The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part Six – Is The Adventure Over Yet?

If you recall when the adventure last came to a close I was desperately trying to find a location where I could get cell phone service. Concerned people were waiting for word from us. It was imperative to get a message to my daughter to let her know that we were ok –  maybe a little rattled from our overnight stay in the wilderness but not seriously injured.

It’s at this point that I need to give you a little backdrop to this story. There has always been a rule in our house that if you aren’t coming home or if you are supposed to be at one place and decide to leave to go someplace else…you text or call. You let someone know where you are just in case something happens. I’m sad to report that the rule hasn’t always been followed with exact precision at our house. The rule is in place but sometimes rules are broken and if so, the appropriate consequences were handed down. Never, ever, disregard the fact that your children will remember the lessons you teach them. My daughter knows how serious I am about “checking in” which is another reason that I am really, really concerned with getting a message to her. I’m afraid of what the repercussions may be for me not “checking in”.  She also knows that I have an odd sense of humor.  Honestly, I don’t think she puts anything past me.  So for this reason, I want to make sure that she knows, without a doubt, that this is not a joke and that we weren’t pulling some twisted Halloween prank on her…not that I would ever, ever in a million years do something that thoughtless. I just don’t know where her mentality is at this moment so I want to make sure she understands that this situation is for real.

Keeping that in mind, I text:

This is not payback for you not checking in. We got into some serious crap up here. We are ok and I will call as soon as I get signal. We will be home shortly. Love you.

This is what she reads:

This is payback for you not checking in.

From what she tells me, she never got past this first sentence. Her mind explodes in total blackness with paralyzing angry freak-outs coupled with an almost uncontrollable urge to get her hands around my throat but we’ll get back to that situation later – right now, I need to get this text out.

I’m standing there staring at the words I’ve typed on my phone, praying that my one, simple, single text of assurance takes flight to her. I’m waiting…still waiting…waiting…come on! Go-Go-Go!…waiting…waiting…FINALLY – message sent! YES!!!! Now at least she’ll know we are ok and I can quit panicking because I’m worried that everybody else is panicking.

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So off we go, we are on the last leg of our little journey. My mind has eased because I know we are going to be back to civilization very shortly, I have gotten word to my family that we are ok so suddenly my troubles seem a little less troublesome. The pathway that we’ve been walking finally opens up and becomes even wider, more distinguishable and easier to follow. It’s become more of a wooded dirt road rather than an unkempt wilderness trail. I can almost smell home. These were all reasons to put pep in my step and a smile on my face. I’m feeling happy and confident even though physically I still feel like I slept under a rock in the local landfill last night. Our morning walk feels like a straight uphill climb even though there’s only a very slight incline to the trail. I feel like I’m pulling a big load of wet laundry behind me while wearing iron shackles. I’m hungry. We haven’t eaten in over twenty-four hours. Water has been non-existent except for the few slurps that we stole out of the creek as we crossed over. I’m still wondering if some bacteria induced, feverish, chill-laden poop-fest is going to hit me over the next couple of days from drinking untreated water out of a wilderness stream. It’d be just like Mother Nature to hit me when I’m down.

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I am so tired but I keep going – prodded along by the knowledge that we are just a short distance from some wonderful creature comforts…transportation, food, water, a hot shower, a bed…home. We are slowly trudging our way along when off to the left I spot it – one of the reasons we came on this disastrous adventure to begin with – the old Johnson family cemetery. I could have fallen down and kissed the ground at that very moment. I was so happy to see that cemetery because from my recollection of the the trail map I know that the cemetery is only about a mile or so from the parking lot…just a little bit further and we are home-free!

