Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Nine Navigation Steps to Take At the Trail Head

The following are nine quick navigation steps to take to ensure one’s navigation kit is set up to best support a hike.
Blake Miller/outdoor quest image

1.     GPS Batteries – load fresh batteries and carry extra for both the GPS and flashlight.

2.     Calibrate the GPS receiver’s compass after every battery change.

3.     Magnetic Compass adjusted for declination – Visit www.magnetic-declination.com for the most current declination value.  Declination changes over time (how old is that map?) and location.

4.     Dump the junk – How many waypoints are stored in the waypoint manager file.  Dump the old waypoints to the absolute minimum; this helps to keep navigation simple.

5.     Match the GPS receiver’s compass to the magnetic compass and the map.   .  Maps are usually set to degrees true.  Have the GPS and Magnetic compass match the topo map.

6.     Erase old track data – clean up the old the track (bread crumb trail) information.  Get rid of
Blake Miller/outdoor quest image
the clutter.

7.     Remember to stow the maps.  I use maps from www.caltopo.com and will occasionally carry maps from a hiking guides.  Maps are stowed in a zip lock gallon bag or rugged water proof map case.

8.     Mark a waypoint – Give key waypoints a name like “trl hed” or “camp.”  Select waypoint manager to verify that the information has been saved to memory.  If “trl hed” can be viewed on the waypoint manager file or viewed from the map page the hiker is all set.

9.    
Blake Miller/outdoor quest image
Orient the map at the trail head.


Everyone in the hiking group should be on the same page in regard to navigation settings.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

5 Things to Look for When Backpacking the Appalachian Trail


The low cost of backpacking travel makes it possible to visit most places of the world in an economical and more personable manner. The Appalachian mountains are one beautiful travel location for people to backpack. The mountainous region is made up of thirteen various divisions. The Appalachians are 1,500 miles in length and a little over 2 miles in height. The mighty Appalachians mountain range makes for a breathtaking hike for backpackers. Here are the things to look for as you backpack the wild Appalachian trail.

Enjoy all the Scenic Sights
The fact is the entire range is beautiful and breathtaking. Keep your eyes open and take in all of the sights. Admire the wildlife too. There is plenty of animals and plant life to look at while hiking. Be careful though of wild animals that may pose a harm. You should additionally be wary of certain bugs, such as ticks. Ticks can give you some diseases, like the dreaded and harmful Lyme's disease. Bring along a camera in case of the chance you may want to snap photographs of some of the things you will see on the Appalachian trail.

Don't Over Plan
The fact is you don't know what the weather will be and what kind of a pace you will have while hiking the Appalachian trail. Avoid over planning for your backpacking excursion. This will allow you to enjoy the sightseeing along the way and not focus too much on the plan you made. You also don't want to hike too quickly from having to stick to a too intense plan, because you will burn yourself out far too quickly. You should savor the Appalachian trail's sights.

Stops to Pack Your Backpack Comfortably and Effectively
Pay attention to where you can stop to pack your backpack comfortably and effectively. There are numerous little towns along the Appalachian mountains. These little towns have plenty of suppliers for backpackers to shop at when restocking their supplies. Remember to never over pack your backpack. Only pack comfortably and effectively to make your backpacking experience the best it can be. Pack the right amount of food, camping supplies, water canteens, and clothing at each stop you have in the small towns along the trail. You can add a few lightweight items to make the backpacking experience more comfortable for yourself. Perhaps you can pack a camera. If you are a fan of vaping, you should bring along a light weight vape pen and a vape pen charger. You can charge it up at various stops along the trail.

Look for Appalachian Trail Markers
The markers for the Appalachian trail are white markers on trees, handrails, rocks, and posts. These markers allow you to know you are following the right trail. One white mark means you are following the trail. Two white marks means there is a change in the trail or two different directions you can take. You will need a map or a compass for these parts of the trail. Piles of rocks may also be used as markers in a few parts of the trails. There are some segments of the Appalachian trail that are not marked very much due to conservation efforts to keep certain areas of the trail as natural as possible. If you backpack those parts of the trail, you ought to bring a compass and a map for certain.

