The ability to get lost is a skill many outdoorspeople have.
Some have learned it over years of experience, and others are born with it. I get it from both sources.
Most people try to avoid getting lost in the woods. I’ve long thought my dad’s goal was just the opposite. Every time we headed out into the wild, Dad would get us lost.
Never horribly lost. He always had us back at camp or the truck by midnight. Some of those trips, we wound up schlepping along in the dark for quite a while, but we never had to spend a night in a lean-to or a space blanket.
But he would get us away from where we thought we should be on the map. Sometimes, we couldn’t even find where we were on the map.
Nobody can get lost that often unless they’re trying. When it first became clear that a trip to the woods with dad meant a chance to practice my survival skills, I thought Dad was just enjoying the scenery too much. I figured he was just so immersed in the animals and plants he was seeing that he eventually stopped worrying about where he was going.
But then, after several years of this happening on every trip, I decided he was doing it on purpose. He may have been trying to teach me to use a map and compass, or maybe he was enjoying himself so much he didn’t want the trip to end. More likely, he just didn’t want to go back to civilization.
When it dawned on me that he was trying to get us lost, I thought he probably really knew exactly where we were. When he got tired of being lost, he’d suddenly figure out how to get back to camp or the truck, and the adventure would be over.
But I’ve gotten to be pretty good at reading my dad’s poker face, and on a number of occasions, I could tell he wasn’t faking it. He really was lost.
I realized Dad’s ability to get lost wasn’t the work of years of practice. He’s just naturally gifted with a gene for getting lost. It suddenly occurred to me that I probably have that gene, too.