost in the Himalaya. Hard to get any bearing because your view is obscured in all directions. After getting angry (with myself) i eventually calmed and thought, “Well, its a nice place to be lost in”

  2. Lost in the department store… LOL

    My getting lost times have usually been in a truck, or car en route to something. Doesn’t happen often, except when I’m on the West Coast where for some reason because the Ocean is on the “WRONG SIDE” (compared to Lake Michigan next to which I lived most of my life) I usually end up driving North when I want to be driving South. It’s like the ocean is a big magnet pulling my compass the wrong direction. :-\

    A retired photographer looks at life from behind an RV steering wheel.
    Life Unscripted

  3. Use to hike and camp out in the wilderness all the time, and was always fortunate to have one of my best friends there who had an incredible knack for directions and locations. I was the exact opposite, but was lucky enough to understand how poor by skills were so I had no problem listening to my friends. Still, as a guy, I will not ask for directions…so yes, I have driven & walked many moons until I got things right.

    • Within Vancouver or the Lower Mainland it’s easy to tell direction. The mountains are always to the north, ocean obviously west, and if you have “eyes” on Mt. Baker in Washington – that is to the south/east.

      Put me in the woods however and all bets are off. I’ve always relied on my husband’s keen sense of direction – it’s uncanny. Me – I would have to drive a post into the ground to figure out which way was up or down 🙂

  4. ¡Aiy Caramba! I get completely lost when I’m on the West Coast — the water is on the wrong side of the land! The whole ten months we were here last year I was confused, and now that we are back again it’s happened all over again.
    I never used to get lost…… sigh.

    • Many thanks, your reblog made me smile. This is old school boy scout stuff that nobody bothers with these days because people assume their precious phone GPS will always be there 🙂

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