|The view from the top of the tower. ("I'm flying! Jack!")
|Things are getting interesting.
After 30 minutes I hit a fork in the trail and rather than continue on the “easy” leg back to the parking lot, I decided to take a longer route down to the shoreline, Robert Frosting it all the way.
The trail narrowed and nearly disappeared. And now I'm hurdling and ducking fallen trees--whee! The flat trail dropped into a near-vertical descent, and I picked my way down a damp and rocky staircase, dodging gnarly-ass roots, slipping on wet rocks, and grabbing nearby tree trunks and branches to avoid tumbling ass over teakettle down the cliff.
|I got a rock.
|Yeah yeah, cool tree but where TF am I?
Down by the water, the trail became an ankle-twisting sequence of slick, jagged rocks and roots and black mud interspersed with rushing streams and vernal pools. I was now on a Ninja Warrior obstacle course I did not sign up for. I began to encounter “Dial # for Emergency” signs at regular intervals. Clearly, this trail had a history of snappy ankle comebacks.
|Hello! Do you like wet socks?
|Awesome! Trolls and shit.
I checked Google Maps on my phone—I was somewhere pale green. I dropped a pin to help a future search team find my decomposing body. I had visions of Burt Reynolds’ sharp, pink protruding femur and listened for the distant strains of banjo-pickin'. I’d been so focused on leapfrogging from rock to rock to forge more than 67 brackish puddles that I’d missed my turn. Sure, the scenery was gorgeous and I was accompanied by early spring butterflies and chickadees and it all smelled much nicer than Highway 41, but I wanted OUT NOW GODDAMMIT. The trail was gone, baby gone. I was completely off-roading it. The wind had gone from gentle breeze to ominous gale and the sun had been devoured by a black-hearted, slobbering forest beast.
|Definitely a gaping maw.
After the fourth emergency signpost I thought about turning around to retrace my steps; but I’d had to actually crabwalk over some big rocks back there, and my knees sent up a flare: hey numbskull, we’re middle-aged, remember? Anyway, the path had to end somewhere. Right? Maybe Iowa? Just then I saw some trail markers—and other hikers! I nearly sobbed with relief and hugged them but I was still too busy trying to avoid a compound shin fracture. Back in my car (up at the top of the cliff), my hips informed me that they would be filing a formal complaint. My Fitbit registered 60 flights of stairs and 101 minutes of panicked hiking.
|Ha, wet toes are fun!
So, to summarize: stay out of the woods alone and fuck Robert Frost; take the road that's positively littered with candy wrappers.