On Saturday, The Girl, Rapunzel and I decided to go geocaching. I programmed some caches into the GPS, we packed a picnic lunch and off we went. We decided to do the easiest, single cache first, then stop for lunch, then hit as many of the other as we had time for. And, as is so often the case, fate got wind of our plans and said, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
We started off up a gravel path, headed for the cache. About halfway up, we had the typical question of “which way?” The GPS points you to the right coordinates as the crow flies, and since that straight line is often through impassible areas, it causes problems. Since we are not crows, nor can we fly, we have to try and figure out which path or trail is going to get us to where we need to go . Sometimes we guess correctly and sometimes some backtracking is required. This time it was the latter. Which is fine – we don’t mind a little extra hiking – it’s good exercise. But we were all a bit hungry and were anxious to get there so we could head back and eat.
Eventually, we reached the inevitable point where we would have to go off-trail. We bush-whacked our way to the general area and after the usual “OMG, we can’t find it” drama, we located the cache, made our trades, signed the log and patted ourselves on the back for being so awesome. Then it all went to shit. We had to climb out of a small ravine, which – the day after heavy rain – was slippery and muddy – at least when going up. I went first to pave the way for The Girl and proceeded to slip and start to fall. As I was falling, I grabbed and roots and branches to catch myself. And as I let go of one of those (sizable) branches, it snapped back and hot me in the face. Directly in the eye. Somehow I managed to not cry like a little baby and got up the bank. I pulled The Girl up and then Rapunzel came. As she was coming through, a large jagger branch swung towards her. I grabbed it to keep it from hitting her in the face. And it turned out to be the kind that releases its thorns. So I cane away with a handful of tiny, sharp splinters. Awesome.
Once I tended to my wounds, we headed out. And then – for the first time in all my years of playing in the woods – I got lost. Not lost, exactly, but I couldn’t find the place where we went off trail. I knew the direction of the trail, but we couldn’t get to it without going through thick, high brush. Clearly, there was a way, since that’s how we got there, but we could not find it. It didn’t help that we were all starving, plus The Girl was whining. Finally, we found a trail, but not the trail we were looking for. We had to decide which way to go. We chose the way that 1) looked like it would lead us to the original gravel path we were on before we backtracked to the dirt trail, and 2) went in the direction closest to the waypoint of the car. But between the whole “crow flies”/GPS issue and the crazy-ass, step-hilled, switchback nature of the trails? We chose wrong.
While we were never really lost since we were on a trail the entire time – it was exhausting and frustrating. And we were too far along on the trail to want to turn back. I knew we’d come out somewhere, but I was afraid of where that would be. We hiked for a LOOOONG time. And the last mile or so of the hike was all uphill. A HUGE hill. Every time the trail looked like it was leveling out, we came around a bend to see yet another steep climb ahead of us. By this time, I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly where we were going to emerge from the woods and I was right. On a high-traffic state route with no sidewalks – making it a dangerous place to try and walk.
I was never so bummed to be right.
We were happy to be on the main road, but we knew we had another long hail ahead of us. A couple miles down DangerRoad to get to the park access road we needed. Then another mile or so down that road. Then two or more miles through the park (also not easy walking) to get to the car. All of us hungry and tired and lugging backpacks and a pissed off six year old.
Just before we headed off down DangerRoad, I noticed an elderly woman in her driveway across the street and I decided I had better verify that we were going in the right direction before we started walking. She told me we were and we talked for a few minutes. As I ran back across the street, her husband and sister-in-law pulled into the driveway t pick her up and she yelled over and asked if we would like a ride.
I debated a few seconds, because I really didn’t want to teach The Girl that it was OK to take rides from strangers, but quickly came to the conclusion that HELL YES we wanted a ride. I figured I’d talk to The Girl about it afterwards. So we piled in the car with them and spent the next 5 minutes on the most harrowing ride ever. The guy was pushing 90 and he drove not only like a 90 year old, but like an insane, homicidal, 90 year old who spent the morning smoking crack. Seriously – that ride was scarier than the entire lost-in-the-woods hike. Luckily, we made it intact to the head of a trail that led to our car and we only had to walk about a half mile or so to get there.
When we got there, we grabbed our blanket and cooler and got settled in for a picnic lunch. While we were eating we realized that, despite everything that happened, we actually had a really fun day. And a bonus? Food always tastes better after you narrowly avert death.