Getting lost isn’t usually intentional but despite its negative implications, it can be the arbiter of good fortune.

While hiking in Harriman State Park last weekend, we got lost. Our trail directions were a total fail. I pulled them from a hiking website and they sounded accurate “on paper” without having ever visited the park. Our confidence in them led us to hike without a map or even compass.

A bad decision when heading into the woods.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the wilderness and wasn’t worried when we realized we were lost. I knew we’d find our way out. Some emotional spark cascades over the “I’m having fun exploring” into the subconscious “Instinct will lead me” back to the trailhead. That doesn’t mean instinct knows the trails (that would be awesome, wouldn’t it). It means confidence and a heightened sense of awareness of oneself and your surroundings and most importantly, having an optimistic attitude that you’ll be fine and will make it out ok.

I’m amazed at the 21st century – we had Google Maps on the phone and could see our location in the park, but not the trails leading to the parking lot. The mobile service was so strong we were able to look online and eventually call the park police. Over the phone, a ranger, sitting at his desk looking at a topographic map walked us out.

He also told me about a useful phone app worth noting called Avenza. It incorporates the phone’s GPS with topo maps so you can always know your location. Kind of like Google Maps for hikers

Everybody bitches how taxes are too high and our bloated government. For sure there’s room to trim and create more efficiency, but we are so lucky to be in a country with the wealth and foresight to create the infrastructure that helped save my (and countless others) ass last weekend.

And for that, I’d like to say thanks.

Getting lost might not be the best activity to actively pursue, but if I wouldn’t have gotten lost, I wouldn’t have caught the fleeting moments captured below.

Sometimes uncertainty is the ultimate inspiration.


As always, click on the images below to view full screen.



4 Responses to “The Upside of Getting Lost in Harriman State Park”

  1. Suzy

    Ah the Avenza app. I never go into Harriman without it! I keep the NYNJTC maps on my phone, and with Avenza, you know exactly where you are on the trail. It’s amazing how many people you find on the trails who have missed a turn, or who have no idea about how far they’ve really come (or not come) on the trail. The map apps are super-helpful. Not very expensive, either. Glad you made it out!

  2. Arwen in NJ

    Avenza is good, but always carry paper maps.

    A mapping application on your phone doesn’t do any good if your phone runs out of battery or you drop it on a rock or into a creek.

    • micahbrubin

      You’re totally right. I always carry a map, compass and headlamp on any dayhike these days. Learned my lesson!


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