So you don’t think you can get lost on a simple hike, huh? You think, “I know this area. I’ve been here a bunch. I spend a lot of time hiking. I know what the heck I’m doing. Blah, blah, blah.”
Well, guess what?
You see where this is going right? Yeah, I got lost this weekend on what I expected to be an easy 5- or 6-mile hike. A quick cure for a little cabin fever turned into a reality check.
On Saturday, I went to Eales Preserve to explore what I thought was the one trail I hadn’t seen yet. It runs along 247 North and is a simple out-and-back hike. I got up right around the time the sun was coming up, threw on a pair of shorts (more on that later), grabbed my trekking poles and ambled onto the trail. You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about a backpack, extra clothes, a battery charger for my phone or really anything else. A simple out and back.
Until it wasn’t.
I did have a map of the area on my phone but that turned out to be useless because apparently there are trails that aren’t on the map. Sure enough, I ended up on one of those trails. That was my first mistake.
Everything was cool at first. I was taking photos, checking out the scenery and keeping an eye on the animal tracks on the trail. There were turkey tracks, deer tracks, rabbit tracks and even bear tracks. All good stuff and exactly what I needed – some time in the woods to clear the garbage out of my head.
I’m guessing I just missed the spot where the trail split, and by the time I realized I was on a different trail, I had covered close to a mile. Snow cover on blazes painted on rocks made following the trail more difficult. So I had to make a choice to either follow this trail I didn’t expect to be on or go back a mile and get back on the trail that WAS on the map. I chose to keep going, figuring I would eventually intersect with a trail that WAS on the map.
I did … eventually.
The truth is, I only had an educated guess where I was and even then I wasn’t sure. Anyone who hikes will tell you, it is WAY easier to get lost in the woods than you think. There are plenty of stories about people getting turned around on the Appalachian Trail, and that might be the most well-marked footpath in the world.
So my first mistake was missing a trail marker. My second mistake was how pitifully unprepared I was. I didn’t bother bringing water because I was lazy. I didn’t wear a backpack because it’s “only 5 miles.” I didn’t bring a warm jacket because I was going to work up a sweat. I didn’t bring a charger for my phone because I wasn’t going to be gone long. I wore shorts.
That’s a lot of stupid for one person.
None of those oversights were a problem … until they were. The sun went behind some clouds and it got cold. The trail that I “found” had some exposed areas where it was really windy and when it got really cold my phone was losing power at an alarming rate.
Now, I wasn’t in any real danger, but I certainly wasn’t comfortable as I tried to connect to a trail I knew. Once I had my bearings and was back on track, I started thinking about stuff that could have gone wrong. What if I slipped on an icy patch and broke an ankle. Then what, genius? You’re on top of a mountain in a pair of shorts with no warm jacket and a dead phone. Plus, it’s winter and you’re the only idiot out here hiking. Good work.
I might know better but that doesn’t mean squat. Everyone has heard this before, but if you’re headed out for a hike, do the right thing and take the stuff you need in case something goes wrong. It’s not ridiculous. It’s just common sense.
Chad Sebring is the news editor at The Times-Tribune. He has been a journalist for roughly 20 years, having joined The Scranton Times in 1999. He has won several state and national awards for headline writing, design and photography. Chad lives in Clarks Summit with his beautiful daughter, Sophie. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x3486; @chadsebring