Lost? Not me

Aug. 03, 2013 @ 06:08 PM

I remember scouting for deer in the mountains of Montgomery County with my friend, Joe Clodfelter about thirty years ago.

Joe and I have been best friends since grade school. After roaming all over the woods for hours looking for deer sign, we decided to quit and go to Marvin Mulinix’s store for a lunch of hoop cheese and sardines. We’d found some good places to put stands, but decided that if we put stands there, we probably couldn’t find them again. Once we agreed to go back to the car, Joe started off in a direction that was opposite from the direction I thought the car was. We argued. Since we were equally stubborn, there was no resolution, so we agreed we’d split up and go our own ways. The first one to the car would blow the horn to help the other find it. The last one there would buy lunch.
I took off in my direction, and Joe in his.
As I walked through the woods, I thought about how I’d rub it in that I got there first. Sure enough, as I topped the ridge where the car should have been, I saw it. Then I saw Joe coming from the opposite direction about the same distance from the car as I was; he spotted me about the same time I saw him. The car was on the other side of the mountain from where our argument had occurred and it had taken the same time for each of us to reach it by going around the mountain in opposite directions. We both broke into a run and reached the car at the same time. Had there been someone there to see us they would have thought we were crazy. We were laughing so hard we could hardly breathe. Sometimes, I guess it’s fun to be lost.
Anyone who  has spent any time in the outdoors has been lost. Daniel Boone once said that he was never lost, but he was once “confused about his location for a few days.” I have been lost in the woods, on roads, and on water. I’m most easily lost on water at night. People who can find their way around on water at night without a compass or other means of navigation amaze me. I was once lost on Bogue Sound in the dark and fog and was only about 100 yards from the house where I had slept.
Today, there’s no reason to ever be lost again. If I’m ever lost again, it will be my fault that I left my GPS (Global Positioning System) at home. I’m a firm believer in GPS. A compass is a great thing. The invention of the GPS didn’t make the compass obsolete, but a GPS is a more useful tool for most of us. In 1974, the first GPS satellite was launched. In 1994 the full 24 satellite constellation was in place to provide worldwide coverage. The satellite signal was scrambled for the first few years for military reasons. The accuracy of the scrambled signal was about 50 meters. The unscrambled signal provided accuracy of about 15 meters. About 2005, WAAS was implemented. WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) enhances the accuracy of a GPS to as little as 3 meters.
What all this means is that a GPS can provide you with very accurate information of direction, speed, location and distance. Modern GPS units come with an internal map of the United States including many small dirt roads and trails. It’s amazing that you can carry all this information in the palm of your hand. I’ve recently been testing the Magellan eXplorist 350H; the H stands for hunt. The 350H has over 30 hunt specific waypoints. Before the season begins you can use them when scouting to mark trail camera locations, water, food sources, game tracks, bedding areas and more.
My first GPS was a hand held Magellan that weighed about a pound and had a tiny screen with a green-and-black display. It often took five minutes to find its location and was remarkably accurate, getting me to within 30 yards of a specific coordinate. I didn’t know another soul who owned one but, at the time I was an avid water-fowler, and I’d experienced several close calls trying to find duck blinds in total darkness.
While it’s designed for hunters, the 350H will also serve for general hiking and light boating situations and its light-years better than my old Magellan. The function I value most in a hand-held GPS comes from those early duck trips. The track function traces your exact path to within a few feet. By closely following the track line, you can avoid obstacles and shoals in zero visibility. The track screen also indicates how far you’ve traveled and requires just a two key strokes from startup to get it activated. Once the GPS is turned on, it has to locate the satellites and compute its position. The 350H located itself within less than two minutes and was ready to go. With the track function activated, you can mark your starting point and follow the exact path you’ve used before. In addition to getting where you want to go, you can find the foot log you crossed earlier or avoid the steep hill you walked around.
The eXplorist 350H also comes loaded with GMUs (Game Management Units). Unlike North Carolina, big-game hunting permits out West are issued for specific areas, sometimes hundreds of them in each state, and they often overlap for different species. Having this data in your GPS unit can prevent you from accidentally getting into an area you aren’t authorized to hunt. This is invaluable for an unguided hunter who is hunting in unfamiliar territory, and the first time I’ve seen this feature.
Smaller than a pack of cigarettes, and weighing just five ounces, the eXplorist 350H features a 2.2-inch color screen and is waterproof. It runs 18 hours on two AA batteries. It has a USB port to allow loading additional information like aerial photos, and is PC and MAC friendly. It also holds sun and moon information based on your actual location and displays elevation. There are simply too many features to mention in this space.
At $249 MSRP, the Magellan eXplorist 350H represents real value and is the easiest and fastest hand held GPS I’ve used. This is an item I’ll be keeping in my kit bag from now until they bring out a better one. Then, maybe I should give Joe Clodfelter my old one.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com