Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lost in the Woods part I

Some of my favorite forest photos are from the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.  I had my nice camera, my nice hiking shoes, and my nice husband who happened to have a nice topographic map, and we set out one early afternoon around 1 PM for a nice hike.  Within the first 30 minutes we realized that this was not going to be a "clean" hike.  Other than being covered in mud from slick, wet paths (ski slope trails in the summer), we found that many of the trails were not marked and made quite a few circles around the ski slope trails before we finally got to the entrance of the wilderness.

In spite of the minor obstacles, we were truly enjoying our little hike.  The weather was cooperating relatively well and the surroundings were absolutely breathtaking!  A few hours went by quickly as we witnessed amazing changes in terrain, foliage, and biomes.  We laughed at a delightful, yet feisty little snake, picked a few wild blueberries, and fondly talked about the bears in the area and how they must enjoy such delicious blueberries.  

Two more hours went by as we hiked along, still enamored with our surroundings but less enchanted by the lack of signs and marked trails.  In fact, after the big sign at the entrance, we only saw one other sign.  Occasionally we saw a weird rock pile, sort of a totem indicating that the trail was of some importance.  Or perhaps someone was just really bored.  In addition to being poorly marked, the trails also had a tendency to turn into nothing more than streams, weeds, and piles of rocks.  Regardless, we kept getting out the topographic map to plan how to get back to the entrance.  It was getting late and we were tired, hungry, and wanted to get back to our cabin with the rest of our family.  

We ran into very few humans during our hike.  The first small group was at the entrance picking blueberries and riding horses.  The next group we encountered hours later at a campsite, a group of college guys in some wilderness-related club.  The third person we encountered around 8 PM, cooking over a campfire and seeming quite confident in his wilderness skills, appropriately dressed with just enough gear to look experienced but not going overboard.  When we asked if we were going in the right direction, he kindly gave us the facts.  NO.

WE WERE WAY OFF THE TRAIL AND THE MAP!  There were 2 ways to get back to the entrance.  The first option was to simply backtrack the way we came.  Of course, there was nothing simple about hiking 4 hours back over a series of trails that led us into oblivion.   The second option was to keep going and climb the mountain ahead.  It was a shorter route but well known for being stocked with many bears.

My husband looked over at me to get my opinion and discovered that I was no longer there.  I was already on the trail heading back the way we came, moving forward at warp speed with determination to get back to our cabin.   We had no cell phone reception so our family had no idea what had happened.  Having packed our bags for a "day hike," we were almost out of water, completely out of snacks, and in my case, totally out of patience.   I was going to walk and walk and walk in the dark until I got home.  I wanted to see my children!

To be continued... see Lost in the Woods part II aka Some Who Wander Actually ARE Lost

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