Despite freaking out over some EC ideas I did manage to do some reading in Ready Ref Sheets, still one of the best products ever made for the hobby. The passage below, from page 38 (under the heading 'Population Density') leapt out at me. It was something I had obviously read before, but only this time did its importance sink in.
The wilderness map assumes all hexes are lightly wooded excluding mountains. The woods shown are especially dense, requiring horsemen to walk mounts. The only true clear terrain hexes are those within and adjacent to the names of plateaus and plains. ... When entering a hex containing a village, tower or castle, a 6 on a six-sided die indicates that the feature in question has actually been found, a 5 indicating that a small farm or hamlet (10-60 population) has been found instead. Players following a road, coastline or river that intersects a village, negates the necessity of 'encountering' same.By "the wilderness map" I assume that we're talking about Wilderlands campaign maps. If so, these sentences go a long way towards making the Wilderlands a lot more wild. A crapload of apparently empty hexes on the maps become Light Woods for purposes of movement and sighting. That should work to isolate more communities from each other, especially when you add in the search rules at the end. "Holy crap we've spent how many days in this one little hex and still haven't found the wizard's tower?"