These past two weekends I ran two trail races and during both of them at one point I found myself without any other runners around me. Once this happened I began to second guess if I was on the right trail. We all want reassurance from our peers that we are traveling down the right path. Of course, there were arrows on the ground and tape cutting the trail splits on these trail runs, but when you are running, pushing yourself, and in the zone, you tend to just keep running on the path right in front of you. The path of least resistance. However, sometimes it’s best to run down the trail less traveled…
So let’s say you go for a trail run, by yourself, to get out of the city, to be in the forest, and maybe get some clarity. While attaining your runner’s high, you zone out of your immediate surroundings and suddenly find yourself lost. You are running by yourself, you don’t have a GPS, or a map but have a general idea of which Cardinal direction you need to travel to find your way back.
What should you do? Try to survive and wait to be rescued? Possibly, but if you are trail running, you probably aren’t that far off your intended location.
1. Walk downhill until you reach water. There are two reasons why you want to find water. First off, you want to make sure as you aren’t running around in circles which can very easily happen. Following a water way ensures you go one direction and make progress. Secondly, population centers are usually on or near waterways, so if you follow one long enough you will reach civilization. If not, you’ll eventually reach the beach. Once there, reward yourself with an umbrella drink and a rub down. You deserve it.
2. Look at the Moss on the sides of trees. Moss often grows on the North side of the trees. Based off this you can determine which cardinal direction you want to travel. Left of North is West. Right of North is East. South of North is…well, South.
3. Find the North Star. If it is night time and you are in the Northern Hemisphere you can find the North Star as the brightest star on the handle of the Little Dipper. Just think about the big tent in Elementary school with the stars displayed on the ceiling. The North Star and Little Dipper are probably the easiest stars to recognize. Unlike B-list celebrities, which are often difficult to recognize.
4. Look up to the clouds. You can look to the sky to pray; while you are looking up there, notice which way the clouds are traveling. Clouds usually travel East to West. They don’t follow the exact Cardinal directions but it can point you in the right direction.
5. Watch the sunset and sunrise. While you’re lost, take time to appreciate the simple things in life like the sunrise and sunset. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Only “ride off into the sunset” if you want to travel West.
Overall, make sure you don’t panic and think rationally. If you have no idea which direction you should travel then your best option is to just stay put and make yourself visible for possible rescue teams. Things like bright clothing, fires, and being on a high point are great ways to get yourself noticed. Being obnoxious and loud is a horrible way to get noticed. If you have confidence and a calm demeanor you’ll get noticed every time, on and off the trail.