Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Learning to Navigate

My love affair with all things cartographic seems to be a current theme, with maps playing a huge role in my life. I love almost nothing more than poring over one to see where I am, where I might be going, and the possible routes that will take me there. I try to turn the seemingly endless options over to the Universe, listening as I go, so I don't get caught up in driving down a dead end road, or on a side trip that leads to a dead end. In more ways than one. Been there. Done that. Really don't want to repeat it.

I do like what William Least Heat Moon describes as blue highways, and I do love those signs that say, "Pavement Ends."  I have spent many an hour and even whole days driving the low maintenance roads that lead through our state forests. When I get through to the other side, yet another road waits for more discovery. It's the best kind of daytripping.

My explorations have often involved topographic maps. I like going into BLM offices and seeing what they offer. Canyon country requires a thorough perusal of one to get a feel for how long you can remain in a canyon before you run out of daylight. You want to be in and out before dusk descends. And it happens early in the canyons, surrounded by rock walls. I've never camped down in them, only at the top, waiting for daylight to show me the trail. I do think that would be a cool experience, though, cool being the operative word. One would need to be thoroughly prepared. Either way, learning to read these accurately is essential. I still have several topos that were constant companions during those explorations.

Maps played a big part in my travels out east, as well. Each trip out, I tried to take a slightly different route so that I might see as much of the country as possible. While still living in Santa Fe, I took a more southerly route, through states I'd only flown over or into previously. I covered a lot of great territory.

One trip out, I momentarily got caught up in the road, missed my turn and ended up going down a small road, through very interesting country, chock full of photo opps that I would have missed out on had I stayed with the original plan. No back tracking here. I just went straight on through to the next possibility. In doing so, I got some great photos of an old farm somewhere along the Delaware Water Gap. I blogged about it, of course.

Occasionally, I will stop to check the atlas. No GPS for me. I don't want the chatter and I don't want to miss out on opportunities that the Universe knows I need more than I do. I also like to just drive in the general direction, knowing I'll come out when and where I need to. Leaving things open to "chance," and the adventure inherent in an altered course of action, has led me to some pretty wonderful experiences. I don't intend to change that. Ever.

As I was writing this, I found myself thinking about Beryl Markham and her flying adventures, especially over Africa. I went looking for some words of wisdom from her and found this:

It was disconcerting to examine your charts before a proposed flight only to find that in many cases the bulk of the terrain over which you had to fly was bluntly marked: 'Unsurveyed.'  It was as if the mapmakers had said, 'We are aware that between this spot and that one, there are several hundred thousand acres, but until you make a forced landing there, we won't know whether there is mud, desert, or jungle -- and the chances are we won't then!'
~ Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Whether talking about mapless roads, less-than-perfect flight plans, or uncharted terrain of the heart, her words encourage me to never be afraid of the "unsurveyed."

All images are borrowed from Google, except for the second one of my topographic maps.
Top image: Edward Frederick Brewtnall  (1846 - 1902),  "Where Next"


  1. Memories of a wild youth, when gasoline was $1.50 a gallon and a pocket full of change would fund hours of back road travelling. Getting lost on purpose. Stopping at some unmarked hunters campground and spending the night under the stars, eager to roam in the morning.

    Thank you for bringing up these memories!

  2. Hello Teresa:
    Like you, we find all maps endlessly fascinating and very much enjoy poring over them considering routes which might be taken between places which, in all probability, we shall never visit. But that does not deter us.

    And no, we should never countenance, even if we still had a motor car, satellite navigation which can, we feel, only lead one up blind alleys!

  3. Hey Ish, Sounds like fun. The lower price of gas made a lot of adventures possible You are most welcome.

    Jane and Lance, I make a fine arm chair traveler, as well. So many good adventures in my mind and it's good to think of all the possibilities.

    BTW: Thank You. ;)

  4. Maps trigger the imagination, for sure. I just wish I had a sense of direction and could read one.

  5. "I just went straight on through to the next possibility."

