I couldn't wait to run after work today. I am starting to get over my cold, but I didn't think I should push my luck with the planned fast paced workout. So I parked on the side of the road in Parsonsfield about an hour before dark and headed out into the woods for an easy run. I hadn't run on these particular trails in about 10 or 15 years. They were never what I would consider well maintained and they are still in pretty rough shape. Tonight there was snow, slush, ice, and mud in equal amounts. When I was still married and my kids were young these trails were regularly used for my evening runs. I'd tear through as fast as I could while Jeff read the kids their bedtime stories. My goal was always to make it home in time to say good night to the kids.
The first few miles were a little nostalgic. I was talking to myself saying things like, "oh, here's the spot where that old rabbit hunter called me a Woods Nymph," and "here's where I found that huge heavy moose antler and ran 4 miles home carrying it!" and "I remember seeing a black bear in the berry brambles along this stream one time while I was walking in here with Shawna." I hate being nostalgic, it depresses me.
Then the trail turned into a bog. Trails change over time, it's no secret. But it surprised me to find it wasn't the way I remembered it. I should have turned around and retraced my steps because it was getting dark. But by now I was on a trip down Memory Lane and I had to see it through.
I started to bushwhack around the bog. Does anyone feel a recurring theme coming on? Yes, I lost the trail. But in addition to the usual going off trail, it got dark, it started to rain, there was no cell phone signal, and I had left my light in the car. But...I did have on a reflective vest for some reason. At least I wouldn't get hit by a car out there.
It's that damned explorer gene I have. I blame my father. I can't just stick to the beaten path, even when it is the wise thing to do. So I tromped around in the woods looking for the Fred Morrill School where I was determined I should eventually come out. There were no moon and stars visible, I couldn't see any house lights anywhere, and I couldn't hear any traffic. I started to get a little scared when I came upon some footprints in the snow. Bending down and squinting at them, I realized they were mine... heading in the same direction I was currently walking. It occurred to me that I was doing the proverbial "walking in circles" that all the idiots who get lost in the woods do. I hate to admit it, but I came close to panicking for a minute or two. I started walking and running in no particular direction. I just wanted to get out of there.
I have been known to be "lost" before. I even have a little quip about it below my profile picture on this blog. Often, people who agree to run with me in the woods find themselves exploring new routes and running twice as far as they had planned to. They joke, "don't run with laurel, she'll get you lost for hours!" But we were never really "lost" on those runs. We might have been traveling over unknown trails but we were heading in a set direction and knew pretty much where we would eventually come out.
I was only worried for a few moments before I realized that I wasn't really lost. I stopped moving so I could clear my head. I told myself that I wasn't an idiot so first, I should stop walking around in circles! I had been spending time in the woods since I was very young.I knew where I was in a map in my mind and I knew how to walk in a straight line in the woods. I was fine. These were the same friendly woods I ran through so many times in the past. I had allowed the dark, the rain, and the poor footing to distract me. I couldn't see much, but I could hear a stream. I kept it to my right and followed it. It was simple, but if I hadn't calmed myself down I might still be out there running around like an idiot in my ridiculous reflective vest. The stream eventually brought me back to the bog where I had originally gone off course. From there I followed the trail back to my car.
I was out there for 2 hours and 54 minutes. Lessons learned:
1. I should always carry a light if there is a chance I will be out on the trail after dark.
2. I need to make sure someone knows where I am (I had called home to tell Dan to let Bart out because I was stopping for a run before coming home, but stupidly did not tell him where I was running.)
3. I should save the bushwhacking and exploring for days when I have an unsuspecting sucker, I mean running friend, along for the run.
4. I need to stay calm and think things through whenever I am in a tight spot.
5. No matter how benign or familiar the trail is, I have to be prepared to keep myself safe.