If you like to spend time exploring outside, chances are you’ve at some point wandered off trail or gotten disoriented enough to experience that frantic, heart-buzzing feeling of being lost. I know I have. The first time I felt that panic was on a teenage backpacking trip in the blue ridge mountains. I took Stanley, our latrine-digging spade, on a too-ambitious ramble in search of privacy, and nearly lost my group, and my mind. I can still recall the relief of hearing their voices calling my name. Damn that Stanley. Since then I’ve been disoriented in white-out blizzards, and stumbled around in high brush off trail, but I’ve never really been dangerously lost without a map and compass.

Retracing your steps, looking for landmarks, hiking to a high point, or even following the flow of water may get you out of the woods (literally), but there are lots of other options — including using birds, trees, and celestial bodies — to consider when wayfinding.

Check out Atlas Obscura’s gorgeous collaboration with expert nature navigator Tristan Gooley and illustrator Chelsea Beck and learn a thing or two about wood craft!


One response to “Wayfinding

  1. Kathleen, I found the word ” wayfinding ” to be new to me, as simple a compound word can be. I like it, and it poked at the poet in me. I wish there were a wayfinding manual for all the times in life when we’re lost! I found the bird body direction and the trampled grass tricks the most understandable. The crescent moon trick I have to thank my geometry teacher for understanding still. Very useful information and all metaphorical for this shrink-writer. Thank you.

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