We have our sights set on returning to the parking lot as we make our way up the trail. Slowly we are passing the old cemetery’s entrance on our left. I keep glancing at it and with each step I can see the cemetery fading behind me but I can’t help peeping back for a look at it. The entrance was quite near the trail and I could see the tombstones as we were walking by.  I was mesmerized by the old cemetery and could hardly walk for peering off to see what I could see in the distance of this foggy, damp morning.  I could hear them calling me- the tombstones – the symbols of times gone by – they wanted just a moment of my time.  They needed to show me something.  They needed me to know that they represented those souls that had lived long ago.  The ones that had forged our history.  They wanted me to pause just a moment in remembrance. The spirits of yesteryear beckoned me to stop and ponder the lives they had lived, to speculate on the stories that had been born out of them and to give homage to the footprints their lives had left on our local history. I wanted to go home – badly –  probably more so than any other time in my life but I was compelled. I turned  to Russell  and said, “I have to go back. I want to take just a minute to go to the cemetery and see the graves. I won’t be but a minute. I promise” He looked at me like I had lost my mind but gave a wilted, “Ok. Girlfriend and I will stay here.”

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I turn around and walk the several feet back to my destination. A quiet calm envelops me as I enter the old cemetery. The ground is covered with iridescent white sand strewn with colorful fallen leaves casting the cemetery in a well-manicured albeit ghostly appearance. A layer of fine, gray mist hovers over the worn, weather beaten tombstones. Faded. silk flowers wearied by time intermittently dot the sparse, uniformly spaced graves – a rose here – a carnation there. Most of the sites are marked with rough, hand-hewn rocks containing no inscriptions. A few of the battered headstones contain simple scrawlings of a name and date as the only reminder of the life that came to rest here. The misty morning’s fog is glowing in an other-worldly fashion lending to the atmosphere of this sacred haven for souls long since departed. I gaze upon the darkened and aged, century year old tombstones with wonder. I’ve come here to mingle amongst them if only momentarily. The essence of the lives they represent swirls about me softly. Most would have missed the gentle quietness of the exchange but this is exactly was why I was here. The silent and sacred aura of this place affords me a few second’s solitary congregation with the legacies of those who passed so long ago.

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I was so eager to return to home, and also so exhausted from the past night’s misadventures, that I failed to take even one picture of this peaceful, silent spirit garden even though my trusty camera was safely tucked away in my back pocket.  One day I will return to the cemetery and visit once again with the shadows of days gone by. Maybe, if luck will have it, I will be able capture the true essence and specialness of that place and share a bit of its story with the world.

But for now….I’m starving and I feel like I’ve gone a couple of rounds with Muhammad Ali. All I want is food, a hot shower and a very, very long nap!

I rejoin Russell on the trail. We’ve caught a second wind and move at a good pace now. Yesterday’s picnic lunch is calling to me from the parking lot. It beckons me to quicken my steps with promises of lukewarm water left floating in the watery remnants of ice cubes that had long since melted. Bread, chips, cookies, crackers, bananas and other goodies that have been curing overnight in the well-used picnic basket await me.  I’m thinking I sure could use a ham sandwich and an oatmeal cookie right about now. Envisioning what I’m about to stuff my face with takes my mind off the walk. I’m wandering along with daydreams of string cheese and trail mix…wait…no! Not TRAIL mix! Ummm…make that mixed nuts…yeah that’s better…no more trails for me right now! And before I know it…there is it….my beautiful, black four wheel drive truck staring at me from the space where it had held a long night’s vigil awaiting my much anticipated return. My truck, oh how I love my truck and the treasures it holds within!

