When Maps are Wrong - My Family Travels

“So, Mason? Which way?”  The crew looked to me to answer the question, which way?  I was the navigator for our crew at Philmont Scout Ranch in the mountains of New Mexico, or, as I was frequently called, the naviguesser.  We were on our sixth day on the trail, and our map was wrong.  We were to continue on this trail until we reached our campsite.  Instead of an obvious path to take, we came to a road.  A simple dirt road that looked to be infrequently used crossed our supposed path to the campsite.  The trail did not continue directly across the road, though, I had to make the decision, left or right.

            First off, how could the map be wrong?  We bought and trusted this document to keep us safe and get us to where we needed to go.  Wouldn’t it seem appropriate for Philmont to update their maps when it proved to be useful?  Our map, my guide to understanding this new land was wrong; it wasn’t going to show me what to do.

            If it wasn’t bad enough to have a bad map, there was another crew in front of us.  As we approached them, I saw another young man like myself standing there with his own deficient map, looking to the left, then to the right, down at his compass, and then repeat.  After waiting around for them for a quick breather, he made his choice.  Down and to the right, he took his crew.

            With all of these concerns being in my mind, there was one more.  On our third day of our trek, I made a mistake.  I didn’t understand where I was and what the map was telling me.  I took my crew in the wrong direction at the beginning of that day.  We left our campsite that morning in the same direction we entered, and this was completely wrong.

            I stayed calm, I could do this.  Ok, the map’s wrong about the trail, but the elevation is still correct and I know the campsite is at a higher elevation.  That other naviguesser knew just as much as me, if not more, he could have been wrong or right.  My past mistake, it was disappointing to have messed up, but I corrected my mistake soon after making it.  I had learned to be more careful and to pay closer attention to my compass.  Past failures did not guarantee future failures.

This was it; I had to use my understanding of the compass to determine the direction we needed to go.  I had to consider the other crew’s choice of going to the right.  I had to think of lessons learned from my past failure.


“We’re going to the left.”


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