"See that peak over there?" Rafe said, pointing east at a solitary snow capped mountain. "We're heading that way. That peak is called Old Baldy because it has snow on it year round. We're not going there, but we are heading in that direction and using it as a landmark. One of the first things to learn about living in the wilderness is not getting lost. We find where we are by using landmarks and topographical maps."
"Check your compass and turn north, now turn the dial so it lines up with Old Baldy. See exactly what direction Old Baldy is. We will be heading east-north-east." He showed Tobal how to use the lensatic compass, turning the dial with the red line until it was pointed toward Old Baldy. Then he handed Tobal a cord. "Tie this around your neck and leave two long ends free. This cord is very important."
"How many feet are there in a mile? 5280 ft. in a mile, right? That's roughly 1760 yards or long foot steps. Can you take a three foot step? Take a three foot step and count keeping track of every mile you go east-north-east. Because of the rough country it will be difficult to always take big enough steps but we need to try. Tie a knot in the cord every 880 paces or so. That will be roughly ½ mile. Now take out your map."
Tobal reached into his pack and pulled out the map.
"Lay it on a flat surface with the top pointing north. North is always on the top of maps. Use the compass to make sure the map is pointing north."
Tobal laid his map on the ground and turned it so the top was facing north. The wind was blowing so he used several small stones as paper weights to keep it from blowing away.
"Ok, now look for some landmarks. The biggest and best landmarks are often mountains or lakes. In the winter like this it can be hard to recognize landmarks because they are covered with snow. Look at the map and see if you can find Old Baldy."
"There are all kinds of mountains on the map, how do I know which one is which?"
"You've got to look for distinguishing characteristics. Is one mountain all by itself, is it taller than the others? This topographical map will tell you the elevation. It will tell you if the mountain face is steep on one side or gently sloping". Rafe nudged him, "Look, the first thing you do is find something all by itself. That mountain over there", he pointed south. "That's called "Hermit's Peak. It's not that tall and it's all by itself. There is nothing close to it. Can you find it on your map? Look for a mountain that is not very tall and all by itself."
Tobal felt himself getting a headache as he struggled with the unfamiliar way of looking at the map. Suddenly he saw it. "There it is", he said excitedly. "It's all by itself and it's lower than the others." He pointed at a spot on the map.
Rafe took a weighted string and lay it on the map so it crossed Hermit's peak. "Hermit's peak is straight south of us so we place our string across Hermit's peak going north and south."
"I get it, that means we are somewhere on that string north of Hermit's peak!", Tobal exclaimed.
"That's right", Rafe grinned.