Deep in the Forest: I am standing in a forest, surrounded by tall hardwoods that are not yet dressed. It is spring, the temperature is cool, but the sun is warming the air. Before me lies a trail. It is well worn with knurled tree roots and small rocks protruding from a sparse layer of seasoned leaf fall. The trail follows the side of the hill; contouring in and out, over earthen waves. Glancing backward I notice that I can no longer see the beginning of the forest. Just a few moments ago I had begun my trek at the edge of a field. There was a break in a line of thick vegetation; I entered eagerly and have been briskly wandering along for on to two minutes. Everything about me seems to look the same. I notice no discerning features to indicate my location. A feeling inside percolates up to my consciousness and I realize that my only connection to home is that trailhead long behind and out of sight. While suppressing a feeling of panic, I stop to gaze at the colorful sheet of paper in my hand. It is a map. Not any ordinary map; But one that shows this forest with this very trail clearly marked. Not yet quite at ease, I wonder 'which line on this map is the trail?' Then I recall the odd man back at the shelter giving some instructions. I fumble through my coat pocket and pull out a simple plastic compass. "The compass tells us which way is north," I recall the man saying. "The map tells us the way to go." The man had lain the compass on his map then did some strange twisting to his left. 'What was it he was doing', I struggle to remember. I lay my compass on my map trying to recreate his example. I notice the red arrow in the compass dial drifting then settling in a direction to my left. 'That must be north', I think to myself, while hoping no one noticed my amazing discovery. I give the map a brief study. Then suddenly, jumping out of the page, is a set of parallel black lines. These I recall are all pointing toward magnetic north. Revelation! But they all seem to be pointing in a different direction than the red compass needle. Devastation!
Unnatural Sounds: Far off to my right, I hear what sounds like a human voice, perhaps a child. But now silence... I stare off through the open forest struggling to see. 'Did I imagine it? No, I heard it.' The sound didn't seem to belong in this place. Then, once again… It is surely two or more children's voices. I continue to stare when suddenly I see motion. Two children with big sticks and some adults follow behind. 'What in the world are they doing down there in the forest', I wonder. They are traipsing through some rough vegetation, or so it seems. And they're getting closer too. I look at them, then down at my map. 'There it is!' I discover a second trail just at the base of the hill. The map shows it coming toward the hill then taking a sharp turn away. I watch silently as the family approaches closer yet. The lead child suddenly turns sharply to the left and marches directly away from where I stand. My mind begins to stir. I look carefully at the map. 'If that is the big bend in the lower trail', I think to myself. 'And they are walking directly away from me, then…' Simple geometry! By imaging that the trail continued up the hill towards me and away from the family of hikers I am able to precisely locate myself on my trail. What's more, If that is where I am, then I am now closer to where I am going than those kids were to me just a moment ago.
Self Realization: I hear some rustling from up the hill. Then I see motion. Three, no four doe come bounding into view. They stop, turn their necks and stare at me. For the longest time I stare back, gazing at the beauty of such animals in such a pristine place. Satisfied to move on, they were gone as quickly as they appeared. I collect my thoughts and for the first time, I look at my map and really begin to understand what's going on. I had drawn 9 circles and a triangle on the map. The triangle represented the start of my hike, the picnic shelter in that open field I had left only 5 or so minutes ago. The circles, each enclosing a feature on this map were my destinations. The man that gave the explanation called them controls. That's an odd word, but OK, so was he. I had numbered each of the "controls" and connected them with straight lines. This represented my course for the afternoon. I must find the remaining 8 controls and return alive and safe to the picnic shelter, map, compass, and punch card in hand. I look at the back of the map at the description sheet: "Control 2, 132, Trail and Steam Junction". I look at the circle numbered 2 on my map. Sure enough, the black dashed line crosses a solid blue line a little further ahead and down the hill. The trail takes a circuitous route to my next control. 'Do I dare cut the corner and do a little cross country?' I take off strolling in that direction. No, I am almost jogging. This I am enjoying! See you at the finish!