…but luckily for me, it was in this case. Let me back up: I revisited the Blackwater Creek Trail a few days after last week’s post to take it for a run. The goal was an easy six miler from the Awareness Garden (mentioned in my previous post) to the start of the downtown Riverwalk and back.
Well, the first half went as planned. I enjoyed taking in that stretch of tree-filled solitude that slips through the woods, across a wooden traverse, between small cliffs, beneath a couple of high bridges and through a well-lit stone tunnel before it crashes into the bustle of downtown. I made the turn and headed back. About a mile into the return trip there’s a confluence of three different trails. On my way towards the Riverwalk, I paid attention to the well-placed signage and chose the correct route. On the way back, I was daydreaming and veered left. A quarter of a mile or so into this side journey the trail started going uphill (there are none on the usual section), and I knew I’d made a mistake. I kept cruising along to make sure, and a few hundred yards later blasted out into an area with buildings and chain-link fencing. Chagrined, I turned back. I buzzed down the hill and, once back at the junction, made the correct turn and finished what had inadvertently become a 7.2 miler. I shared a good laugh with a few folks when I fessed up, but it sure did get me to thinking about how easily I had missed a pretty obvious turn because I dozed off mentally for a couple of minutes.
I immediately thought of the good people who have missed a turn, gotten lost and paid the ultimate price for that while hiking. The saddest one for me is the story of “Inchworm”, Geraldine Largay, who stepped off the AT into the Maine woods to answer nature’s call, couldn’t relocate the trail and ultimately died alone in the wilderness. It took nearly two years to find her makeshift campsite and remains:
You have to hike the Appalachian Trail in that area to understand how easy it is to go off-trail and lose your bearings. The trees, the understory, all of it looks so much alike along several sections of the trail in Maine. When I day hiked short sections in and south of the Hundred Mile Wilderness I kept my feet on the trail, or well within sight of the trekking pole I planted on the trail’s edge as a marker, for that very reason. “Inchworm” had hundreds of miles under her hiking belt and lost her way. As a novice hiker/backpacker, I wasn’t taking chances.
So while my little turnaround during an easy run on a well-marked and well-traveled trail system was funny to me and others, it also served as a reminder to keep my head in the game when, in the near future, I’m enjoying the outdoors in a place that is miles from civilization in every direction…