Archive for map

The drawing of Maps

Posted in howto, Search and Rescue with tags , on November 8, 2011 by rattlerjen

An essential skill

What to draw your map on.

  • write in the rain notebook
  • oversized blank shipping label slapped on your map case (only good in fair weather)
  • easily accesisble notebook
I do not like to draw on the back of my topo map as I need to compare it to my hand drawn map frequently.  Keep your hand drawn map in an easily accessible location.  You will be needing to access it frequently.

The map is a wonderful tool before going on a task.

search map

A map can be used to plan out how you will walk your sector.

First, Draw your sector including major landmarks:

  • roads
  • trails
  • drainages
  • water features
  • man made objects
Next, measure the length of the boundaries of your sector
Record the coordinates of your boundary corners
Then, while keeping in mind how you plan to work your sector, measure the distance to each major landmark.
Finally, take the bearings of your sector boundaries and major landmarks.
Write all of these on your map and you will have everything you need at a glance.
I like to use my hand drawn map to record not only map related things, but also for task notes.

Be sure to put on your map:

  • Date
  • Search ID #
  • Team ID #
  • Full Name
  • Task #
  • Task Start time
  • The direction of North
  • Map scale
  • Task end time

While you are walking on your task here is what you should record:

  • Direction of travel (draw your exact path on the map)
  • clues (record with coordinates)
  • Dog alerts or signs of interest and the direction he was facing at the time (coordinates)
  • wind direction along your route
  • differences between what the map says and what is actually there
  • anything else you would like to tell base when you get back
You will have everything you need right in front of you as you are doing your task.  When you return to base, copy your hand drawn map on a large sheet of paper to hand in with your task.  Simply record everything you believe base will need directly from your hand drawn map.  Clean it up so everyone can understand and you will have provided an invaluable piece of information to the search.

Lines and Boundaries

Posted in howto, pets, Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by demigorge

More lessons for the handler than the dog.

Assuming you’re not going to dump me in the middle of the desert with nothing but dunes and mirages for as far as the eye can see, I’m pretty comfortable getting around with a topo map and a compass. Even more so if it’s a recent topo map and a compass bigger than a button.  So when someone sets up a griding  sector we’ve never been to before I think literally nothing of it. It’s just another day at training where we wander through the woods trying not to fall all over ourselves and put Grom in the best possible place to make his little discovery.

Because he and I are in the middle of our testing process we use every opportunity to practice the skills we’re going to need, not only on a test, but in a real search. So the problem was set up like a light brush test, and everything about it was a dress rehearsal for the actual test we’d be running soon. Most importantly was getting an area topo map, defining our sector, and developing our strategy.  Rarely do we get to respond to a search in an area we know well, so making sense of our surroundings quickly becomes a real asset. This is the map of the area, with the redzone being the new sector. The blue line indicating my plan, and incidentally what I thought I did at the time.

So we set out along the road on the south side of the sector, which I have determined in 200 meters to the west end where my unmarked boundary should run along a drainage. This is the boundary I have chosen to work first since it’s an easy shot almost due north to the stream, which is my north most boundary. It should be a simple task of counting 120 steps and then turning north.

Looking for a drainage

When I get to 119 steps I look around and realize I don’t see a drainage to my right. In fact what I see to my right is flat, wide, and open. But if I walk another 30 paces, there’s a nice drainage right beside it. Simply put, I think it’s a good thing my counting ability is not being tested because I would have failed that part.

But if you look at the GPS track that recorded my path, as well as the path of two other people who worked the same sector, you’ll notice we all overshot the boundary. One of those tracks was actually recorded by the person who was looking at the GPS as he was walking the line, and even he missed the boundary.

what actually happened.

It did not turn out to be a huge issue in this case. Even though we were out of our sector, and technically didn’t know where we were at the time, all the dogs were able to put their noses on the subject. So it didn’t affect the outcome of the problem, but it did point out a couple of things for me.  Not least of which is that this is how you get holes in your grid pattern.