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About that time…my phone rings…it’s my daughter…I answer hurriedly. I want her to hear my voice and to know that I’m ok but I want it to be a quick conversation…there are visions of Cheez-its and Reese’s Cups dancing in my head. As I shakily hit the “accept call” button on my phone I hear what sounds to be a wild banshee crying out in anguish over a beloved’s tragic death. The shrill, deafening, blood-curdling voice on the other end screeches “WHERRRRRRE ARRRE YOOUUUUU!!!!” (A little flashback here… do remember the misread text? This is not/is payback?) Yep…here comes my payback. I say “WAIT! WAIT A MINUTE!! We are OK!! Quit yelling!” I don’t think she heard me because over my own words (still in a shrill, blood-curdling squawk) I hear “WHAAAAT DOOO YOOOUU MEEEEAN THIS IS PAAAAYBACK? DOOO YOOOOU KNOW HOW………” Once again, I give it the old college try “WAIT!! WAIT!! WAIT!!!!! I DID NOT SAY THIS IS PAYBACK! I SAID IT IS NOT PAYBACK! We really got into some serious stuff up here. This is not a joke. We lost our trail. It’s been bad. It was cold and raining and we spent the night in the woods but we are ok and we’ll be home in just a little bit.” I hear the rushing sound of deflating worry come across the line and then, “Are you sure you’re ok? What happened? I’ve been worried sick about you. I was up crying all night. We’ve called everybody. We called Aunt Eva, Uncle David, Uncle Dano, Jason, Angie & April & Wesley and your work. Uncle Ron and Aunt Chuckie are here with me. Uncle Ron called both county sheriff’s departments and the forest ranger’s station. They’re out looking for you and Aunt Chuckie called Uncle Jimmy.” Wonderful…Jimmy…the one call I wanted to avoid now it’s really time to start worrying. Jimmy is probably on his way up here, along with three or four other family members which means we are going to have to explain ourselves for giving them reason to come rushing to our aide – inadvertently it seems and all because we couldn’t find our way out of a wet paper bag. I immediately say “Well, call everybody back and tell them that we are ok. Call off the sheriffs and the rangers. And whatever you do, make sure you call Jimmy and let him know. I don’t want him to head up this way when we are fine. I hope he hasn’t left yet. We’ll be home in a little bit. We are sore, tired and hungry but we are ok. We just need a hot shower and some sleep. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”

After getting her assurance that she would call off the blood hounds, I once again set my sights on pimento cheese sandwiches and Rice Krispy Treats.

We rush to the truck and throw open the cooler. I grabbed a bottle of water and chug it, then I  proceed to make a ham sandwich. Just mustard – I’m much too tired and hungry to put effort into making a real sandwich complete with all the trimmings. That simple ham sandwich and plain water was a meal that I will always remember. At that moment, to me, it tasted as good as a five-star restaurant meal prepared by an executive chef.

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Russell and Girlfriend eagerly partook of the picnic bounty right along beside me. All three of us, standing in the parking lot, woofing down day old sandwiches, bottled water and snack cakes. It was still cold. All three of us were covered with mud, scrapes, bumps and bruises. We were still exhausted and hurting but it didn’t matter. We were out of the woods…literally.  It was a good day.

After we had eaten enough to recover our energy, we gingerly poured ourselves and Girlfriend into the truck and set about the drive home. As we drove along, mile slowly passing mile, we hashed over our harrowing experience and the fact that we truly were lucky to have found that last trail just when we did. About this time we happen upon a Jack’s Restaurant and all of a sudden that ham sandwich just didn’t seem so stellar. A pork chop biscuit – that was the cure for what was ailing us at the moment. So we take our place in the drive-thru line and order two pork chop biscuits a piece plus, one for Girlfriend. A pork chop biscuit seemed too lowly of a reward for all that we had put her through but at the moment it was all we had to offer.

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Finally we arrive home where we extract our mud-covered, battered and sore bodies from the truck, vie each other for bathroom use, a hot shower and then slip into some sinfully grand-feeling clean clothes.

At last our dreams are realized…hot showers, a warm soft bed and a heart full of gratefulness that we came out of our misadventures with a little wear and tear but basically unscathed.

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We slept the afternoon away and when we awoke, we started talking about all that had happened on our misadventures and making tentative plans for the next hike.

We did take that next hike only three short weeks later and when we left for our hike that day, we made sure that several people knew what area we would be in, the exact trail we would be on, we had an emergency kit in a backpack and we chose a much shorter and more traveled trail for our adventure.

I don’t how a dog’s memory works, how much they remember or how long grudges stick with them but this I can tell you, it took a LOT of work to get Girlfriend in the truck for that next hike.  As we left the house, she bounded happily out to the truck only to tuck her tail, run a few feet away and lay in the yard with her head down, staring at us in distrust.  There was a lot of coaxing to be done and many rewards given before we could convince her to get in the truck but eventually we won her over and as it has turned out, she is once again fond of going on adventures.

