Learn Your Environment

As a brief recommendation to those who have active preparatory instincts. It is often only during a time of crisis and upon loss of access to digital connections that we realize how absolutely reliant upon those connections we are.

A number of years ago my girlfriend at the time, had a gps in her vehicle to make navigation easy. As we were living in a relatively urban location at the time, I found use of the instrument invaluable. Often requiring assistance in navigation of the convoluted roads to travel even short distances. I would rely heavily on the automated system to support visit to the local markets along with almost anywhere else that I would drive, local or cross country. Indeed, if I had not already walked to a place, I found the gps advisory system to be necessary for every day life.

I didn’t really think much of it at the time. It was useful, it made my life easier, and it was just another piece of networked equipment that I lived with constantly. That attitude of complacency lasted for several months until I visited a family member in another state for around a week. For no real purpose besides “why not, it’ll be an interesting experiment.” I switched off the gps for the duration of the visit. Figuring I’d just use my phone if I really got lost, and otherwise try to just get a nice feel for the new city I was in. I was not surprised by the sensation of feeling lost, indeed it was expected without the use of a digital aid. It was the speed with which that sensation receded that surprised me. It took me under 3 days to become closely acquainted with this new urban setting… after having lived in a place for mere days, I realized that I knew my old city much more poorly than this new one. After that I decided that I should train my brain to know a the place I lived, rather than being reliant upon digital assistants. Results have been positive.

Recently, a friend and I arranged to go camping. I had long since given up heavy reliance upon guided pathing, instead simply switching on a phone, figuring out where I was on the map, and memorizing my route to get where I was going. By that method I was far more adept at memorizing my location(s), making for easy egress without the need of any map at all. It was only upon arriving at the campsite, and having lost reception with my cellphone that I encountered a second problem rare in the age of universal communication; my friend and I had not actually arranged a location to meet at. We assumed that upon arrival a simple phone call would make arranging our meeting trivial. What is trivial with network access can easily be insurmountable without network access. By the time I left the dead-zone to contact him, he had already entered it. We did not meet up that night to camp, instead locating one another by luck the next morning. It seems a lesson I should have learned already, but both my friend and I, he a more experienced outdoorsman admittedly, simply did not think ahead to the point of realizing that our communications medium should not be taken for granted.

With that in mind, I highly recommend that any local groups of friends you may know, who are similarly forward thinking to yourselves, set up a location to meet now… in the event of a network shut down. It only takes a few hours when your internet has died to realize that information you had taken for granted has quickly become inaccessible. Simultaneously, how many of you could navigate without access to a digital map? How far could you get? 10 miles, 100 miles from your home before you lose track of where you are? In all directions, or could you only navigate along specific routes?

It’s important to have a good idea of where one is and where one is going in the event of an extended network, or worse, electrical, shut down. Regional shut downs can quickly cripple local infrastructure, and cripple ones own ability to navigate at all.

Here are my recommendations;

>Arrange with friends, family, or local organizations a nearby place to meet in the event of such a shut down

>Utilize the following websites to create, and print a high-detail map of your surrounding area. You can download free .pdf files of local 2020 iteration topographic maps, and take those to kinkos and have them printed so that you can have an accurate view of where you are.
https://store.usgs.gov/map-locator or https://viewer.nationalmap.gov/basic .

>Get a compass. If you don’t have one get one, and make sure to note the position of magnetic north every few months. (Or at night by setting your compass by the north star).

I’m not telling you that you need to go take a week long course in orienteering, nor am I indicating that it’s dangerous to use the global communications network we all love. I am simply saying that one should be careful in taking access to information for granted. These steps take only 40 minutes to an hour and less than $30 and could be critical in the event that you need them.

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