Food and Beer Locations to Stop at from Georgia to Maine
On the Appalachian trail you will eat healthy and get a pretty intense workout for your body. You'll enjoy the physical fitness you will achieve. However, you will likely crave drinks and greasy food whenever you stop in the small towns along the way. You will come across plenty of small towns with beer and food venues to die for during your backpacking. The top seven stops for beer and food from the Appalachian range all the way from Georgia to Maine for thru backpackers are: Spring Creek Tavern and Inn, Damascus Brewery, Devil's Backbone Brewery, Doyle, Woodstock Inn, The Gypsy Joynt, and Sarge's Sports Bar and Grill.
5 Things to Look for When Backpacking the Appalachian
The low cost of backpacking travel makes it possible to visit most places of the world in an economical and more personable manner. The Appalachian mountains are one beautiful travel location for people to backpack. The mountainous region is made up of thirteen various divisions. The Appalachians are 1,500 miles in length and a little over 2 miles in height. The mighty Appalachians mountain range makes for a breathtaking hike for backpackers. Here are the things to look for as you backpack the wild Appalachian trail.

Enjoy all the Scenic Sights
The fact is the entire range is beautiful and breathtaking. Keep your eyes open and take in all of the sights. Admire the wildlife too. There is plenty of animals and plant life to look at while hiking. Be careful though of wild animals that may pose a harm. You should additionally be wary of certain bugs, such as ticks. Ticks can give you some diseases, like the dreaded and harmful Lyme's disease. Bring along a camera in case of the chance you may want to snap photographs of some of the things you will see on the Appalachian trail.

Don't Over Plan
The fact is you don't know what the weather will be and what kind of a pace you will have while hiking the Appalachian trail. Avoid over planning for your backpacking excursion. This will allow you to enjoy the sightseeing along the way and not focus too much on the plan you made. You also don't want to hike too quickly from having to stick to a too intense plan, because you will burn yourself out far too quickly. You should savor the Appalachian trail's sights.

Stops to Pack Your Backpack Comfortably and Effectively
Pay attention to where you can stop to pack your backpack comfortably and effectively. There are numerous little towns along the Appalachian mountains. These little towns have plenty of suppliers for backpackers to shop at when restocking their supplies. Remember to never over pack your backpack. Only pack comfortably and effectively to make your backpacking experience the best it can be. Pack the right amount of food, camping supplies, water canteens, and clothing at each stop you have in the small towns along the trail. You can add a few lightweight items to make the backpacking experience more comfortable for yourself. Perhaps you can pack a camera. If you are a fan of vaping, you should bring along a light weight vape pen and a vape pen charger. You can charge it up at various stops along the trail.

Look for Appalachian Trail Markers
The markers for the Appalachian trail are white markers on trees, handrails, rocks, and posts. These markers allow you to know you are following the right trail. One white mark means you are following the trail. Two white marks means there is a change in the trail or two different directions you can take. You will need a map or a compass for these parts of the trail. Piles of rocks may also be used as markers in a few parts of the trails. There are some segments of the Appalachian trail that are not marked very much due to conservation efforts to keep certain areas of the trail as natural as possible. If you backpack those parts of the trail, you ought to bring a compass and a map for certain.

Food and Beer Locations to Stop at from Georgia to Maine

On the Appalachian trail you will eat healthy and get a pretty intense workout for your body. You'll enjoy the physical fitness you will achieve. However, you will likely crave drinks and greasy food whenever you stop in the small towns along the way. You will come across plenty of small towns with beer and food venues to die for during your backpacking. The top seven stops for beer and food from the Appalachian range all the way from Georgia to Maine for thru backpackers are: Spring Creek Tavern and Inn, Damascus Brewery, Devil's Backbone Brewery, Doyle, Woodstock Inn, The Gypsy Joynt, and Sarge's Sports Bar and Grill.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Knots In the Backcountry



Several years ago I had the opportunity to take an abbreviated wilderness survival course conducted by Emergency Response International (visit www.eri-online.com).  One component of their presentation was emergency shelters.  Key to emergency shelter building is the ability to tie a reliable knot.