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I am not deterred from hiking but Mother Nature taught me a valuable lesson on the long and winding Trails of Misadventure.  If you want to play with her, be prepared to play the game right – have your gear in order, have a well thought out defense in case you find yourself down at the final quarter and make sure that you have notified your team members of the entire game plan.  In the end, it could mean the difference between winning the game or losing the game.

Do you want to know a secret? I’m really (and I mean really, really) grateful that I won this round and survived to tell this story.

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I hope you have enjoyed the story of The Trails of Misadventure. Thanks for joining us on our journey. My hope is always that our adventures will continue…

-The End-

The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part Five- Lighten Up It’s An Adventure

When we last left the Trails of Misadventure, I had awoken under a tree after a long, cold night only to be graced by a mild case of hypothermia which left me unable to walk a straight line or complete a coherent sentence. In other words, I was slogging around like I had been nipping on the nog just a little too long. Let’s pick up where we left off and see what adventures the morning holds:

As I struggle to move and walk, my body temperature eventually rises causing my cognitive skills and equilibrium to rally once again. It was a slow start but it was a start. My sister has a saying – “It’s a good day. I woke up on the right side of the grass today.” On this particular morning, I recited that mantra with all the thankfulness of a person who knew that they had walked too close to the edge of disaster. And speaking of being thankful, I was so thankful that we had found that huge, leaf-laden tree which had sheltered us from the rain under its massive umbrella during the long, cold night.

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I looked up to the sky to set gaze upon what I had not been able to see the night before having only the dim glow of my cell phone to use as a temporary flashlight. There it was…in all its glory…that big, tall, beautiful, thick, abundant…leaf…and his brother, half-leaf. That’s it? The joke’s on me. Here I was so confident and assured that we had found the biggest, fullest tree in the whole of the wilderness to use for protection from the rain. Nope….Mother Nature had pulled another fast one. Less than two dozen leaves dangled from the bountiful limbs of that sky-scraping tree. I had to laugh because everything was going to be ok. I was awake, I was back to a somewhat normal feeling and functioning at almost full capacity…still wet and muddy, still sore and still cold but ok. The final trail that we had miraculously stumbled upon in the waning hours of daylight yesterday was only a few short steps away and the parking lot – probably less than an hour. Not to mention that I had actually made it through the night without being nibbled upon by a wild boar or a three-headed wildebeest. I’m good and life is grand.

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Russell and Girlfriend rise slowly and seem to be faring much better than I am. There was definite soreness and stiffness but neither of them entertained me with the magnitude of the performance that I had just displayed with my stumbling and stuttering one-woman show. Things are returning to normal. My eyesight has now adjusted to the thick layer of morning fog that is slowly beginning to lift, my world has been set straight once again and I have found the ability to communicate somewhat clearly (not that this has ever been one of my talents) so off we go.

The trail is simple to find this time since we had not strayed very far from the trail sign that we had spotted the evening before. It’s only a few feet away and it offers a wide breadth which will be easy to follow even in the thick fogginess of this slow-rising dawn. We hit that trail with renewed energy and determination. Our spirits are lifted…we are just a short trek from civilization. We take up our mission feverishly. This was Monday morning and the world had not stopped spinning just because we had taken a short vacation from reality. Russell had a plane to catch – well he did have a plane to catch. His flight was at 6:00 a.m. I’m fairly sure they didn’t hold the plane for him. I have to work also. Let me see, it’s 6:45 a.m. now. It’s probably an hour back to the car and another hour to drive home…I’m supposed to be at work at 8 a.m. – that’s not going to happen. Oh well, I’m not sure that either of us are physically fit to report for work on this fine, glorious morning anyway. Our employers will probably understand…as soon as we can let them know what kind of predicament we found ourselves in. For the moment though, they will have to remain in the dark as to our whereabouts.

My cell is still not working. I have no idea when I will be back in service range but I hope it’s quickly. I’m fairly certain that people are worried about us. The number one person in particular that I am worried about is my daughter. She’s twenty-one years old, still lives at home and knows that I would never just disappear on a whim. I had told her that we were going to the Sipsey for a hike but not much more. It’s her that I’m most concerned about getting word to.

