When You Strike the Trail

For any journey, by rail or by boat, one has a general idea of the

direction to be taken, the character of the land or water to be crossed,

and of what one will find at the end. So it should be in striking the

trail. Learn all you can about the path you are to follow. Whether it is

plain or obscure, wet or dry; where it leads; and its length, measured

more by time than by actual miles. A smooth, even trail of five miles

will not consume the time and strength that must be expended upon a

trail of half that length which leads over uneven ground, varied by bogs

and obstructed by rocks and fallen trees, or a trail that is all up-hill

climbing. If you are a novice and accustomed to walking only over smooth

and level ground, you must allow more time for covering the distance

than an experienced person would require and must count upon the

expenditure of more strength, because your feet are not trained to the

wilderness paths with their pitfalls and traps for the unwary, and every

nerve and muscle will be strained to secure a safe foothold amid the

tangled roots, on the slippery, moss-covered logs, over precipitous

rocks that lie in your path. It will take time to pick your way over

boggy places where the water oozes up through the thin, loamy soil as

through a sponge; and experience alone will teach you which hummock of

grass or moss will make a safe stepping-place and will not sink beneath

your weight and soak your feet with hidden water. Do not scorn to learn

all you can about the trail you are to take, although your questions may

call forth superior smiles. It is not that you hesitate to encounter

difficulties, but that you may prepare for them. In unknown regions take

a responsible guide with you, unless the trail is short, easily

followed, and a frequented one. Do not go alone through lonely places;

and, being on the trail, keep it and try no explorations of your own, at

least not until you are quite familiar with the country and the ways of

the wild.