DR in the woods

Long ago I also participated in the game of being dropped in the woods. In our group we developed some special and secret navigation skills. We had a compass an we also brought along a chronometer, paper and pencil. Dead reckoning with a average car speed of 30 km/h, with the aid of the compass, chronometer and a step length of 0.4 m we could rather easily backtrack our way to the campsite.


I’ve mostly forgotten the story my father used to tell about his forestry class learning how to pace distance at U of Maine although he told it many times.

As I recall it involved students being required to pace off a distance in a grassy field that had stakes placed every 100 feet. The stakes were off set where the students couldn’t see them. However one student had wandered off a bit and had spotted them and divined their meaning.

Instead of pacing up the well worn path this student paced up the line of stakes he had spotted hidden in the grass. The punch line was along the lines of “90…95…100, ouch, damn what was that?” as he tripped over the markers.


A logger friend can sit in his truck across the valley from a piece of land and identify the boundaries from subtle changes in tree growth that I cannot really see.

He can pace along an indistinct boundary line shooting the breeze for half a mile. When he suddenly stops and says the corner should be about here, it is. I’d never come anywhere near close without a compass and hip-chain.