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Lost art of urban direction-finding

How to find the true north that isn’t a bar

Ferdinand Magellan: Slain in the Philippines attempting circumnavigation before it was cool
Ferdinand Magellan: Slain in the Philippines attempting circumnavigation before it was cool

Dear Hipster:

How do I find true north? It’s not like I think I actually need survival skills for my occasional camping trips in East County, but it would be cool to know. Obviously, I mean without a compass. And without using a compass app, either. Or a GPS.

— Stan

During the Age of Hipster Exploration, which some people refer to as “the late 2000s,” adventuresome hipsters sought a mythical Northwest Passage. Hipster cartographers of the day postulated a direct, overland route from Brooklyn, New York, to Portland that would bypass the flat, mostly agricultural territories between the two major cities. In those days, the prohibitive costs of transporting Stumptown Coffee to Williamsburg cafés incited a mob of seven or eight hipsters to put on Cleveland Indians jerseys and ironically dump coffee grounds off the Brooklyn Bridge. Allegedly, a passing bicycle cop threatened to, “Write them all tickets for littering if they didn’t get their hipster asses off the bridge by the time he rode by again.” Struggle is real.

Many hipsters failed to complete the Northwest Passage and found themselves stranded partway through the voyage. Some say this is how the hipsters first landed in places like Milwaukee and Minneapolis–St. Paul, though the locals disagree, claiming a native hipster population unpolluted by coastal hipster exploration. Though they never discovered the mythical overland route to Portland, those legendary hipster explorers agree that packing up the VW Westfalia with 2–4 of their closest friends was a great idea, and that the memories encapsulated in the Tumblr photoblog of the journey will last a lifetime.

Wherever they went, those brave and pioneering hipsters relied on a hipster mariner’s trick to find north, even when their iPhones ran low on batteries. It’s said that experienced navigators could use the magnetic qualities of extra-hoppy craft IPAs to fashion crude compasses for road trip navigation. Sadly, the art has been lost in the era of the modern hipster.

I’ve heard that it’s possible to determine the cardinal directions by planting a stick in the ground (about 2´–3´ high), marking the ground at end of the stick’s shadow, waiting 15 or 20 minutes, marking the end of the shadow again, connecting the two marks with a line that will determine your E-W directions, and then drawing a perpendicular line to establish N-S; but who has time for that?

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Ferdinand Magellan: Slain in the Philippines attempting circumnavigation before it was cool
Ferdinand Magellan: Slain in the Philippines attempting circumnavigation before it was cool

Dear Hipster:

How do I find true north? It’s not like I think I actually need survival skills for my occasional camping trips in East County, but it would be cool to know. Obviously, I mean without a compass. And without using a compass app, either. Or a GPS.

— Stan

During the Age of Hipster Exploration, which some people refer to as “the late 2000s,” adventuresome hipsters sought a mythical Northwest Passage. Hipster cartographers of the day postulated a direct, overland route from Brooklyn, New York, to Portland that would bypass the flat, mostly agricultural territories between the two major cities. In those days, the prohibitive costs of transporting Stumptown Coffee to Williamsburg cafés incited a mob of seven or eight hipsters to put on Cleveland Indians jerseys and ironically dump coffee grounds off the Brooklyn Bridge. Allegedly, a passing bicycle cop threatened to, “Write them all tickets for littering if they didn’t get their hipster asses off the bridge by the time he rode by again.” Struggle is real.

Many hipsters failed to complete the Northwest Passage and found themselves stranded partway through the voyage. Some say this is how the hipsters first landed in places like Milwaukee and Minneapolis–St. Paul, though the locals disagree, claiming a native hipster population unpolluted by coastal hipster exploration. Though they never discovered the mythical overland route to Portland, those legendary hipster explorers agree that packing up the VW Westfalia with 2–4 of their closest friends was a great idea, and that the memories encapsulated in the Tumblr photoblog of the journey will last a lifetime.

Wherever they went, those brave and pioneering hipsters relied on a hipster mariner’s trick to find north, even when their iPhones ran low on batteries. It’s said that experienced navigators could use the magnetic qualities of extra-hoppy craft IPAs to fashion crude compasses for road trip navigation. Sadly, the art has been lost in the era of the modern hipster.

I’ve heard that it’s possible to determine the cardinal directions by planting a stick in the ground (about 2´–3´ high), marking the ground at end of the stick’s shadow, waiting 15 or 20 minutes, marking the end of the shadow again, connecting the two marks with a line that will determine your E-W directions, and then drawing a perpendicular line to establish N-S; but who has time for that?

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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