Thursday, February 28, 2008

Navigation - Part 1

Navigation is going to be the real make or break for my TGO trek. Sure the weather could be awful but weather is something I can deal with (despite what some may think about weather in the States it can be just as unstable and obnoxious as anywhere in the UK. I'm not making light of the chance for lousy weather in Scotland in May I just don't see it as the big issue). Navigation is another story. Navigation requires ongoing effort. Navigaition requires seeing both the near and not-so-near picture. Navigation requires one be able to match what is seen on a map with what is seen on the ground itself. Navigation is tough and made tougher when you have low vision.

I've done a smattering of day hiking in UK (visit my personal website to see some trip journals). But it's always been group hiking and I've never been the leader. Even if I might have been in front of a group it was never by much and the group leader was always the one really in charge. You don't have to pay close attention to things in that situation (though you could argue that you should). What I've learned in those day hikes is that you trek across trails that range from the tiniest of paths to blacktop roads. Sometimes you might veer off trail completely and make your way across an open, and remarkably featureless moor that could be very easy to get lost on in misty weather. What you do not generally have are well maintained trails like you can often find in national parks or forests here in the States. It's more like finding the best route along a long distance trail that is still under construction like many portions of the North Country Trail or a trail more like a collection of routes like the Continental Divide Trail. Paths may be marked on the very nice Ordance Survey maps but that's no promise (as far as I know) that the path is actually visible on the ground. And we won't even discuss the idea of a blazed trail, that just doesn't exist.

For my purposes what I hope to find is that when I am following a path it remains fairly obvious that I am on a path. That's how I travel normally anyay. While I won't deny that their are times when I actively look for blazes on trails (if I know they exist) I do not generally hike looking for them. I follow the trail I am on and usually I'm pretty good at finding the trail.The key for me will therefore be finding the right path and staying with it but remembering that when the path fades out that that is just the way it is.

Next time I'll share some more details about the actual route I hope to follow during my hike. It's a route that should be, as these things go, fairly easy to follow. It is a popular route which will work in my favor as I will no doubt meet people each day and finding fellow travelers is always a confidence booster.

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