I hope you are finding time to explore the great outdoors this summer. Even if that exploration is just your local pool! While I was in Oregon, I was able to explore a National Park from the inside out. I truly learned a lot, considering I’d only ever been surrounded by corn fields and soybean fields. I think (in Iowa) the most dangerous animal I had to be weary about was an opossum. In Central Oregon there weren’t Lions and Tigers but some Bears! I definitely wasn’t in Iowa anymore.
One catch to the beauty of the mountain is that it didn’t have cell service. Therefore, when Eric, Sue and I went for hikes we took walkie talkies that all the employees had. It was nice to have them just in case we ever got lost. Or, I guess in my case, WHEN I got lost. (Yep, who’d a guessed that a 30 year old woman who can’t tell left from right got lost? This is making me rethink my winter hike in the Black Hills where I also got lost. Hmmm.)
It was a beautiful night, I’d just gotten off of work from the office at the resort. Eric was working in the restaurant and was going to be working a couple hours later than me. We both were busy that week and Sue hadn’t gone on a good long hike in a while. I decided to take a trail we’d been on before, it was right behind our campground. I was excited to go for a long hike for myself as well as for Sue. When I put my headphones in and have the stunning scenery around me it feels like a religious experience. I feel connected the the dirt and pine needles below me. The smell of the pine trees enthrall me and remind me of home, as my parents have two pine trees in their yard as well. The skies were a clear blue. I was set to have a very therapeutic hike.
I was jamming out to music on my headphones. I don’t mean just slight head bobbing enjoyment, I was putting on a concert for all the forest to hear. I decided to let Sue off of his leash, let him live a little since I was having a good time as well. This trail was encrusted with small, medium and very large pine trees. It was sprinkled with pink and purple flowers. Small little daisy looking things. The National Forest has an infestation of pine beetles that are causing the trees to die. A lot of trees have fallen. A good portion of them are marked with a blue spray paint line, indicating they must be cut down to save the greater portion of the area. The rest have a beautiful red bark and the bright Kelly green pine needles that Oregon is known for. For the most part, after a while, everything looks the same.
Eric and I had walked this trail a couple times before. After we passed an opening, we turned left, off of the trail and onto the paved road that lead to different campground. Sue and I did the same, went off of the trail, taking a left, but it lead us to a gravel road. I thought that I had walked further than Eric and I had before. So, I kept on to my left and said that if I didn’t hit pavement in 10 minutes, I would consider reaching out to someone on the walkie talkie. As I continued to walk, I realized it was going to be dark out in about a half an hour and if I was truly lost, that would make it more difficult for me to be found.
I should also mention I did not leave a note for Eric. I came home from work in such a rush, got Sue ready for our walk and went on my way. I thought I’d be back before Eric got back, and the note would be pointless. I failed to bring enough water as well. I had one 32 oz bottle, but between Sue’s water intake and my own, my supply was not enough. So needless to say, what should have been a fun hike with Sue and I, quickly turned into what I imaged my 60 minutes appearance would be. No note. Losing light. Not enough water. And no clue as to where I was.
Ten minutes passed. I was still on gravel. I decided to turn around, I couldn’t figure out if I was going the wrong direction, everything looked the same, pine trees, shrubs, gravel. Gravel. Not pavement. How could I have gone so far there was gravel still? I was nervous to reach out to someone. What if I was over reacting? If I just could walk ten minutes more, I’m sure I’d run into pavement. But what if the sun went down before that happened?
Rumors of cougars and bears circled our campground all season long. Memorial Day weekend we heard of a woman who was walking her dog that saw a cougar 200 feet away. Weeks later there was talk of a bear near the Obsidian Trail. Then there were stories of wolves seen in years past. Cougars, Wolves, Bears, oh my! I know Sue is a tough pup, but I don’t know if he could have taken on any of those. And I certainly didn’t want to see him try.
Luckily, again I say, LUCKILY, someone reached out to me on the walkie talkie. I couldn’t fully understand what they were saying, but I knew they were trying to reach me. I communicated with another co-worker who relayed to Eric that I thought I was lost. People say Eric was at home, hanging in the hammock after work, but as soon as he heard I was lost he shot up and raced out onto the road to try to find me.
He found me within five minutes of searching. Of course he did. I was five minutes from the campground, if I had kept walking (after I’d turned around) I would have hit it eventually. I was slightly embarrassed due to the fact that everyone heard my correspondence of getting lost, but all the coworkers were concerned. It could have happened to anyone, they said. (I’m sure secretly thinking I’m just a dumb corn field walker!) I was lucky I had people looking for me, in some sort or another. I was (and continue to be) lucky that Eric is so direction-ally sound.
Here are the things I learned from this experience. Leave a note. Communicate with SOMEONE that you are going for a hike, especially if you are going by yourself. Our neighbor lived alone and she would tell us where she was going and when to expect her back. Leave a friggin note. Take more water than necessary. Had Sue and I gotten more lost, I think I would have tried to find the lake, that would have been my only clue as to where I was. Also the lake would have provided water for Sue and me, if I was desperate enough. Speak up. I should have asked for help sooner, therefore not making it a more dire experience. The moment I felt I wasn’t where I thought I was I should have walkied to someone.
I got incredibly lucky. That whole scenario is laughable now, thank goodness, but it could have gone differently. There were serious threats in this area, cougars, wolves (maaaybe) and bears! I wasn’t prepared to take this hike, I didn’t leave communication, didn’t bring enough water for myself or Sue. I know now that its better to be embarrassed and safe, than embarrassed and hurt or dead.
Hope you learn from my mistakes for when you go hiking! Be safe out there, but keep wandering! ❤ afk