Venturing Outside the Lines
August 25th, 2018 by Curtis Condon

A good map is essential when venturing off the beaten path. Above, a father and daughter take a break to check their location on a map of the area. They are using the stream as a linear topographical feature to follow, in lieu of a trail. © iStock/Kerkez

Remember when you learned to color in school? You were taught to stay within the lines.
Yet there was always that kid who couldn’t resist the temptation to color outside the lines.

For some of us, that tendency is inherent in the way we explore the outdoors. We prefer to get off the beaten path. It’s a great way to avoid crowds, discover new vistas and see more wildlife.

Whatever your favorite means of experiencing the outdoors—backpacking, hiking, mountain biking or canoeing—here are a few tips to help you enjoy your excursions outside the lines.

  • Master basic navigation skills. At a minimum, that includes knowing how to read a map, identify terrain features, orient a map to terrain, track pace count, and take and follow a compass bearing.
  • Don’t go it alone. Traveling with friends is always more enjoyable, not to mention safer.
  • Bring along a good map. Bring a hardcopy or digital map downloaded to your GPS or phone. Better yet, carry both. Don’t rely on maps that require internet access, since cell signals may be weak or nonexistent in remote areas.
  • Avoid fragile vegetation and terrain. Always obey stay-on-the-trail signs. Even in areas not posted, whenever possible, stay on dirt, sand, rocks or other durable surfaces.
  • Let someone know where you are going. Have a plan and share it with friends or family. Give them a copy of the map showing your intended route.

App of the Month:Gaia GPS
A good map app is useful for wilderness travel, and Gaia GPS is well worth consideration. It offers all of the features one expects to find in a first-rate map app, and exceeds expectations.

One feature that sets it apart is the ability to download lots of maps—not just one type, but many different formats. Maps can be viewed singly or in layers.

A free, bare-bones version of Gaia GPS is available, but the best value is the member-level annual subscription. Some people might consider it expensive—$19.95 a year—but it is well worth the price.

Think Like Bait
It’s simple: Locate bait and you will find fish. To do that, you have to know where naturally occurring bait will be found. Obviously, time of year, water temperature and habitat should be assessed. But you also can take your cues from observations. Watch for bait fish skimming the surface or schooling in open water. Birds circling or feeding on the water is also a good indication of bait—and fish.

Special September Days
September 16, Collect Rocks Day.
September 22, National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Remember to identify people and pets in photos. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.