Wisdom for the Wilds from Louis L’Amour

On being observant and habitually taking visual note of your surroundings from differing angles when in the wilderness:

“Busy as I was now a-talking, I found time to check my back trail. A man who travels wild country gets to studying where he’s coming from, because some day he might have to go back, and a trail looks a lot different when you ride over it in the opposite direction.

Every tree, every mountain, has its own particular look, and each one has several appearances, so you look back over your shoulder if you want to know country.”

Louis L’Amour, Mojave Crossing

Consider the experience of a local California hiker named Fred Heiser:

“I retrieved my ball of clothes and carefully worked my way back downstream and almost missed my gear again. The place I hid them [sic] didn’t look at all like it did when I’d first come down and I had hidden it very well indeed. Somehow the shifting shadows and reduced light made everything look different. But I knew it HAD to be there so I persevered and found them.”

Tar Creek Adventure September 18, 2003

Or the far more disastrous experience of Raffi Kodikian, which culminated in the killing of his friend after getting lost in the Chihuahuan Desert in 2000:

Kodikian’s Defense Attorney in court: “Did you ever stop at the top [of the canyon on the trail] and take a good look all the way around you to orient yourself as to where you were?”

Kodikian testifying on the stand: “We looked at the canyon on the way in. We were looking at what was in front of us. I’d say our first mistake–in hindsight–our first big mistake as far as getting lost went was when we got to the bottom of the entrance trail we didn’t turn around and look back at what we had just come down out of. We were looking ahead. We stopped for a couple of minutes and had some water, but we didn’t really look around to check out our surroundings.”

Jason Kersten, Journal of the Dead: A Story of Friendship and Murder in the New Mexico Desert

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