The use of Signals and Indian Signs

Smoke signal
The Smoke Signal. Frederic Remington. 1905.

Without modern forms of communication, a system of signals would take on great importance. In ages past, there were common signals that were in use but with the passage of time they have been forgotten or have been sidelined. The subject of signaling in the wilderness has been referenced before on this blog but this detailed account of the use of signals was interesting. I found these in “The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore” by Ernest Thompson Seton, 1912.  Growing up in Tennessee, I had heard of the signal used by Indians where tree branches were broken and turned to mark a path but the rest of the signals in this collection were new to me.

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What to do when you are lost in the wilderness

Green River Canyon
Green River. Canyon of Lodore, unidentified man standing with foot on dead tree, hat in hand, side view, with the river behind him and the canyons rising on either side of the tree.

Having never been truly lost while hiking, I imagine that it’s terrifying. In the world of GPS I have an artificial reliance on technology to keep me on the straight and narrow.  The entry below is the second part of 3 having to do with navigating mountains and wilderness from “Mountain Scouting, A Hand-Book for Officers and Soldiers on the Frontiers” by Edward S. Farrow, U.S. Army, 1881. Near the end of the explanation Farrow explains through numbers how to calculate your escape. Math is not my strong point so lets just say it took several readings for me to grasp what he was saying. In the coming days I’ll be researching the next and final entry in this series about mountain travel covering ways to signal for help when you are lost in the wilderness.

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How to start a campfire without matches

Lou Ambers cooking over a campfire, using a tin can on a stick, from New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

This advice for starting a campfire without matches came from “Mountain Scouting, A Hand-Book for Officers and Soldiers on the Frontiers,” by Edward S. Farrow, U.S. Army, 1881. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have methods other than those described below. Please respond in the comments.

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