First, the hunter needs to carry shelter material.  This can range from a poly tarp (with numerous grommets) or one of the many nylon tarps sold through high end retailers such as REI.  A tarp of 8’ by 10’ is adequate.   Secondly, 50 feet good quality parachute cord is needed to tie the shelter to a tree or pole.  Quality parachute cord has a breaking strength of 500 pounds and can be found at a surplus store or on-online.  (There is some junk para cord out there so be careful with your selection.)


An excellent resource for knot tying is an online web site animatedknots.com.  This site offers downloadable apps for the smart phone and categorizes knots by topic (such as scouting, boating and fishing.  The instructions are concise and easy to understand.

There are hundreds of knots that the hunter can choose from.  I recommend learning just a few knots that expand beyond tying your boots or the square knot.

A great knot to start with is the timber hitch.  Wikipedia claims that the timber hitch was first mentioned in a nautical source around 1620. 

“The timber hitch is a used to attach a single length of rope a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.”

Wikipedia

 The timber hitch is a friction knot.  The many wraps of rope or parachute cord hold firmly under tension.  It’s simple and easy to use and can be the anchor of a tarp.  Best of all, after being placed under tension it won’t become next to impossible to untie; we have all been there.



For complete instructions watch the video at animated knots:

www.animatedknots.com/timber









Monday, June 19, 2017

6 Must Haves for your Next Mountain Backpacking Adventure


Backpacking can be a real high when you are prepared for the trip. However, being halfway up a mountain is not a good time to wish you had packed a certain item. Being in the fresh open air of nature can raise your awareness level ten-fold. This is when you consider all of those items that you wish you had brought along. Here are some great ideas for staying well, comfortable and able to enjoy the trail even more.

Improving the Sights - Green Binoculars

Binoculars are a given on any backpacking adventure, but if you are practicing all the benefits of nature, why not choose a pair that cares about the environment? You can find sturdy binoculars that are free of lead and arsenic in the optical glass. Other items to look for are a non-chloride rubber body that is free of inks and dyes, a compact size, waterproof with fog-free lenses.

Preventing Altitude Sickness

While climbing up a mountain can sound awesome, the change in altitude can cause illness known as altitude sickness. Being in the fresh air does nothing to help when the inspiratory oxygen pressure diminishes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, fever, dehydration and shortness of breath. Always pack ibuprofen and ask your family physician for recommended medications for high altitude backpacking.

E-Cigs & Vapes

Taking a break while on a trail calls for water, but what about a few of life's other joys? Some cheap vape mods can satisfy that nicotine craving without causing you to become winded. The different flavors can also make that water taste great. There will also be no cigarette butts polluting Mother Nature and e-cigs and vape tips can easily be stored in a pocket.

Healthy Snacks

It is also hard to know what type of treats should be taken. Never pack sweets as they can make you tired. It is best to select snacks that do not have preservatives, additives or dyes. Homemade jerky, sunflower seeds or hemp hearts are full of protein and will give you that extra burst of energy needed.

How to Avoid Sore Feet

Blisters are a problem for most hikers. Understanding what causes blisters can help you to prevent a flare-up on your journey. The two largest contributors of blisters are heat and moisture. Always take a small bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs with you. Before putting on your socks and boots, dab the alcohol between your toes, on heels and the soles of your feet. Rubbing alcohol keeps feet dry and prevents moisture from gathering. Also, give your feet a rest at least once a day, maybe on the lunch break. Remove your boots and socks and shake out any loose pebbles or dirt that has built up inside.

It is Going to Rain

Trying to plan your backpacking adventure around the weather is an impossible feat. If you are out for any length of time you are going to encounter some rain. Packing rain gear can get quite bulky and cumbersome. You always want to travel as light as possible. So is all of that rain gear really worth the bother? Fold up 4 or 5 large leaf trash bags and place inside of your jacket pocket. They will be close enough to access should a downpour occur, and the light weight will make them unnoticeable while hiking.

