The essential compass.

On a recent out-of-town trip, I decided to get lost. Well, maybe not lost. I wanted to scout around, take a route back home that I’ve never used before, see something new.

I’ve been to the city numerous times for work, but I’ve always visited the same half a dozen places, and that was about it. So last week, I decided to head off and work my way back on a path I’ve never venutred.

The inevitable happened. I veered off course and at some point ended up getting lost.

And it was great.

Tooling around the city as downtown turned to residental neighborhoods turned to edge-of-town forests, I resisted the urge to pull up a map on my smart phone. If I had remembered the ball compass in the glovebox, I would have ignored it. And forget about pulling over to ask for directions, sometimes it’s better to figure things out on your own.

Ever since exploring the woods and towns around my home growing up, I’ve loved filling in the blank spaces on my mental maps. And the best way to do that is dive in and let your intuition and your sense of direction take over. That’s how you find new things. Like Goblin’s Gulch, a small private road on the outskirts of town I discovered during my drive. It’s not on any map (I’m still kicking myself for not stopping to photograph the sign).

When I was ready, I used a few basic navigation techniques to keep from going too far out. Like a big river in the woods, the interstate I usually take runs north and south, and I was somewhere to the east of it. So when I wanted to get back on track, I just headed west. Which way was west? I looked at the sun’s position, checked my watch and took into consideration that the sun passes to the south in the fall.

In no time, I found an onramp and was headed back home.