Never Rely on Bread Crumbs

Lake Lincoln Hike SignEveryone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel. It’s a tale about two bread-loving children on a quest for candy…. Or something like that. The plot isn’t really what’s important here. As with any good children’s tale, what’s important is the message you take away from the story.

In the story, Hansel leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that he hopes will help him and his sister find their way home. Needles to say this doesn’t work. Birds swoop in and gobble up the bread, leaving little Hansel and Gretel high and dry. Hansel and Gretel would have made terrible hikers.

You wouldn’t ever actually try and rely on bread crumbs to navigate, but that’s not really the point. The point is that you need to be prepared when heading outdoors. You need to know where you’re going, know how to get there, know how to get back, and know what to do in case you do get lost.

Here are things that you need to think about for navigating while hiking.

Do your research before getting on the trail. It’s more adventurous to hit a trail without any information, but it’s also riskier and much more dangerous. BEfore you head out on the trail, find information about the trail, get a sense of the distance and the terrain, and prepare accordingly with food, water, shelter, etc.

Pay attention while hiking. It’s important to have fun and it’s OK to enjoy conversation with your companion, but always be aware of your surroundings. Know which forks you’ve taken, and try and keep a sense of cardinal direction.

Identify landmarks and noticeable features. If you do get lost, you want to be able to find your way back. Making note of features and landmarks that stand out can help you find your way back to familiar ground.

Have a map or compass and know how to use it. It’s always a good idea to carry a trail map, a topographic map, or a compass to help you navigate. At the very least snap a photo of the trail at the trailhead.

But most importantly, never rely on breadcrumbs. Don’t head out on the trails without any awareness, knowledge, or navigation tools.

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