Right to Ramble
Like Bernard Shaw, who felt people should read his plays before they read his massively long prefaces to them, you may want to go to the bottom of this page to find descriptions some of my adventures in unusual places, particularly abandoned buildings. This is where I file my tours of abandoned buildings and other unusual walks.
On Getting LostGetting lost is a complex state. Certainly I would never recommend anyone get lost in an unfamiliar woods That's a life-and-death situation. No one wants that.
There is some advantage to experiencing getting lost in the woods in a semi-serious situation only if it serves as a lesson to remind you to be more careful in the future. I have been lost for a few hours on several occasions. Luckily I was able to figure things out before having to spend an unwanted night in the woods.
Here's Horace Kephart on what seriously getting lost is all about:
"A man [give him a break here, he's writing in 1916] is really lost when suddenly (it is always suddenly), there comes to him the thudding consciousness that he cannot tell, to save his life, whether he should go north, east, south or west. This is an unpleasant plight to be in, at any time; the first time that it is experienced the outlook will seem actually desperate.
"Instantly, the unfortunate man is overwhelmed by a sense of utter desolation, as though leagues and leagues of utter forest surround him on all sides, through which he must wander aimlessly, hopelessly until he drops from exhaustion and starvation...
"PANIC.— In such predicament as this, a man is really in serious peril. The danger is not from the wilderness... the man's danger is from himself." (Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft, Vol;.2, page 22.)
Kephart calls this feeling you get the "willijigs." It's something no one wants. I'll try to gather Kephart and other people's wisdom together to deal practically with that at another time.
Right now, I want to deal with the positive aspects of getting benignly lost.
I usually carry a GPS and a compass. That allows me to venture forth alone into unknown territory with some confidence.
"I do not think that one can get the best of wild life if he does not often 'go it alone,'"Kephart says, sardonically adding that professional guides may differ (p.21). I agree. To be sure, walking with others is a joy; but so is walking alone. As to getting lost, Kephart says he "would rather get lost now and then than be forever hanging on to a guide's coat-tail."
The image of guides in coat-tails is definitely interesting, but the feeling of not knowing quite where you are can be exhilarating. The notes on this website are most valuable when, out on a prescribed walk, you can say, "Hey, here's a path he didn't notice. Let's chuck the instructions and strike out on our own."
My "corpus mundi" walks are exercises in walking in a vague direction. Trails, roads, woods, cities,are all part of the experience. So are my adventures in abandoned buildings and to odd attractions and unusual locales. So are those chance meetings with people from a wide range of ideological, religious and socio-economic (ouch!—such an antiseptic word) backgrounds. Getting turned around in a city or town and having a conversation with someone with a viewpoint that is far from yours or that is just plain weird (many think that those two are synonymous) can get you simultaneously physically and mentally lost. As you grasp for something familiar to orient you, there is a euphoria in the unknown — if you're open to it.
I can't tell you how many times I've walked away from a strange turning in a trail, been wedged in the darkness in an abandoned building I shouldn't be in, or talked to someone fervently about the glory of god and said ecstatically to myself (when out of earshot, I hope), "That was (expletive deleted) amazing. This is the best day of my life!"
Here's an example. Some time ago, I took two unscheduled walks. I headed out to Greensides Farm in Marmora. Here, I walked through a field and some incredible trails on a ridge, passing little glass-fronted boxes representing the stations of the cross. The connecting Rosary Trail had similar stops for the fifteen mysteries. A huge cross, crucifixion and other amazing sights greeted me on the way. At the end of the walk, I had a good talk with the people who maintain the place. One of the operators was incredibly open and generous telling me a bit of history of the place and of two cases of the Virgin Mary appearing to two people at the 10th station of the cross. I'm not religious but I got a shot of energy walking the Greensides farm trails and talking to the owners.The week before I walked the trails, thousands of devout people had walked through the grounds.
Several hours later, I was slipping under a fence at the Marmora Mines, about to explore two old buildings. I marvelled at a man-made lake carved into the earth (the old open-pit mine) and crawled on my belly with three fellow explorers to discover the depths of an old mining operation.
A couple of hours later, several friends came over to talk about good local places to walk; I drank wine and talked about my favourite subject. To cap it off, I joined several friends at a little coffee house in the evening to play music and chat.
The best day in my life ever? You bet. Was I lost? In the best of ways the entire day. But then, there will be (I sincerely hope) many more "best days."
Of course, today's another day. They don't always work out that well, but I'm sure this one will be (expletive deleted) amazing if I put my mind to it.
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Created: March 25, 2009
Updated: March 13, 2014