Sunday, May 19, 2013

That time we got lost in the woods.

What I am about to tell you is 100% TRUE.

A couple weeks ago I went geocaching with my little brother Abe (who isn't so little anymore.) We had quite a few geocaches loaded into the GPSr, but decided to pick up a few that were on a trail loop in our local nature center.

At first, it was great fun. We found four or five geocaches and saw lots of beautiful scenery. The Wittenbach Center is awesome because it has lots of different terrain and habitats - marshes, meadows, coniferous forests, deciduous forest, even a little farm and garden. It's about 60 acres, but is surrounded by private woods on three sides.

We're starting to get tired, because we're fat and we smoke, so we decide to follow a trail loop back to the Center. The tree cover was pretty heavy, so my GPSr couldn't get a good satellite read and the compass wasn't working properly. Even though the trail was narrow and no longer groomed, I was certain we were heading south to the Center, and pretty soon we could see an opening in the trees. We walked another ten minutes and got to the clearing, only to realize - we weren't anywhere near the Center.

We were on a little dirt road, obviously groomed by the Road Commission. We turned right, which we thought was west, and walked about a mile. Suddenly, we see a ROAD ENDS sign, and a big fancy house. This is the point where we realized we were actually, legitimately lost.

I wanted to knock on the door and tell them I was a time traveller who needed a ride, but my brother thought that was a terrible idea, so we sat down on the side of the road, had a smoke, and decided what our next step should be.

I still couldn't get a good satellite read, but we had cell phone reception, so Abe downloaded a good GPS app to his smartphone. The road was too small to show up on his maps, so we still didn't know where we were, but we could see that we had to go southwest. We eyeballed the woods and decided to go back in, blaze our own trail, and make it back to the Wittenbach Center.

What we didn't realize is that there are no trails in that area for a very good reason. About four hundred feet into the woods, we came across a steep drop off with a creek at the bottom. It was at least eighty feet to the bottom, at about a 65 degree decline. We looked to our left and right, to see if there was an easier way down, but there wasn't.

We went about halfway down and then walked sideways along the cliff for a few hundred feet, avoiding the swampy areas as much as we could. The gnats and mosquitoes were thick, and swarming around our heads. We hiked for about 45 minutes along the hill, holding saplings for footing and continually checking Abe's phone to make sure we were heading in the right direction.

Suddenly we were in a valley. The big cliff was behind us - but in front of us was another steep hill. We stopped for a break, but made it quick because it was starting to get dark.

We headed up that cliff, and down it, and then back up another one, and back down. We could hear traffic and we knew we were headed to a busy road, probably Vergennes. Up another cliff, huffing and puffing, and when we got to the top - THERE WAS THE ROAD! The problem was, we had to hike down that cliff, across a freakin; river, and back up a cliff to the road.

We got to the river without incident. Crossing the river was a whole 'nother story. What looked like solid ground was actually mud. Not just mud - the kind of mud that sucks your feet in and steals your shoes.

I took my shoes off and made it across okay. Abe, who outweighs me by at least a hundred pounds, was not so lucky. He had to keep backing up and trying again, until finally he launched himself into a full out run through that muck, his feet going schhhhLURP schhhhLURP until finally SPLASH! He was in the river.

Crossing it was no problem. It wasn't too deep and we picked a nice gravelly area. But now we had to climb up a straight 90 degree angle to the road.

I grabbed saplings and made my way up, wiping my muddy feet on dead leaves before jamming them back into my boots. Yet again, Abe wasn't so lucky. The saplings he grabbed kept breaking off. He stood in the river for a couple minutes and then decided to walk upstream a ways, where the trees were bigger. Before long, he was up and out and we continued our hike until we got to the road.

We finally got up there, sweating and exhausted and covered in scratches and mosquito bites. Abe looked at me, huffing and puffing, and said, "We.... are the baddest ... motherfuckers... alive."
I had to agree.

Luckily, we knew right where we were - which was a quarter of a mile from the nature center. We walked back, nearly getting hit by several cars, and when we got to the car, we started laughing. Here we are - two obese, out of shape people, hiking around in the brush and woods, and we freakin' made it.

Later, I got home and looked at a map of the Wittenbach Center. We hiked approximately three miles that evening, but if we had turned around at that first dirt road and gone about 800 feet, we would have run right into the trail, saving at least two hours of rough hiking.

But we wouldn't have had an adventure, and adventures are totally worth a couple hours and a few hundred mosquito bites.



PS. My husband bought me a compass.