More importantly though,  I need to put a little more trust in my pace count. Even having a GPS will not always put you exactly where you want to be.  Also, If you go looking for a terrain feature, you will find it. But it, and consequently you, may not be where you think you need to be.

Sit! Staaaaaaaaayyyy.  Wait for it.  Good Boy!

(The second half of this post will be posted later)

Survival Weekend: After Lunch

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by rattlerjen

The buffet, it was massive!  Really folks, you probably could have ordered a few pizzas and been done with it. There were three kinds of sandwich meats, four cheeses, deli mustard, onion rolls, creamy potato salad, bagels, donuts, gatorade, soft drinks, chips, cookies, and food galore.

On our packs went and waddle waddle waddle our feet shuffled.  To the other side of base camp our destination was.  To a graveyard in the middle of a forest, creeeeeeepy!  Down a trail and up a creek was the path to take.

I don’t think this trail is on the map.  Bullocks!

No problem, just look at the nice beetle that clicks and pops like popcorn. DISTRACTION!  How is that for self defense!  BOING!

We split off into multiple groups to try different routes.  I decided to tag along with a newer volunteer in our organization.  This was the very first time she had done orienteering.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to learn more.  Rob must have sensed trouble and decided to tag along with us.  (I could get lost in my own sock drawer.)  We let the new woman do all of the navigating.  I succeeded in clearing up a bit of navigation confusion, Yay me!  Then proceeded in confusing us both a minute later.

We stood at a joining of two drainages, which is the correct one?

Rob is the Awesome.  He taught us a few new skills so that we were able to figure it out ourselves.  All you have to do is point your compass up each drainage and determine the bearing it follows and match that to the map.  Spiffy!

I learned that most trail maps are out of date and possibly useless; topo maps are the bomb.

The cemetery turned out to be a charming little plot of a half a dozen old stone markings surrounded by a little metal fence like what you would see around a really nice garden.  The area past the graveyard opened up into a gorgeous bright green meadow.

Rob started pulling bark off of a dead cedar tree.  GOLD!  I stuffed a ziplock bag full of the magical paper thin strips.  We gathered together with the others under a tiny canopy of trees.

That is when we found out what the heck was in Chris’s bag.

Are you sure this is big enough?

She came prepared man!  The whole team could probably use that thing as a shelter.  After teasing our poor team member, we decided to have a bit of fun.    At her expense of course.

We learned three valuable ways to make a shelter:

Shelter burrito,


and Lean-to.

When constructing your shelter of choice don’t forget your pink string.

This of course matches your pink knife, pink water bottle, pink clothing, pink….

*Cough* umm yeah.  What were we talking about?

Up Next, How to Make a Fire or How not to burn yourself.

Survival weekend training fun

Posted in life with a working dog, pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by rattlerjen

Every year our team has a survival training weekend. This was my first time participating.
We had the great pleasure of Rob Spieden to teach the class for the entire day.

A flurry of emails before the weekend quickly spoiled any hope of me losing any weight during the weekend and dashed my hopes of eating beetle stew.  A great pot luck feast was brewing amongst the team.  My husband and I brought two dozen donuts.  I sat them on the classroom table near enough food to feed three times the class’s partipating number.

We had just enough time to finish our coffee and donuts before Rob decided classrooms are boring.  After a wonderful introduction to the use of maps and compass, most of us already had one or two classes under our belts on the subject, we staggered outside.  Under the weight of our packs and maps in hand, we staggered into the woods to find our first orienteering marker.learning to navigate

This marker is a four foot tall wooden post with the top painted orange and a white number carved into the side.  We had to bushwack by a route through the woods to find it.  Our small group of troublemakers walked straight down the road where it comes to a stop at another road crossing it.  We then cut into the woods and down a drainage nearly straight to the marker.  It was the easy route.

With a simple walk upstream we walked nearly right into the marker.

On a lovely carpet of bright green moss we sat and waited for the other groups to catch up. They had taken more challenging routes and found the marker soon after we did.  On the perfect area for maximum relaxation, we learned about the Rule of Threes.  A simple list of things to remember in order for a human to survive.

