Off-Trail: Outdoor Skills for Conservation Workshop

Compass in hand
Summer interns 2015 Trina and Tomas
Tomás Nocera and Trina Lafata at Outdoor Skills workshop

Our two summer interns--Trina Lafata and Tomás Nocera--attended the Off-Trail: Outdoor Skills for Land Conservation workshop in early June and share their experiences.

The end of our first week brought us to Deerfield, NH, whereupon we met with local volunteers at the Bear-Paw Regional Greenways office to be involved in a short workshop on navigating through the woods. The workshop gave us a chance to learn and practice off trail navigation skills using a map and compass, in addition to understanding property survey maps and conservation easements. We began our day learning about the Deerfield Freese Town Forest, compass reading, and map surveying. Afterwards, we headed out to the property and began our trek through the woods with only a compass and map in our hands.

Compass Training 2015 View of Marsh
Navigating in the woods can take you to some nice places!

You count quietly in your head the paces you take. You stop and look down at the compass adjusting yourself to point a certain degree North, South, West or East. Along with a map, we crisscrossed swamps, hills and forest to marked points. With both an indoor orientation and field component this workshop was extremely helpful in teaching me how to read map surveys paired with a compass, then expanding the core concepts and elements to navigating through the woods. I found myself quite mesmerized with the fact that for a couple thousand years, when the first compass was invented until now, we can traverse and navigate ourselves through any terrain. 

Trina Lafata with compass
Trina with compass in hand

As I was standing facing the corner I was happy to see that so was everyone else. Yes! I was successful while using my compass the first time. Next, I found myself standing in a group of people after we were asked to walk 100 ft. I had no idea how far 100 ft was but it seemed as though no one else did either. Most people had over guessed and walked too far. After this exercise we learned all about pacing and how it is crucial for us out in the woods.

Boundary tree
Marks on a tree show the property boundary

This workshop helped me learn a lot about navigating, compass orientation, using a survey map, and building upon concepts that I have learned through my courses and field work. By working with a  group I was able to both receive and give help so that by the end of the day, each of us could individually walk a path to any point by only using the compass. I have since been able to use what I learned on my other projects conducting Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) plots with the UNH Woodlands and Natural Areas.

Throughout the day we hiked along the woods to six marked points, all the while changing our bearings to arrive at our location. Each spot was unique and full of history; from an old sugar maple farm to a vast lake draining into a river basin, I not only learned how to navigate off trail but I soon found meaning to the quote “not all who wander are lost”. Getting lost has never been more fun!

Overall we had a great and successful time. We look forward to the rest of the summer!