PAT NEAL: Tips on getting lost

IT WAS THAT great American philosopher Daniel Boone who said, “I have never been lost but I was bewildered once for three days.”

Of course, this was said in the early days of the history of our country when Boone was trailblazing his way west.

Every year, Boone would take off from his home in North Carolina on what he called his long hunts.

These were journeys of exploration and discovery that took him west through thousands of square miles of pristine wilderness over the Cumberland Gap and into the Ohio River Valley in search of better hunting in new lands as the settled lands got shot out and ruined by the ensuing waves of squatters, boomers and other assorted frontier riffraff.

Back then it was much easier to get lost in the wilderness because there was so much more wilderness to get lost in.

Those days are over.

Although it is still quite possible to get lost in the wilderness, it is a lot harder than you might think.

For one thing, there are roads everywhere and if you should happen to get lost, just keep walking in any one direction because you are liable to run into one.

Except it is almost impossible to walk in any one direction in this country without running into a swamp, a cliff or impassable waterway that will have you walking in circles when you least suspect it.

Then there are the numerous electronic gadgets that our modern lives have grown an unhealthy dependence on.

These devices can tell us our GPS coordinates, steps taken, speed, direction, weather forecast and even movie reviews, unless they can’t because of moisture, shock or weather incidents and tree cover that render these expensive trinkets useless.

While it is more difficult to get lost now than it was back in the days of Daniel Boone, that’s no excuse for today’s wilderness enthusiasts to simply give up on this great American tradition.

Fortunately, there are some go-to autumn activities that can take your getting lost game up to the next level where you are able to become truly bewildered.

For example, this year’s plentiful fall rains have sprouted a bumper crop of mushrooms. Picking mushrooms is one of the best ways to get lost.

Now that the price of chantrelles has reportedly hit $30 a pound in the boutique grocery stores of Pugetopolis, mushroom picking has become a competitive sport played by a shadowy gang of shady characters.

If you should happen to tell another mushroom picker where you are going to pick mushrooms, they are liable to get there before you do to cream your favorite patch. Mushroom pickers rarely tell anyone where they are going or when they expect to return because of the secrecy required to engage in this activity in the first place.

As with any outdoor activity, preparation is the key to successfully getting lost.

Experts tell us there are 10 essential items you should have if you are to get lost in the wilderness. The list includes items such as fire starter, sun screen and a mirror.

All of which are useless picking mushrooms in a rainforest. Besides, we are already too burdened with bags and buckets of mushrooms to bother carrying anything else.

Scurrying through the underbrush, darting from one mushroom to the other, over hill and dale, is one of the best ways to get lost.

Getting lost is an experience that reconnects us with the frontier heritage that made our country what it is today.

It’s the best advice I can give to you, the dear reader(s): Get lost.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected].

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