I like an occasional off-trail ramble. A topographical map and the ability to read and decipher it is a must. A 1:50,000 or larger (lower ratio) is best. Don't use anything smaller than a 1:100,000. Also don't follow in each other's footsteps as this tends to make a trail. Some kinds of surfaces are fragile and should be off limits. Obey local regulations. Don't rely on your sense of direction. Use a compass. I have successfully used a 'slope reading' technique to get through some trees on the way up a mountain. It goes like this: Once I knew where I am on the map and where I wanted to get to, I saw that I would be going steeply uphill to the right of a ridge line and with a drop off to my right. I'd be crossing the contour lines at a 45 with up-slope to my left. If I got too far left, the side slope would reverse direction and if I got too far right, it would get too steep. When I emerged above tree line where I could take a compass bearing, I was right on target. ( caution, not all types of terrain are amenable to this kind of navigation, i. e. relatively flat land lacking prominent topographical features ) A bonus on this hike; I passed within 3 feet of a Spruce Grouse, and the bird remained stock still.

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