Mountain backpacking can be great fun, but the little annoyances can pile up in a hurry. Sore feet, a rainy day, and altitude sickness can ruin that great adventure. It only takes a little planning to head off these problems. And of course, making it to the top is only as worthy as your ability to sit, gaze and relax with a great pair of binoculars, a tasty treat and your favorite vape mod.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Topo Map Selection and Care


When preparing for a backcountry trip take into account what maps selections the hiker will need to take. Order maps early.
It is rare to find USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles ("the backpacker’s maps") in stores. The map table tucked  away in some corner of the store is becoming a thing of the past.
REI offers quality maps and trail guides printed on waterproof paper.
Free map software is a great option available to replace what was commercially available.  I use a combination of mapping software products to make my maps.  I use Terrain Navigator and the web product by Caltopo.com and Google.
Care of your map starts with the selection of the paper to be used.  For short, simple treks during periods of fair weather I’ll use computer paper.  For longer trips and trips where the weather maybe an issue I’ll use waterproof paper.  Rrite-In-The-Rain makes a very good product.  I frequently use National Geopgraphic"s Paper too.  These products are rugged and when soaked retain their shape are are color fast.
Commercially made cases are available and I recommend  doing a product review on line first.  I have tested a few and have found some to be bulky, too big or are not truly waterproof.  Differentiate between car camping and the backpacker's needs where weight is an issue.  Most of the time I keep my map set in a gallon zip lock bag.  It's simple, low cost and reliable.  My hiking companion also carries a set too.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Your Personal Outdoor Plan

There are lots of articles and posts about letting the responsible person know about your travel plans.  Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.



This may be the most comprehensive plan made yet!!!



After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker's trip plan and posted it on my web site.  I had input from several valued sources.  I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor.  My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.



In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.

My plan can be found here.  It is a basic .pdf form.

Suggestions are certainly welcome.



Today, while reading a Linkedin email, I received a tip on what might be the most complete plan yet.  It's from Paul Kirtley's blog.  He is an  experienced bush craft author in the UK.  This plan is much like the hiker's flight plan.  It includes a place for a picture of the hiker, data for one's route and much more.



Check out Paul Kirtley's plan here.



911 Call center
Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search.  My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.



Travel safely.

Topographic Maps



Reviewing a topographic map is usually the starting point for the planning of any back country trip.  A topographic map is your road map to the outdoors.  It provides you information at a scale that is meaningful and detailed.  

For years, the US Geologic Survey (USGS) has been the principal publisher of accurate maps.  Within the last decade we have seen many innovations in mapping products that include new mapping companies and publishers, software, maps for the GPS, and “Apps” for the smart phone.


Still, the USGS map remains the standard for back country navigation (visit the USGS’s site at www.topomaps.usgs.gov.)   I’d also recommend looking at June Fleming’s “Staying Found” or Bjorn Kjellstrom’s “Be Expert With Map & Compass.”  Once you develop a map foundation you will easily shift to many of the other products on the market today. 

Many publications, videos, and web sites will give you a complete rundown on the features, symbols and components to a map.  The key features that you should be aware of are:


·         Contour Lines These are the thin brown lines that snake across the map.  Contour
lines connect equal points of elevation such that every point on a specific line will be at that elevation above sea level.  Visually, the contour lines give you a mental three dimensional view of the terrain.  These lines provide shape and a sense of texture.  Contour lines provide a view of slope and pitch, depressions, ridge lines and level ground; the highs and lows of the earth’s surface.  There are two primary types of lines, index and intermediate lines.  Index lines stand out as they are a touch wider, a darker shade of brown and indicate the elevation with numbers such as 4500; the elevation is in feet.  Between the index lines are the thin intermediate line that are spaced uniformly and further define the elevation, slope and contour.  The distance intervals between the intermediate lines are specified at the bottom of the map adjacent to the scale data.



·         Scale Consider scale as your view of the map; it is like your “overhead zoom” setting.  To cut to the chase, a 7.5 minute map or quadrangle has a scale that is referred to as 1:24,000; where one inch is equal to 2000 feet.  It is your best source of information of the back country.  At this scale, the map has much more validity and provides more usable information for your backcountry planning.  You can view important landmarks, streams and geographic features.  To complete the navigation picture I always refer a second map, such as a map of the national forest (e.g., the Deschutes National Forest.)  Commonly, such a map will be “zoomed” way out and have a scale of 1:100,000 or 1:250,000.  Imagine that such a map would be made up of many 7.5 minute quadrangles.


·         North  Features on a map such as trails, roads, mountain peaks and streams are all laid out in relation to true North; the North Pole.  The north-south borders of the map and the small declination diagram are your best references for true North.  Other grid lines (such as the red Township, Section and Range lines) may not be aligned to true north at all.  Be careful of these lines should you need to triangulate your position on a map.


