St. Louis is always east

In today’s world of instant information, it’s hard to imagine the days when explorers came west with just a horse and a gun. Somehow they were able to traverse great distances without getting lost.

I recall a story about a mountain man being asked by a greenhorn if he had ever been lost. The grizzled old mountain man replied, "I was never lost but was temporarily disoriented for three weeks." That in and of itself would scare the pee jabbers out of most of us, but a three week wandering was a mere inconvenience to him. The mountain man went on to say, "I was never lost as I knew St. Louis was east of me."

One fall I came west to hunt and the snows came early that winter. I found myself hunting not only in standing snow but in a blinding snowstorm up on Demijohn Road. This area was familiar to me as I had been down the small old logging road many times before. After a short hike, I realized that I was off the trail and in fact, was looking at my own tracks in the snow from earlier that day. I had made a complete circle in the forest and had to rely on my compass to get me back to the truck. 

Since that time, I began carrying a simple hand held GPS which is my fail safe should I get confused. While this seems the perfect solution, failure of the unit can occur so a person needs to use several methods of self-location in order to not get lost.  

Paula and I were hiking a well-known trail last summer with a map in hand. The beetle kill, however, was so bad it was impossible to even tell where the trail was. We knew the direction of the truck from our GPS readout but it was through some horrible fallen timber areas. So we had to find a different route back to the truck.  

There are other methods to use including a compass, maps, dead reckoning and what I call the look back. A compass with or without a map can at least let you know what direction to take back toward your vehicle if used properly. Dead reckoning is both a learned and innate ability that somehow a person just knows which way to go, as they keep a map inside their head and can access that seemingly with great accuracy. 

Another method is called "the look back." To use this method a hiker needs to stop every 100 yards and look back down the trail. This simple technique lets the hiker view the return trail and record details of that for the hike homeward.

Most people who get lost are not that far from rescue when they start. Experts will tell you that children younger than 10 will hunker down when lost and be found fairly close to their last known location. Adults on the other hand will walk farther and farther and make it much harder for rescue personnel to find them. So if you feel like you are lost, stay put. You will be easier to find that way.

A good backpack with just a few essentials such as good fire starting items, water purification system, flashlight and a space blanket and, importantly, a good mindset once you know you are lost.

I recall an old episode of the Andy Griffith show where a stranger is stuck in town with car trouble and is invited to stay with Andy and take Opie's bed. Opie is thrilled to get to sleep on the ironing board and when the stranger comments how awful that will be Opie chimes in, "Oh no that's adventure sleeping." It’s all in how he viewed it. The same can be said for a night or two in the woods.  It can be a horrible time or one of mere inconvenience and adventure.

While most of us will never experience the terror that comes with being lost, a few select souls seem to be able to lose their cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot. For them, I suggest a Sherpa guide anytime they leave the house but for the rest of us, standard care in the forest will suffice.

Thousands of people hike and hunt the surrounding forests without ever getting lost so it’s not something to fear but merely something to be prepared for in case it does occur.

Fishing remains fantastic so get out there and get ‘em while they are biting. Will post current conditions on the blog so follow along at

So remember, if you get lost, help is on the way and if all else fails, St. Louis is always east