The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

A new walking stick

A comfortable walking stick can make the trail a little easier.Peavine bought himself a new walking stick. A dandy specimen it is, too – a really nice five-section telescoping stick with a compass on top. Each section is accented with, in his case, a bright orange ring.

He bought it, he said, because it came in orange. It also is available in black, blue, green, purple, red, gold and titanium, but as long as we’ve been hanging around together, I’ve never known Peavine to go for those flashy colors. Besides, orange is a good color in the woods because deer can’t see it.

We agree the compass is fairly useless. The only place it points is North. Not even the real North, either, where Santa Claus lives, but magnetic North, which is in an entirely different place and it’s constantly moving. By the time you get your gear together and figure out the correction to apply to where the red needle is pointing, North isn’t there any more.

“Anyway, whoinell cares where the North Pole is,” my trusty wandering companion queried. “Where’s my car?”

I have the solution, of course. I have a hiking stick similar to his (though not with the orange rings), and I immediately removed the compass knob to expose the 1/4-20 screw stud poking out, not coincidentally the correct size for most cameras that have a little threaded hole in their bottom. When I go hiking, I mount the camera and shoot a picture of where I parked the Jeep so I can find it when it’s time to go home.

I have never been lost in the wild, though I have occasionally been taken aback by mountains that have not stayed where I left them. In my younger years, I found that a bit disconcerting – until I went to college and learned those things are always moving around. Apparently they are the cause of the magnetic north pole seeming so frisky.

But avoiding being lost is easy; you need only to know one of three things: where you started, where you are, or where you’re going. I most always know where I started, and most often my intention is to go back there. That ‘s two of the three things and since I need only one, I’m set.

Knowing where I am at any particular moment, I have to admit, is slightly more difficult. I can tell you which tree I’m standing next to, or which stream I’ve fallen into, but I’m often a bit fuzzy about where that is in relation to the other two points.

I thought a GPS would help, but I soon discovered it wasn’t a whole lot better than the way I’d been navigating. You tell it where you want to go, and then start following the purple line. Immediately, the little box forgets where you started. I guess it figures if you’d just be obedient, that wouldn’t matter.

But what it doesn’t tell you is where you are in relation to any other place on the globe. Oh, I can see I’m at the intersection of First and Main, but that doesn’t tell me which side of town I’m on. And I can tell it I want to go to Fifth and Harvest, and that purple line will appear, but nowhere does it tell me anything except, “Trust me, we’re heading for Fifth and Harvest.”

And even if I decide to wonder about the current location of the North Pole, the GPS is no help. I can turn any direction I want and the dang thing always points to where I’m going.

Maybe if I painted an orange band around it…

1 Comment

  1. So funny. Here I thought I was the only one to take scenic tours where none was intended.

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