Then there is my sister. We carpool to work together. Now my sister did not inherit my dad’s calm nature when it comes to emergency situations. She doesn’t even hold together well in heavy traffic…I can only imagine what reaction she is going to have when she pulls up to my house and sees that my truck isn’t there. She, too, knew that we were going hiking in the wilderness and as soon as she puts two and two together and realizes that we didn’t make it back…well, let’s just say that I’d rather be the missing party instead of the party looking for the missing.  I can hear the alarm bells already ringing.

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Of course when I don’t show up for work my employers and co-workers will wonder where in the world I’m at and I’m sure they will worry a little about me also. I’ve been with the same company for twenty years. I like to think that the people I work with care about me to some extent. Why else would they keep me around for so long? I rarely miss work unless it’s a scheduled vacation day or I’m pretty sick and even if I’m sick – I call immediately. It’s not like me just to blow off work, especially without calling in. Great…that just adds a whole other group of people who are probably going to be concerned over our absence.

And finally – the phone tree. Oh, the dreaded phone tree. I am the youngest of eight children and I have countless nieces and nephews. Whenever there is a major happening within the family, the phone tree is executed. I try to avoid being the topic of the phone tree. I think I have managed to do that so far – except on a few rare occasions. It’s never good to be the topic of the phone tree. If you are the reason for the phone tree being initiated, it usually means you are going to have at least seven people, and it’s normally many more, right smack in the middle of your stuff…and most of the time, they are not in the middle of your stuff to offer congratulations on your recent lottery winnings. Don’t get me wrong…I love the participants of the phone tree but it’s usually an urgent matter and a panic-button situation when the phone tree gets initiated.  It’s a wonderful thing to know that people love and care about you so much. It’s like having your own little personal army on-call and at command but the thing is…and trust me on this one…you don’t want to rally the troops unless it is absolutely necessary. Drastic measures are no stranger to this well-meaning army of concerned family members. The initiation of Operation Phone Tree is serious business and the sirens are not sounded without good cause.  As I’m walking this trail, not happy but still very much alive and in good health, I know that I am probably about to become the biggest buzz the phone tree has experienced in a number of years.  This just so happens to be a false alarm situation. The Brigadier General is not going to be happy about this bit of unnecessary propaganda once the confusion is cleared up but, without cell phone service and no way to get word to the troops, I am powerless to stop the impending call to arms. In my mind I know that all chaos is about to blow up. I need to get to where I can pick up signal on my cell…pronto.

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With all of this in mind we continue to walk in haste, searching for even the weakest of cell phone signals. The trail is a breeze to maneuver this morning. It affords us a wide berth with plenty of walking room for all three of us. Even though the trail is wide, it’s still riddled with switchbacks, curving it’s way slowly back and forth and upward. It was like following a slithering snake through the woods with all the twists and turns. There are slick, wet leaves everywhere and it’s a slow uphill climb to traverse the side of the bluff that surrounds the lonesome valley where we had just spent the night. Fortunately, there are no more tree falls to conquer so I wasn’t about to start complaining because the trail was a bit uphill, twisty and quite meandering.

I randomly check my cell phone every few minutes just to see if I have any signal at all. Nope. No signal yet.

What about now? Nope. Let’s keep going. We have to find signal. Hurry. There are people who are worried about us. We need to let them know we are ok.

Up, up the incline of the bluff we go. Surely we’ll come out from under the thickness of the wilderness canopy soon.

I’m sore, Russell is sore and Girlfriend is limping but our goal is in sight. I don’t think we would have stopped even if we had stumbled upon a leprechaun’s magic pot of gold.

Come on cell phone. Please, I need a signal. Come on, come on. I need to get a message out.

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I can almost hear the rush of feverish phone calls being exchanged between the family troops as the panic spreads like wildfire:

“Have you heard? Russell and Lori are lost. They went for a hike in the woods and haven’t come home. They’ve been gone all night. Nobody knows where they’re at.”

“What do you mean they didn’t come home? That’s not like her. Even if something happened, she should have already called someone to let us know that she’s ok. Where’d they go?”

“Not sure. They went for a hike in the Sipsey but they didn’t say exactly where. We don’t even know where to start looking.”

