High Plains Drifting

Do you ever have those days when you want to throw the rule book out of the window and just wing it? Do you ever think to yourself…”I can’t be bothered with he map or the GPS today? Well I do especially when I get that feeling that I’d like to get lost for a little while.

Now, of course I’m not talking about getting so lost that you have no idea of where you are or so far removed from civilisation that your reflection in some water is the only living soul you’re ever likely to see again. What I mean is that you put away the map, turn off the GPS and simply follow your noise or look to the horizon and keep heading in a particular direction if you can fathom it.

When I first got back into riding trails again I was conscious that I was being insanely vigilant about following the path that I had planned. Now, this is not a bad idea of course but it leaves little room for exploration into the near unknown.

So over the last few months I’ve been doing more off piste riding, exploring uncharted trails or even following trails to their ends and then trying to determine where the hell I am. Logically this is not the smartest thing to do however it does add a little bit of adventure to the ride too.

I often wonder what would happen if whilst out in the boonies and my GPS failed or my phone died, how would I get back or find my way home. Needless to say it really depends on where you end up and how far off the beaten track you are, but if you’re attentive, then you can leave breadcrumbs as you ride and this will at least give you the option of returning the way you came.

I don’t actually mean breaking off bits of your sandwich and dropping them as you ride, moreover I mean paying particular attention of markers along your route and log them in the memory banks just in case you ever need to go back.

One of my favourite rides starts off on a labyrinth of byways through the forests, then it breaks out onto high plains…and it is at this point where you can get an unobstructed view for miles around over the lower plains ahead. Using roads, byways and other trails, you can pick a point of the horizon and attempt to get there before it’s time to head back home.

I’m certainly not saying that this should be your model from now on but every once in a while, simply shedding convention and following your gut instinct may be the best way to go…and it will be perfect training for that time when your GPS really does fail and you have to resort back to paper maps or just road signs…heaven forbid.

Recently I heard an interesting tale about sale figures from Ordnance Survey in the UK, in that they claimed their digital sales had plateaued but their physical map sales had increased somewhat. Perhaps it’s the doomsday preppers buying out in bulk or perhaps it’s just ordinary folk wanting to have a back up…or liking the notion of having to actually read the map with a compass in hand and trying to figure out which way is up.

Regardless of the reasons for this, it’s a timely reminder that digital assistance to the rider is fantastic, however an over reliance upon it can be your undoing. Always having a good working knowledge of old fashioned map reading might be your saving grace, however drifting around not the high plains…you may just need a good sense of direction…look to the stars or the sun and create your own path home.


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