The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Lost and found

Trail blaze

Before I started on my hike, Mark admonished me "You'll stay on the trail, right?"

"Of course I will," I promised. And I really did mean to. The trouble was the blazes.

Actually, I was highly impressed by how well the trail was marked at first. If you understand blazes --- pay attention to the color and look for double-blazes to alert you to an unexpected turn --- following the trail from the High Knob Tower to Edith Gap was child's play.

National forest

Okay, yes, I'll admit that as I got closer to Edith Gap, the trail got slightly trickier. Orange blazes joined the yellow as a horse trail cohabited with my walking trail. And, in some spots, only orange blazes existed to mark both avenues. But after I figured out what was going on, I was okay with that.


The trouble happened when my trail crossed the next forest-service road...and seemed to disappear. While the higher-elevation portions of the Chief Benge trail could just as well have been located in a National Park, this region shows the reality of trail-building in the National Forest --- clearcuts. Through some oversight, a clearcut had been smacked down right in the middle of the trail, meaning that I was suddenly walking through a thicket of five-year-old trees with no blazes in sight. Gulp.

Repaired backpack

Enter my handy, dandy map. When walking over new ground, I try to bring along a high-quality topo map at all times. And here's why --- the visual helped me figure out how to bushwhack in just the right direction so I could meet back up with the trail less than half a mile downstream. Success!

Board walk

I think I probably used more calories during my fifteen minutes being lost than I did during the whole rest of the hike. And since the blazes were suddenly scanty from there on out, I tired myself out yet more wondering if I'd actually found the right trail and was heading in the right direction. Boy was I glad to see this boardwalk at the upper end of Bark Camp Lake, proving that I'd not only guessed correctly, but was also on the home stretch.

Bark Camp Lake
All told, I figure I might have walked about 13 miles that day. There's the half mile round trip from home to car to tack on, plus another mile or so from accidentally going around the long side of both High Knob Lake and Bark Camp Lake. (Oops.)

I'll admit that I wouldn't have wanted to walk longer, and I did end up with tired muscles and sore feet. But I learned that a hike of that magnitude is definitely not beyond my means, which is an empowering feeling.

I do think I'll wait a while before hiking the other half of the Chief Benge trail, though....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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there once was a Boy Scouts Handbook (in the 5os) that explained how to use a compass. But, I admit, in hilly terrain, what is the best approach? For ex, the times we got lost at Steele Creek Prk in Bristol, having only a compass would not have helped, if we'd have had to climb or descend high hills. Could you put in a few more details, about how you read the map, and how you figured things out? I think you once before explained about topog maps, but would you mind running it by me again? thanx!
Comment by adrianne Sat Oct 3 08:32:39 2015
Mom --- I know this is heresy, but I almost never use a compass. I didn't even bring one on this trip! I just use the map to figure out where I am (based on the combination of hills, creeks, and roads nearby). Then figure out where I want to be and plot my course that way. Basically, I'm using the topo map as it it were an aerial photo, giving me an idea of the lay of the land.
Comment by anna Sat Oct 3 13:56:51 2015

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