A hike?? Why in the world would they do that? Why can’t they just stay home like normal people?!”

“I’m really worried that she hasn’t called. If she were able to call, she would have called. I’ve tried calling both of them several times. No luck. It goes straight to voicemail.”

“Do you think they are ok? They may have gotten hurt. One of them could have fallen off a cliff. What if one of them broke a leg and can’t walk? But if that had happened, she would have called. We need to do something.”

“What are we going to do? They are in a wilderness that covers two counties. It was cold last night. I bet they nearly froze to death and what about wild animals? There are wild boars out there. Big, dangerous wild boars. I’ve heard that they are destroying the forest. Why they even have promotional boar hunts to keep the population down. I hope they didn’t get attacked by the wild boars!”

“Wait a minute. Don’t panic yet. They are probably just lost in the woods somewhere. Of course, they are probably starving to death and they may be disoriented from not eating. They may not be able to find their way back to the car. They could be out there wandering around mindlessly, going farther and farther into the woods, making themselves weaker and weaker until they simply can’t go any further.  Slow agony.”

“What? I hadn’t thought about that! Somebody needs to call the cops and report them as missing! NOW! Tell them that they are in a black four wheel drive truck. Maybe if they can find the truck….”

“Maybe we should also call the fire department and see if they have any ideas about what to do.”

“What about the rangers? Somebody needs to call the rangers. I bet they have to deal with people getting lost all the time. They’ll know what to do.”

“We might need volunteers to go look for them. We’ll need a lot of people. The Sispey is a big place. That’s a lot of acreage to cover. They could be anywhere.”

“I wonder if we could find somebody that has bloodhounds? They might be able to sniff them out.”

“Yeah, we may need them…. to help search for the bodies.”

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“And somebody needs to call Jimmy.”

This is the one call that really concerns me. Jimmy is my brother in law. He is the patriarch saint of our family. He is highly regarded and loved by all. He will do anything for anybody at anytime, seriously, and the members of this family respect and honor him for that. Jimmy is the “go to guy” for getting things done. And because he is so well-respected, we do not call and alarm Jimmy unnecessarily…that is….unless the crap has really hit the fan and when I say “hit the fan” – I mean like incarceration, emergency room or funeral home serious. I fear the family has made “the call” – we’re going to have some serious explaining to do now.

My cell just hit a signal bar….oh…thank you, thank you, thank you! There’s not enough of a signal to make a call out but POSSIBLY a text will go. At least it’s communication…a way to let someone know that we are ok and that we’ll be home soon.

I’m cold, a little shaky and still not all that physically coordinated because of the conditions endured last night but I’m going to get a text out if it kills me. I have to stop them from calling Jimmy.

Naturally my first text is going to be to my daughter because I know she is probably freaking out. Technically she’s an adult – she’s 21 years old but that doesn’t change the fear factor when mommy goes missing overnight especially when there is no clue of mom’s whereabouts except for going on a hike in the woods. She’s been home alone all night by herself, wondering where her mom is and I’m quite sure she’s beside-herself scared. I also find out much later that she chose that particular night, before she knew we weren’t coming home, to watch every scary movie produced by Hollywood. Halloween was just around the corner after all. What better way to get in the mood for Halloween than to watch creepy movies? She tells me that she sat in her room watching horror flicks, waiting for us to come through the back door but the night goes on without a word from us. It gets later and later, she’s watched several movies and we still don’t show. So there she sits – all night – watching spooky movies, talking to her friends on the phone, panicking because we haven’t called, crying because we’re not home and scared to come out of her room even to go to the bathroom because “the devil is in the hallway.” Did I mention that vivid imaginations run in our family?

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Shakily and very slowly I type out a text message. I’ve got to be careful….I need to choose my words cautiously because I know that she’s probably very upset and probably hasn’t slept all night but I also need to get her to understand the seriousness of what has happened.

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Will my text go through? Will I be able to let everyone know that we are safe and on our way home? Will I be too late to stop the call to Jimmy or have the troops already rallied and are now making their way to our rescue?

For the answers to these questions and the final chapter of our adventures, please join us once more for the finale of  The Trails of Misadventure.

