This is literally the hole I dug into the hillside on my first night in Minecraft, to hide from the living dead and the exploding death cacti. It's just north of my epic tower, and was my first base, where I put together the equipment I'd need to start building the tower.
Before I head out, there's one more project I need to finish: a tunnel connecting my house with my tower. It looks like this:
As soon as the tunnel is ready, I can pass securely from the tower to my first house, and start heading north. And after a little digging, it's done! I can now reach my first house from the tower in complete safety, with the cacti above my tunnel completely oblivious to me.
The only thing left to do in the tower complex is to continue my walkway west. Next time, I'll head north and west in search of snow! Until then, here's a view of the sunset from the end of my walkway. That's where I'm headed.
You see, you've seen the desert and forest, but there are more biomes in Minecraft. There's snow, and it just so happens that for a project I've come up with, I'm going to need some snow. There's none around my tower, so it's clearly time to go adventuring to find some! Illogically, I headed south, and after finding a nice island just to the south of the hill my tower is next to, I built a little tower outpost.
Clearly, heading further south is going to call for a major boating expedition. As you can see from the view from my walkway, it's just more woods and ocean to the west, too, with the same story to the north. I'll try east, I think, and I head over to the big sandy hill you can see from my panoramic sunrise window, and build a little outpost on that. After spending the night there, it turns out I've made camp on Creeper Hill. This is what I saw when I came out in the morning, after killing two cactuses at my door in the night:
Not to worry: I've indoctrinated myself with one important Minecraft lesson. When you come out your front door, RUN. I left the exploding cactuses of death in my dust and headed way out east.
My strategy is to keep going in one direction until I find snow. I don't really know how the world is generated, so I don't know if going north would be smart or not. So I don't get lost, I intend to leave a cairn like this on prominent hillsides:
That's my east outpost in the distance. Once you see the cairn, you can get to it, and then you can see the outpost. Build the next cairn in sight of this one, and so on. I mean, it's not like I'm going to run out of places to explore, either; from what I've heard, the game will generate new terrain up to eight times the surface area of the earth before running into difficulties!
I'll digress for a moment. There's a lot of Minecraft stories floating around the Internet, because this really is the most awesome game ever. One thing that a lot of them have in common is that people keep getting lost. On the face of it, it seems really easy to get lost: the terrain is generated, so there aren't that many very distinctive landmarks. But it isn't.
For starters, the sun always rises directly to your east and sets directly to the west. And the clouds always move from south to north. So really, if you're above ground, you should always be able to tell which direction is which. Now, assuming you have any idea which way you're headed, you should also know, at least roughly, where you're coming from. If you have any idea what the landmarks closest to your base look like, it shouldn't be that hard to find it again.
I realize that forests and undulating terrain make this a lot harder in practice, but still, I don't really see how one goes about getting lost in Minecraft without making a determined effort to. It's possible that I'm orienteering without realizing it, of course. It would be interesting to do a study into how people orient themselves in unfamiliar terrain; do they look at landmarks? Try to determine which way is north?
Back to exploring! Just over the hill with the cairn is an interesting, fairly flat spot with lots of exposed rock.
This would be a great place to build something big; I'll have to keep it in mind. The water is so low it would be easy to fill it in. No snow yet, but no sooner have I crossed the spot I just described:
Yeah, no sign of snow, but I gotta see that place! And it doesn't disappoint: an epic hill, with multiple cave entrances and at least one exposed coal seam, and more wood than you can brandish an axe at. I just might stay here for a moment...
Next up: Epic Island and beyond!