·         Declination This is the angular difference between true North and Magnetic North.  The red needle on your magnetic compass points to Magnetic North.  The accuracy of the information found in the Declination Diagram is dependent on the age of the map.  To get the latest declination for any area visit www.magnetic-declination.com.

Personally I use a magnetic compass that I can adjust for declination; it just makes my navigation easier.  When adjusted, my compass provides bearing information in degrees true as does my map and my adjusted GPS.


·         Coordinates Latitude and Longitude (Lat/Long) are the familiar coordinate system to most outdoorsmen and women.  Coordinate data is found at the top and bottom corners of each map.  Lat/Long coordinate increments are also found every 2’ (minutes) and 30” (seconds) on the sides of the Map.  A scaling device is necessary to pull complete coordinates off a map; this is a pain.

In the 1940’s a coordinate system known as Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) was developed.  To keep a very long story short, your 7.5 minute map has a new grid laid over it, the grid dimensions are 1000 meters by 1000 meters.  For more complete information on UTM grid visit the USGS’s web site UTM or Letham’s “GPS Made Easy” (which is probably at your local library.)


Simplicity is the essence of UTM.  Scouts, hunters and hikers have joined Search and Rescue (SAR) teams around the country in using this system. 

Your GPS receiver can easily be switched to UTM from the set-up menu.


·         Bar Scales   Notice the bar scales at the bottom of the 7.5 minute map.  The scales provide measuring data in miles, feet and meters.   On the far left side of the meter scale, the scale is broken down into units of 100 meters, this applies directly to UTM.

Notice on the scale bar (feet) that 1 inch equals 2000 feet.


 Map Datum Information about map datum is found in the lower left corner of a 7.5 minute map.  I have found that the simplest definition from GPS maker Garmin is:

“A math model which depicts a part of the surface of the earth. Latitude and longitude lines on a paper map are referenced to a specific map datum. The map datum selected on a GPS receiver needs to match the datum listed on the corresponding paper map in order for position readings to match.”



The bottom line: most 7.5 minute maps are made to the North American datum of 1927 (NAD27 or NAD27 CONUS on your GPS).  New GPS receivers are set to datum WGS84.  The difference between the datum could be over 100 meters/yards.  The solution: When pulling points off a map shift your GPS’s datum to match the map. 



If precision is not an issue for your outing don’t worry about datum.



Visit www.worldofteaching.com/powerpoints/geography/Mapping.pptThis power point presentation offers a fine overview of topographic mapping.  It’s free.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Is Your GPS Receiver Set-up Correctly?


Setting up the GPS receiver is key to accurate navigation.  The phrase "match the map" is a big first step. 


Therefore, ensure that the GPS receiver's default settings correspond with key factors on the map.

  
A selection of such factors includes:
  • Set the compass page to working in degrees true rather than magnetic.
  • Position format/cordinate Systems (e.g., UTM Grid or Latitude and Longitude.)
  • Use the correct map datum.

 Note that every time the GPS receiver’s batteries are replaced, the electronic compass needs to be calibrated.  It’s a simple process that requires a quick check of the owner’s manual.

Both the compass and GPS receiver must be set to complement each other.  For example, if the hiker has a basic base plate compass (one that cannot be adjusted for declination) then the GPS receiver’s “north reference” must be set to magnetic.  If the hiker has a compass adjusted for declination then the receiver should be set to true north.  If compass and GPS receiver don’t match then the bearing information may be as much as 10° to 20° off.  That is not good.

I carry a Sylva Ranger style compass that can be adjusted for declination.  Before leaving home I visit www.magnetic-declination.com to verify the correct declination for my planned hunt location.  With that information I adjust the compass.  Yes, the magnetic needle still points to magnetic north but the rotating dial provides degree/azimuth information in degrees true.  
Now my GPS and compass settings match my topographic map. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Snake Bite

A very interesting article about a potential break through in dealing with snake bites.


Nice work by the University of California at Irvine.


snake bite

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock


Why Every Hiking Trip Needs a Hammock


When you think about packing up your hiking gear, you might think about bringing along your first aid kit, your water bottle and a few other necessities. Although these things are obviously important, you might be missing one thing that can make hiking way more fun: a hammock. These are a few reasons why every hiking trip needs a hammock.


