A challenging hike. It requires tenacity of upward motion. 4,000-feet of upward mobility. Even if you want to stop, your mind beckons to keep moving one foot in front of the other. Eventually tree line is met, and any hostility possibly felt for the previous seven miles abates with views. Here, the knowledge flashes that few travel this distance to expanses where the human is swallowed as whole. Here we stand as mere flecks of color in a landscape that doesn’t acknowledge our presence.
Seeing the landscape comes in a variety of ways. The first awareness comes with understanding that feet do not need supervision. Instead, each step can be placed confidently with a simple process. Think infinite. Infinite is the figure eight motion of seeing. You look left. Cross down to the right. Peer up to the right. Glance down to the left. Move your eyes back upward to the left. Repeat the process. Proficient. You see ahead, below and to each side. Now, you are seeing the landscape.
Time on trail tread peeks curiosity. What is just around the next bend? What is unseen on the ridge sitting on my shoulder? How far away is that unnamed lake?
A map. A wide piece of paper that is coated for abuse of rain, wind and endless folding and unfolding and the occasional cram into tight places because the wind is too fierce to negotiate the normally simple act of following a folding line. Now and again, this oversized sheet of paper functions as a blanket – especially fortunate when napping as a guard against sun, slight cool breezes or damming insects.
Squiggly brown lines are contour lines. Every alternating fifth line is a darker shade of brown and are called contour index lines. Follow these lines long enough and seek and find efforts will conclude with a number. That is the elevation. Contour lines are spaced with a prescribed contour interval. Some maps are 40-feet. Oher maps are 80-feet. And still others …
Contour intervals tell you what the ascent or descent of the landscape is from Point A to Point B. Tight contour lines indicate steepness and conversely wider spread contour lines denote a gentler terrain. Steepness and gentleness being relative understandings of appreciation.
Seeing the map often comes from finding a highpoint, a circular shape of some size on a map. Whether all alone, or in a line of many, decisions can be made. In a line of many, it can be seen as a ridge, a divider of one landscape view of another. This was a lesson one. A ridge can be visualized as a handrail. An edge. A boundary. A point of reference.
Using another handrail, the map’s colorful blue line, it became obvious that finding the blue line as it crossed on trail tread will give validity to location. That small tidbit of information supported the additional blue circle – small lake or pond – found just below the highpoint in a series of high points along a line in the landscape. Now, we are reading the map and seeing the unseen landscape.
Using these reference points a course to follow was agreed. Leaving the trail at the crossing of the stream, aiming for a low point to round en route to the highest point of the ridge should land the traveler at the backdoor of the hidden lake.
The first opportunity to build confidence. To trust instincts. To understand that the worst that could happen was that you landed too short of the planned course or landed too long of the planned course. Go too high and the ridge height is met whereby forward progress or retreat will eventually find the point being sought.
We didn’t have to go to this extreme. She found the goal on the first try!