16 July 2016

A Most Unfortunate Hike

Driving home with Carmen, I mentioned that it might be cool to see some old trees - specifically a virgin forest. We asked Dad about where we could find them in Virginia and he suggested we go hike in Ramsey's Draft. Apparently, there is a stand of virgin forest hemlocks at the end of a six mile hike. 

Dad was super excited and offered to take us there himself, probably because it was the first time in a while that me and my sisters showed any interest in the outdoorsy type of stuff he loves. We agreed to do the hike - longer that we had originally bargained for - and made plans to go that Sunday.

We all woke up at 6 (Susana got roped in depite having no interest or desire whatsoever to participate) and drove two hours to the head of the trail. Dad offered us the choice between an out-and-back or a more scenic, slightly longer (16 mile) loop. We chose the loop. 

The light rain should have been a sign but we kept going, even through the stinging nettles we enoutered growing over the path a few miles in. Our legs turned red with whatever toxins the leaves contain and at least one foot out eight slipped in at each creek crossing. 

Six and a half miles in, the only hemlocks to be seen were the dead ones laying across our path. Very few (we saw maybe three) were still standing after some disease killed them all. Not an issue, because scenic views awaited. 

We'd been going for about six hours already when we spotted another group coming towards us. They told us that the trail faded out at that we had probably missed the same turn that they had. The trails weren't very well maintained so it seemed possible - until we had gone over the same stretch about five times, looking for the turn that wasn't there. 

We consulted the map - what had looked like a trail was actually just the dotted line delineating the park boundary, but conveniently placed so as to look like a continuation (all the way back to the truck) of our original path. So a mile sixteen, we realized we were going bush whacking. 

We started at the top of the ridge, worked our way down the ravine (over moss and fallen leaf covered loose rocks) in the rain, trying to find the creek that led back to the trail, urged on by dad that "we really don't want to have to spend the night out here." 

Panic wasn't too far off - I began cataloging the contents of my back pack. One protein bar, one trail mix bar, a bag of mini nutterbutters, some assorted candies, a bottle of juice, two water bottles, knife, lighter, wallet, rain jacket... Surviving would be possible, but pretty uncomfortable. Discusses later revealed that all four of us had worked out basically the same internal dialogue. 

"Move fast but don't get hurt because it's a bitch to get you out of here if you do!" Great.

Finally, we found the couple from before (they had the same idea) then the creek, then the trail shortly afterwards. Two miles on the trail back to the car seemed doable, especially after doubting that we would even get to see the truck before going to sleep that night. That certainly doesn't mean the two miles were easy - my knee was swollen, we were all bleeding from scrapes (and one impaling, sus) and every muscle ached. 

Ten hours after leaving the truck, it finally came back into view. We ran. More like fast hobbled. The two hour car ride back was bliss - no pressure on blistered feet, just sitting and doing nothing. The showers at home were even better. The review of that day's events as I tried to settle into bed (difficult with the stiffness - I felt like an old lady) contained the full spectrum of emotions - excitement, fatigue, dispair, fear, hope, persistence etc... Not knowing if you'll survive danger -even a relatively small one - can inspire quite a bit. Most of all, it made me feel alive. 

At the end of it all, despite all the complaining, the four of us got one killer story for family Fourth of July dinner the next day. And I might have a topic for my college essays... Something about persistence, angry little sisters, the power of positive thinking and smiles, and walking through clouds in the rain. 


No comments

Post a Comment

© Chronicles of a Small Life. All rights reserved.