Then, we whipped out the knives.  Big ones, little ones, pink ones, serrated ones, ones with scissors, ones with saws.  Some people had multiple knives. Some had enough knives to belong to the circus.  A few had knives that belonged on the set of Crocodile Dundee.  We like the knives.  A good thing too.  A decent knife is an important item on the list of 10 Essential Survival Items.

box turtleEveryone was instructed to find the next marker on the side of a steep hill.  I joined a group that decided to walk upstream counting drainages in order to find our marker.  A slow turtle and gorgeous warty little red toad later, we aimed ourselves up a steep drainage.  red toad

God, I am out of shape.orienting the map with no compass

At that marker we learned how to relate what can be seen on a topo map to true life.  Some people can do this crazy runnin around in the woods without a compass.  Now, that is quite cool!

It was then decided by unanimous vote that it was time for LUNCH!

I suck at Geocaching

Posted in life with a working dog, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by rattlerjen

But my dogs are great at it.

As a search and rescue team member, I am going to have to be good at reading maps and using a compass. I have to be really good at it.  With only one orienteering course in the area, I needed to find another way to practice.

I have had an interest in geocaching.  What would happen if I took away the GPS?  The perfect land navigation practice around.  With over one million geocaches hidden all over the world.  I certainly had enough to choose from where ever I may be.  I could trust the location of the placed caches as they are placed at the coordinates using a GPS and are checked by dozens, even hundreds of others.

All I needed was a topo map of the area, a compass, and a grid square.  The topo maps I printed from my National Geographic Topo! software.  I was good to go.

grid squareI tried to find the first cache by shooting a bearing from the end of the cul-de-sac.  A huge jumble of rose brambles and a need to walk down the middle of a muddy stream put an end to that idea.  Instead I just looked at the map quite closely and used the grid square to determine the distance I would have to walk from the stream to the geocache location on the hill.

Right on the point of the hill I was heading for, there was a huge downed loblolly pine tree still with its green needles on.  This was a perfect target. I counted my steps and found myself right where I thought I would be.  The pine must have fallen quite recently, even pine cones were still dangling from thin branches. I was just on the Southwest edge of a hill before it dipped into a three fingered hollow further west.  The geocache should be right here!  Grom and Heidi spent a good part of the time tripping me, each other, and themselves.  Brand new downed trees were everywhere from the recent snowstorm, winds, and rain.  This was not going to be easy.

After a good thirty minutes of crawling around downed trees and splintered tangles of branches, I sat down.  Both dogs plopped happily at my side.  After only a minute, I decided to go back to the road and start over.  Maybe I should try for the other cache first.  It very well could be that this cache was washed away.  Grom zoomed around the hill with his leash dragging behind him.  After taking a gainer attempting to dodge branches and getting wrapped up I let the dog drag his leash.  I spotted a small plastic box just sitting out in the open covered in camo duct tape.  Ahhh! here we go.  This little guy obviously got washed down the hill.  Happily unsnapping the lid, I found a tiny book with a bunny farming tomatoes on the front.  Skunked!  This was not a cache, this was a letterbox!  I nestled the letterbox securely between the roots of the nearest tree and wandered back to my starting place.


they are there somewhere

This time I shot a bearing from the stream and followed waypoints marked by chosen trees along my path.  Strangely the bearing took me directly along a real path.  About 200 meters from where I started, I beared left and started looking.  Nearly every tree had a small hollow or hole perfect for a cache.  No go.  For fun I walked to the end of the path and its intersection with the road and shot a bearing from there to the cache.  Right back to the same spot. Hrmm.  Back to the road and walked due west.  There was a distinct curve in the road and I shot a bearing off that on the map from where the cache would be.  I walked away from the road until my bearing to the road matched in real life what it said on the map.  Nearly at the same place I was before.  OK it has to be around here somewhere.  I walked a bit further back in the woods and found it in a huge hole in a tree.  The darn thing was so big, both dogs went in!

Finding the cache I could not find earlier by simply shooting a bearing and walking straight along it to the cache worked like a charm.

This map stuff really works.  Cool!

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