Hi friends,

Let’s clear something up because we talk a lot about gear, cooking, climbing mountains, crossing streams, long miles and where to sleep when we are in the woods.

But do you know where you are going and how to get around when you’re out for a stroll in nature? That’s kind of the trick. We will get into navigation with a compass in a future post. For now, let’s keep it simple and make sure we have the basics down. On most of the trails we walk, the actual trail is pretty apparent. An idiot can follow it, right? Not this idiot. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve found myself off the trail. I’ve done it on the Appalachian Trail –  sometimes for a mile or two. I’ve done it on trails around here. You name it, I’ve missed a turn.

Fortunately, most are pretty well-marked – if you know what you’re looking for. For this post, let’s stick to what are called blazes. They are the most common trail marking you will find around here. They are typically rectangles of a particular color that are painted on trees. They show you the way. Simple enough – if  you understand the language.

The Appalachian Trail has the market cornered on white blazes. Other trails seem to be a bit more random. Blue is popular; so is yellow. The important thing to remember is that the color blaze you see at the beginning of a trail is the one to follow. If the color changes midway through the hike, you’ve switched onto a different trail. Yes, that can happen pretty easily

Here’s a handy graphic on what you need to know.

Simple enough. When I’m hiking, I often take pictures of blazes. Here are a couple of examples of what they look like.

Right turn

Classic Appalachian Trail white blaze

This picture cracks me up but a map is generally a good idea.