To be continued….

The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part Four – The Adventure Turns Dark

As we continue our story dusk has fallen on the Trails of Misadventure but miraculously before we lost daylight we had stumbled upon the trail sign of the trail that would lead us back to civilization but, for now, night has settled in. It’s dark – too dark to go any further. We can’t see. What are we going to do? What will become of our adventurers as the cold night embraces them with a grip of darkness? Let’s pick up the story and see where the adventure takes us:

We move off the trail a bit a few feet but not very far  – we do not want to chance losing it again! There we find a huge tree that was growing right in the middle of a nice little dip in the floor of the landscape. I shine my dim cell phone light straight up to see a full canopy of large and abundant leaves that would provide good protection for us from the still gently falling rain. So, this was to be our sleeping quarters for the night? A dip, a tree and wet ground. It’d have to do.

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I take my position – sitting straight up against the tree. Russell does the same. Girlfriend collapses like a lump at our feet. It’s only 7:00 in the evening. This is going to be a long, long night. We’re very tired but we know there’s no use in trying to sleep this early – we’d only wake up in the middle of the night so – we talk. We had only been dating about six months so I guess this was fate’s way testing us just to see how well the relationship would hold up under pressure. During all of the trials and tribulations of the afternoon…not really a cross word has passed between us. No arguments, no short tempers, no snide remarks. We are a good team, we work together well and we have each other’s back when the chips are down.  If you ever want to know if you are with the right person…get lost with them in a rainy, cold, dark wilderness without provisions…it’s a pretty good test of just how well you stand up under pressure.  I’m proud to say that we passed with flying colors.

We talked over the past six months of our lives together and our ideas for the future whiling away the dark hours in our damp, cold and quite uncomfortable lodging for the night. As we talk the hours slip slowly by and the temperature starts dropping but fortunately for us the rain has stopped. Our clothes are still soaked through but at least we don’t have to worry about getting even wetter.

It was late-October and the night time temperatures around our area are normally in the mid-40’s. Mid-40’s at night, in the rain, wearing nothing but wet short-sleeved shirts and jeans feels more like 12 degrees. We had nothing to protect us from the cold. I guess being stuck outside in the dark, wet cold brings out innovations of how to cope with the odds facing you. We both decide the best way to keep warm is to stick our heads and our arms down inside our t-shirts and breathe – at least that would keep our bodies and faces somewhat warm. Had we been fortunate enough to have a blanket we could have built a fort but – here we are with nothing but the clothes on our back and a wet dog- – neither hold very much prospect for warming our tired bones.

After discovering that it felt pretty good to keep my head tucked deep inside my shirt- I start a routine that would continue throughout the night – stick my head down my shirt, breathe, ah…warmth. My neck hurts from bending over.  Take my head out of my shirt and lean back against the tree.  Time passes slowly – I’m cold again. Stick my head back down in my shirt, breathe and so on and so forth, all…night…long.

After some time of sitting at attention, Russell decides to lie down in the cold, wet leaves and try to go to sleep. He’s somewhat successful in catching a few zzzz’s. Girlfriend? She’s been snoring since her head hit the ground. I try but after lying on the ground for about 59 ½ seconds ( my mind just couldn’t conceive minutes at that moment …a minute was way longer than I was willing to commit to),  I start shaking and shivering uncontrollably – teeth chattering, bones rattling…the whole bit.  It was cold!  It was just about this time that I also start yawning off and on very deeply.  I know that I’m tired but I just can’t seem to quit yawning.  I’ve learned that yawning does not necessarily mean that you are tired…it’s your body’s way of telling you that you need oxygen. It’s harder to get oxygen into your system in colder climates. So there I was, alone. Russell and Girlfriend are snoozing…maybe not comfortably but at least they are not sitting wide-eyed against a tree shaking, shivering, rattling, quivering and yawning in some body-malfunctioning discombobulation.

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At this point I’m an uncontrolled convulsive mess and that’s when I hear it…crinkle, crinkle, crunch, shuffle, shuffle. Ohh…this is not good. I could hope for a deer but deer don’t shuffle. