Eight Numbers To Get You Out of the Woods

Dec 3, 2021Guest Blog

Guest blog by BJ Kohlstedt

In the 2021 winter issue of Minnesota Trails magazine, Alyson Levig’s article (The Gunflint Trail-Gateway to Adventure and the Wilderness of Minnesota, p.14) detailed her trip up and down the scenic Byway visiting several scenic locations along the way.  The story included a photo of the Moose Viewing Trailhead sign. That’s nothing out of the ordinary because the sign looks like one you’ve likely seen many times-a rustic wood slab on a post, painted dark brown with yellow lettering.  But below that was another sign, made of metal, painted blue and white and bearing a cryptic set of letters and numbers. They’re easy to ignore, but they might just come in handy.

It’s dark, it’s cold, and you didn’t expect to be out here this long. What started as a quick solo afternoon hike, bike or ski, led to a fall and badly twisted ankle. There’s no one around, and you can’t make it back to the trailhead because it’s a maze of trails and you’re no longer sure where you are. You have a cell phone, but reception is spotty and websites don’t load. Besides being hurt, you’re lost and hobbling and it’s getting late.  At a trail junction you spot another of those blue signs you’ve been ignoring.

USNG Emergency Markers can help first responders locate your position within 10m should you have an emergency

Those blue Emergency Location signs, found at more than 3,500 sites around the nation, give trail users, friends and family, and emergency responders your location using US National Grid (USNG), the national and Minnesota geolocation format for emergency response. Your awareness of them might just take the “search” out of “search and rescue” the next time you call for help.

The first person ever to call 911 while staring at a USNG Emergency Location marker was a cross-country skier in northern Minnesota. Scared and lost in the dark, she read the words “For Help Dial 911” so she did. The sheriff’s dispatcher asked her to read the eight digits on the sign, then sent help directly to her location, saving both her and the responders a long, hard night in the woods.

But what if you’re not standing in front of a sign when you need help in the backcountry? Good thing you downloaded the USNG app before you headed out on the trail. Even without cell service, the USNG numbers follow you as you move, since the GPS signal comes not from cell towers but from satellites, and constantly gives your location within 10 meters, or thirty feet. That’s close enough to find you, even in the dark. Learn more at www.USNGCenter.org  

About the Author

About the Author

BJ Kohlstedt is the former Emergency Management Director for Lake County and served as an EMT on their Sheriff’s Rescue Squad for 18 years. She’s also an Environmental Educator, and volunteers for SharedGeo to promote USNG. You can find her hiking, skiing, paddling or at bjkohlstedt@sharedGeo.org

Visit these trail-friendly sponsors:

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Minnesota's Paul Bunyan Trail is one of the state's best bike rides
A trip on the 55-mile Central Lakes Trail is the perfect fall family outing by bike or on foot
The Mesabi Trail connects Minnesota's Iron Range with the Boundary Waters
Walker, MN is connected to miles and miles of winter trails!
Your Adventure starts here- Stay small and stay safe with a Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association member

Keep up with the latest MN Trails news and events in our newsletter

About me

I’m Jan, the publisher of Minnesota Trails Magazine. I’m looking for that one trail, the next ride, a new discovery and other reasons never to sit still in Minnesota.

Save

More stories:

Sibley State Park in the Fall

As the Glacial Lakes State Trail inches toward completion, a new section just opened at Sibley State Park.

Physically Distant on the Dairyland Trail

If you’re ready to ditch the crowds and get some gravel, central Minnesota’s Dairyland Trail fits the bill.

Trail Pairings: Stillwater

The iconic 1931 Stillwater Lift Bridge has been reimagined as a bike and pedestrian crossing. Imagine pairing a ride on the new loop trail with a visit to two Stillwater breweries.

Trail Pairings: Luce Line State Trail

Hutchinson, MN is home to the Luce Line State Trail and 3BC Brewing. A perfect fall combination.

Trail Pairings: A Visit to Lakeville

Miles and miles of trails in Lakeville pair well with pints at two local breweries.

Norpine Fat Bike Classic Is Back With New Full Moon Tour

The Full Moon Tour lets you experience Cook County’s world class dark sky by fat bike.

11 Minnesota Bike and Beer Pairings You Should Try This Year

Reap your reward for all of the hard work you do on the bike and treat yourself to a post-ride, barley-based electrolyte drink. Here’s some of our recommendations.

Diving the Madeira

Standing on top of Gold Rock Point at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on a calm and pleasant day at the very end of summer, it was hard to imagine Lake Superior could ever turn into a deadly beast. The morning fog had burned off, given way to sunny skies and the air...

Iconic Winter Festival Celebrates Milestone

The City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival brings thousands to Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park. 2022 marks its 20-year anniversary.

Guest Blog: River Bend Nature Center

Blogger Alyson Levig takes us on a trip to River Bend Nature Center in Faribault

Visit our trail-friendly sponsor!
Whether you're an adventurer, antiquer, foodie or historian, Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range has the perfect activity for you.

Please join our newsletter mailing list!

It’s your source for sneak previews of the next print issue, new trails to explore, upcoming events and the latest blog posts. We promise to keep it brief, entertaining and relevant and you can unsubscribe anytime. We will not share your info with anyone.

* indicates required