They're Easy to Carry Around



When you're packing for your hiking trips, you might like to do what you can to keep your pack light. This makes a lot of sense, since a heavier backpack can make a big difference in how difficult your hike is. Plus, you probably want to save room for necessities. This means that you might not add in many items that you don't consider must-haves.


Luckily, though, a hammock can still fit in nicely. If you purchase a hammock that is designed for hiking and camping, you might be surprised by how easy it is to fit into your backpack without adding a lot of extra weight. It's a great way to bring something fun without getting in the way of your weight limit, and it should fold up easily enough that it does not take up a whole lot of extra space, either.


They Can Be Used Almost Anywhere



One great thing about hammocks is that they are so versatile that you can use them just about anywhere if you are creative enough. If you are going to be staying in a camp site, you should be able to use stakes or posts as a means of putting up your hammock. If you're going to be hiking in the woods, you should have no problem finding two trees that you can string your hammock in-between. You can always bring along posts that you can use to put up your hammock, but depending on where you are hiking, this should not be necessary. In general, hammocks are pretty versatile and can be used in a variety of places.


They Provide the Perfect Relaxation Spot



Hiking is hard work. Sure, you might be planning on going on a hiking trip so that you can achieve your fitness goals, but you deserve to relax a little bit as well. Plus, if you are able to relax well during your rest times, you'll be able to achieve even more goals when you get back to hiking again.


Even though a plain old camping chair might provide you with a place to sit and rest, you probably aren't going to find it to be as cool or comfortable as a hammock. Few things can actually be as enjoyable as kicking back in a hammock in a beautiful spot in nature, particularly after a long day of hiking. You can even create a campfire and break out your e cigarette starter kit and start vaping to make things even more relaxing.


The truth is that once you try relaxing in a hammock on one of your long hikes, you'll probably never want to relax in a regular camping chair again, since you probably won't find it to be quite as comfortable or relaxing. Plus, there's a good chance that other hikers on the trail will find themselves to be quite jealous and will wonder why they didn't think to bring a hammock along themselves!


If you are into hiking but don't yet have a hammock, you may want to consider investing in one. You can find them at many outdoors stores, and once you have one, you're sure to wonder how you ever went hiking without one in the past.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Fire Starter

Last week my friend and fellow blogger Leon  Pantenburg came to my wilderness survival class and held a presentation on fire starters.  Fire starters are a combination of equipment and process to start fire in an emergency situation.

The highlight was when Leon used flint, steel and char cloth.  Flint, steel and char cloth were the tools to create a spark.  The char cloth captured the tiny spark and began to ignite a very small section of the char cloth.


Char cloth is made from all cotton material (e.g., blue jeans) that is placed in a small container and is essentially cooked for 5-10 minutes.


Take a look at Leon's video or visit his blog at www.survialcommonsense.com


Leon calls char cloth a miracle material for making a fire.


When I head out into Oregon's backcountry I have a small pack that contains the basics of the 10 essentials.


Among the many components in my pack is a small (sandwich size) zip lock plastic bag containing my fire starter.


For fire starting I carry a water tight container filled with Storm Proof matches, a "metal match", cotton balls saturated with petrolatum jelly, Bic lighter and flint, steel and char cloth (about six or seven pieces.)

From Left to Right - Steel striker, two pieces of char cloth, and a quarter
 give perspective to char cloth size.  Outdoor Quest/Blake Miller image. 





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Snakes In The Backcountry

Are you ready for rattlesnakes?  The following post is from a site that I just found a few years back.  This is great info as you head into the backcountry.



Be Rattlesnake Safe

05/22/13 -- As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe. All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.

California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here.


Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
 
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.


On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths. 
 
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
  • Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:
  • Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.
  • Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.
What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Plot Your Position With a Compass


 A quality compass is an integral part of the backcountry navigator’s kit.  Sighting with a compass is an important skill that can determine direction to an object or help the hiker locate and identify his position in the backcountry.


This post discusses the steps to be taken to use a compass to plot one’s location on a topographic (topo) map in the back country.  In the vocabulary of navigation this is also known as “fixing” or determining “position.”

