Landmark IDs: Trust Your Memory
Lessons from the trail. Trust your memory.
The River Trail at Chattahoochee Bend State Park is an easy trail. Well marked but extensive enough to warm your knees up. It leads to a mile-long switch-back that takes you from the riverfront and into the forest.
From the trail I saw a picnic table placed by the river, a few hundred feet away, before we hiked uphill into the woods. Later, the trail took us by this same picnic table, finally back by the Chattahoochee River.
The sun was setting and we had at least two miles to go before being back at the trailhead. It was decision time.
Hop a creek and find the white trail markers, or take the long way back, following the trail in reverse—
Was I sure this was the same picnic table?
I couldn’t see trail markers on the other side of the trail. It was thick forest.
I was sure enough.
We hopped the creek, trudged off-trail and found those white markings with ease.
We high-fived each other and let a family with young children heading in the opposite direction know there was a long detour ahead.
My uncertainty: we’d have to bushwhack our way for too long to find that meandering trail again.
Reality: we found it quickly.
Lesson: trust yourself and landmarks you identify on the trail. It saved us a one mile detour we wanted to skip in a new area with a fast-setting winter sun.
Being on mountainous trails in Southern California for the past decade, I haven’t been in wide forest like this since living in England. Not being able to see distant peaks and valleys requires a different way of keeping your sense of direction.
This time, we had the river and a picnic table.