Outside Idyllwild: Systems failure 4 …

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Watching the sun set from Idyllwild County Park. Photo by Bruce Watts

One of the most important parts of your hiking system is navigation. Staying found is very high on the list of priorities when you are out backpacking.

Finding lost hikers is the main reason that the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit stays so busy. Of course a lot of RMRU callouts could be avoided if people just did a little research before they head out.

But some hikers will inevitably become lost regardless of circumstances. The first step to avoiding this happening to you is to get a good map.

Many maps of the local hiking trails are available at local stores. My favorite is Tom Harrison’s Mt. San Jacinto map, whch is up to date and very durable becasue it’s printed on waterproof paper. The U.S. Geological Service’s quadrangle maps are very good. Unfortunately, they are not updated very often and things do change over the decades between maps.

Even though I am extremely familiar with our local mountains, I always carry a map with me when I go out hiking. I always stay on the trails. Going off-trail is one of cardinal sins that gets hikers into trouble.

I admit I only carry a very rudimentary compass with me when I go out hiking, but it is better than nothing at all. There are literally hundreds of compasses on the market but most people can get by with one of the basic hiking models.

Of course, if you don’t know how to use a compass, it won’t be of much help. Books are on the market or you could take an orienteering course, which I recommend for some hands-on learning.

The GPS has replaced both the map and the compass for a lot of people; yet its has its own drawbacks.

First, in our electronic age, will probably be easier to learn to use for most people than map and compass. But the GPS is not the end-all to navigation.

Keep in mind that you have to have batteries that are fully charged. In addition, for emergencies, you need a backup battery or some way to charge your GPS when you are out on longer backpacking trips. They can also be damaged or you can sometimes find that you can’t get a signal everywhere.

Therefore, a map and compass are still a good backup system just in case. Getting lost is not high on my list of things to do, but that’s just me.
New Year’s resolution

I believe I took about 10,000 photos last year and possibly a few good ones. While visiting a pro photographer’s website he mentioned that he takes about 55,000 to 60,000 photos annually. That the equivalent of between 150 to 165 photos per day.

While I certainly don’t see myself trying to break 10,000 photos for the new year, I do want to make a leap forward in the quality of my photographs. So my resolution is simply this — make every photo count, take pains to get the shots right “in the camera” and to use less cropping and editing after the fact.

This translates my New Year’s resolution into better megapixel resolution. Or to put it in another way, take better pictures.

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  1. typo:

  2. So… Carry a map and compass. Learn how to use it, dont depend on GPS battery life. Take plenty of photos but bias in favor of quality over quantity.


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