The first step is to ensure that the hiker has adequate maps both in quality and quantity.   I recommend carrying a set of maps that include 7.5’ United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps and a second map type such a United States Forest Service map.  The USGS map gives me the detailed information of the immediate area while the other map covers a much broader and larger area. 

Before heading for the trail, take a look at the maps at home.  Scouting from your desk allows you to find significant land features that will surround the direction of travel.  Features such as distinct mountain peaks, a stream, and a ridge line are just of few topographic “hand rails” that can be of value in the field.  By spending some time at home with the map the hiker develops a mental map, a mental picture of the trek in advance of the actual journey. 

Account for declination before leaving the trailhead.  I like to keep my navigation simple and personally use a compass that can be adjusted for declination such as the Brunton 8010G.  Declination information found at the bottom of a topographic map is frequently out of date.  Check the web site www.magnetic-declination.com  for the current declination.



 “A compass is basically a magnet mounted on a pivot, free to turn in response to the pull of the earth’s magnetic field.  The housing protects the needle and helps you relate the direction in which the needle points to directions on the map and on the land.  A compass by itself can’t tell you where you are or what you are looking at but it can tell you about direction….”

Staying Found, The Complete Map & Compass Handbook, by June Fleming

Sighting with a compass allows the hiker to do several things.

First, sighting on a distant object can provide direction to that object and repeated sightings can provide course corrections along the way.  Secondly, with several sightings on different objects a person’s position can be determined and plotted.

Compass direction to an object is known as the “bearing” or azimuth.   Bearing is the more common term in outdoor recreation and is a term used heavily in GPS navigation.  For example, if a mountain peak is due north of you, the bearing to the peak is 000° (read as zero zero zero degrees.)  A compass can also assist the hiker by orienting a map and following a line of bearing taken from a map.

The picture below offers a quick review of the components of a baseplate compass.


To sight or take a bearing do the following:

  1. Using the owner’s manual, adjust the compass for declination.
  2. While holding the compass at waist level, turn squarely towards a distant object.  Hold the compass so that the direction of travel arrow points directly at the object. (Point the direction of travel arrow away from you, perpendicular to your body.)

  1. While holding the compass, turn the compass housing (the dial) and align the orienting arrow (a red arrow engraved in the rotating housing) underneath the red magnetic needle.


 To determine and plot or “fix” a position, the next step is to plot bearings on the map. In a “nut shell” this means that bearings to three clearly identifiable features are used.  Ideally, objects that have a bearing separation of 30° – 60°.  Good bearing separation provides better fixing information and plots on the map cleanly.  The bearings are then plotted on a map and where the three lines cross is the hiker’s location.  This complete process is called triangulation.

The following are suggestions for triangulating a position in the back country.

  1. Identify three (or more) distinct objects to sight on.  Note that the objects need to be on the topo of the area. 
  2. Orient the topo using the compass.  Orienting the topo means that the map’s left or right border is pointing to true north or 000° degrees true. 
  3. Sight on an object such as a mountain peak or church spire.  (Note that not many objects in the backcountry are so distinct and crisp.  Do the best with what you have.)  Ensure the direction of travel arrow is pointed towards the object.  Be as accurate as you can, point directly at the object.
  4. Turn the compass housing until the orienting arrow is directly under red magnetic needle.  Do not move or rotate the compass housing, keep the new bearing in place.
  5. At this point, and while plotting the bearing on the map, the compass will now be used like a protractor.  Importantly, the movement of the magnetic needle is not important.
  6. Lay the compass on the map with either the top left or right corner of the baseplate on the landmark.  This will be a pivot point while aligning the compass.


  1. With the edge of the baseplate in position, rotate the compass (swing) left or right until the N (north) of the compass housing aligns with map North (the top of the map.) 
  2. Draw a line (along the baseplate) from the object (e.g., the mountain peak) to your approximate area.  Draw a nice long line.
  3. Repeat the process two more times using other distant objects to sight on.
  4. Ideally the three lines will intersect in the immediate area; this is the hikers location.  But because of compass error and human error the point of intersection maybe spread out.  Still, triangulation will put you in the ballpark.  Use terrain association to help narrow down your position.