    Teresa, that is such a wonderful line. Somewhere along the way, we often lose that almost childlike ability to say "what's next". We've been taking the less traveled roads a little more these days, seeing where the next possibilities are. I'll remember this the next time I'm on the road.

  6. We must be connected on some soul level. You will never guess what book I am re-reading right now: Beryl Markham's West with the Night! :-)

  7. A lot of my spare time is spent looking at maps also.

  8. I have a variety of maps,but still get lost,it helps to have a navigator sometimes.I covered a wall in Geologic survey maps when I lived out west and dreamed through many journeys.I have a GPS, but wish I had more control in the voice.My hand held ones don't talk.LOL

  9. KITTIE, You've done a great deal of traveling by air to some pretty amazing places around the globe, so perhaps that's curtailed your need for them. You have led and are leading a very inspiring life.

    LOTCO, Thank you, Penny. I enjoyed reading about your travels this summer and fall. The road less traveled always yields more fun and grand adventures.

    DJAN, I Love this! We are One, and our being so often on the same wavelength is a wonderful reminder of that.

    BOB, It's fun, looking looking at the possibilities, isn't it?

  10. How do you feel about online maps? I love to look up wherever I'm going, and then look all around the area, especially in Google's "street view." I've begun doing it for places I MIGHT like to go, as well. It gives me a little extra guidance, but it doesn't prevent surprises or unplanned adventures.

  11. OOTP, A wall of maps sounds fun. I usually have one on my wall, too, most often the one showing Owl Canyon in Utah. That was one life-altering hike. Yeah, I can do without the chatter.

    BLOG, Nancy, I have to admit that I do go to maps online sometimes to calculate quickly the distance and driving time between Point a and Point B. Very efficient.And, I do like to look at Google Earth sometimes to get a sense of where someone lives or what area I might want to visit. We can run, but we can't hide. It's all there. :)

  12. Sadly, I can get hopelessly lost quite easily. I have no sense of direction and always think I am traveling north because when I was a kid I saw north was the "up" arrow.

    I can read a map, though. Hated traveling in big towns (easily lost because of too many detours--we just have winter and construction up here) but loved heading out cross country. Another of the things I miss since my body and travel don't work well together anymore...just packing up a few things and hitting the road to go visiting people hours and hours away...traveling adventures! Ahhh! I always found driving to be excellent thinking time...and I saw lots of birds...probably because I like to look up--LOL! ;)

  13. I really need to read your archives. You have traveled by car? RV? Staying in hotels, etc. hostels? camped? Where are you going now? in what? when?

    I began to travel when I was 18 in 1961. I rarely even looked at a map. I knew I was going in a direction - sometimes - I'd stop and ask someone where I was ... I'd then decide to check for maps - sometimes.

    I found very interesting routes. I've ended up gasping for a direction! lol...

    sometimes a forest or a desert or yet another highway or gravel road looks the same... some places don't like to mark anything. nothing.

    let me tell you... I have ended up, well as I said gasping...

    wouldn't trade it. I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there's a way out --- I may have to back up with pee in m'britches from being scared but... what the hey

    Where I am now? little ol Island - Port Aransas? ... I get turned around and just told myself about an hour ago... I may not know where I am but I'm not lost.

    I really mean that.

  14. Maps are wonderful and special tools, are they not? Learning to find your way through life and land is perhaps one of the greatest treats!

    Modern navigation is changing. Soon paper maps will disappear for the electronic kind just as the sextant has less use, replaced by the compass and modern maps, and now these are replaced by the GPS and electronic maps.

    No holding back technology, and it appears there is no holding back you!

  15. RITA, I'm not big on in town driving either. Give me the open road. It is good thinking time. And an endless succession of photo opps. Bird-watching, too.:)

    CAROLYN, I've spent a lot of time on the road in my life. Car, van, motel, hotel, house on the beach, hostels, and a lot of camping. I have no travel plans in my immediate future, but I like looking at the maps and possibilities. I believe it was Tolkien who said, "All who wander are not lost."

