Friday, April 29, 2022

I Once Was Lost ...

Last weekend my college roommates and I rented a house in Door County—I hadn’t seen two of them in over two years, and it was such a lovely reunion. I haven’t laughed that hard in months…maybe years. I love these amazing women, and I’m so grateful we met (nearly 30 years ago!) 

We're down one due to Covid--boo!

We parted on Sunday, and the weather was mild enough that I decided to take a hike at Peninsula State Park. Get some exercise, get my nature fix; I had a state park sticker on the car and it was on my way, so why not? The first leg of the journey was uneventful—sunny skies, smooth trails, no other hikers whatsoever. Just me, a few chatty woodpeckers, and the crisp cedar forest.  Bliss. 

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.

First mistake.

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.

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