Way-finding is designed to help people who are not familiar with the area or trail system find their way to the desired result, following along a trail, such as the Bruce Trail or find those waterfalls on a scenic driving route. There are common elements in all way-finding systems that need to be addressed if it is going to be effective:
If the above is done correctly, people can effectively find their way in an unfamiliar area. If one or two of the above items are left out or are unclear, you can become very lost and disoriented. In some very rare cases, disorientation from the marked path has caused death due to starvation and/or dehydration. People have become so lost they were been unable to find their way back to the trail and to help.
During my recent hike, I became a bit disoriented and lost the trail I was following, because unannounced to me it entered into an area, clearly signed with large “DO NOT ENTER – Authorized Personnel Only”. When I was out hiking, I did not realize this area is now public lands and no longer enforced as “DO NOT ENTER”. Instead I was trespassing on the adjacent private lands. The main reason, the trail was not well marked when it entered the area and the warning signs kept me out. Good thing I had a GPS app, compass, and trail maps, I was able to find the trail about 100m south from the area I lost it when it turned east again.
A great example of way-finding in use is the system the Bruce Trail uses. The Bruce Trail is just under 900km long plus has numerous side trails. Over the whole trail system, the main trail is marked with a white blaze, whereas the side trails are marked with a blue blaze. Each blaze measures 15cm (6”) high by 5 cm (2”) wide. One blaze means the trail continues straight. Two blazes above the other, with one blaze slightly offset means the trail will be changing direction and you are to follow the top blaze’s direction. “T” blaze, 2 blazes with the top blaze horizontal, over a vertical bottom blaze, means you have come to the end of the trail. Side trails are typically signed with a blue plaque with the naming the side trail, if there is a parking lot or loop, and how many km. This simple, clearly visible, and very uniform way-finding system helps people, both experienced and not, easily find their way, without maps nor GPS, for the most part.
In future blogs, I will discuss in further detail about the above items and will go into the four types of signs typically found which are Informational, Identification, Directional, and Warning.
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I appreciate your time in reading this post and look forward to your comments, questions and the tips you have found useful.
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