    I once took the ferry over to Port Aransas. Nice place. Love the gulf area. It sounds like you're having fun.

    WILD BILL, I suppose I should acquiesce to technology, embrace it and maybe even learn to like it. I'm not quite there yet...

    Nothing holding me back, but there's a trade-off in almost everything.

  16. I certainly share your love of maps! I have more than my share and especially love the National Forest maps: I always carry the appropriate one in my pack and usually one or more USGS topo maps of the area as well. We have one hallway in our house that hasn't yet gone through remodeling and its walls are covered with maps including my favorite, a 1956 Forest Service map of parts of the Kanitsu, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests that show all of the old pack trails. I guess each person has treasures.

  17. Well, good Lord, the places you go, you definitely need maps, topo. :) Now I have map envy. A 1956 FS map.
    Very cool. Treasures, indeed.

  18. I love maps too. I would like a room with nothing but maps on the walls. When we rented a car recently, the young thing behind the counter was visibly upset about us not carrying a GPS. "You gave me this map," I said, waving the basic placemat-variety map. "I'm good to go." Poor little rabbit. She was sure we'd end up one of those sad stories in the newspaper.

  19. We had a summer visitor who used his car's 'Sat Nav' just to go to our nearby (7 kms away) town. I dispair!

    Long live maps (when one needs them).

  20. MURR, Ah, this younger generation. They are lost. But there GPS is working so... Like the young couple with baby who insisted on listening to the lady in the box instead of their commonsense and almost died in the Escalante (much head shaking).

    CRO MAGNON, Indeed. What are people so afraid of? Crazy isn't it? Thanks for visiting!

  21. Have you seen this?


  22. I had not, Thomas, but it goes perfectly with the post I'm working on this morning. Apparently, I'm not the only one on a map theme. Thanks for the link! And for visiting my blog!

  23. Dear Teresa.
    I found this posting fascinating. It took me back to 1957 when I read everything Anne Morrow Lindbergh had written up to then. She did two--as I remember--books about Chas. and their flying for an airline so as to set up flight routes. The one I remember best is "North to the Orient."

    My interest in unexplored routes came from reading the "Odyssey" and then Tennyson's poem "Ulysses."

    Ulysses says, "Much have I seen and known" (in his roamings) and that so appealed to me when I was 21.

    The lines that speak to me now are
    "We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
    Now that I'm 75 those last lines speak to me clearly and commandingly.


  24. Dee, I Love those lines. Thank you so much for that.

  25. I swear, lady, what did you do on your brief sabbatical? You have kicked it up several notches. I will reprint this with your permission.

  26. Permission granted, of course. And thank you.

  27. I checked every day to see if you were back, and then I didn't check - apparently - and you are back with a whoosh!

    Wonderful stuff here. You know how I am about travel of all sorts - and that while cognizant of the wonders of technology, am perfectly capable of saying "fiddle-dee-dee" and waving it off.

    I have traveling to do. Someone else can do that point-A-point-B stuff. ;)

  28. We love road trips, we love back roads and we love maps! I'm the navigator.

  29. Will! That makes me happy. It's good to be understood.

  30. shoreacres, With a whoosh. I thought I might not ever blog again, and now I can't shut up!

    The best traveling really is with hands on the wheel, and eyes wide open.

    CherylK, It sounds like a good team.

  31. if I have the spare time.I love,on visiting a new city for the first time,To get totally lost in it.....picking each street turn at random.A grand way to discover the soul of a place.
    (And then read the maps afterwards.to see where I,ve been!)

  32. Tony, That sounds like great fun. What a wonderful way to find, as you said, the soul of a place. And that's what we're looking for!

    Yes, the maps later to see what we saw from a different perspective. I like it.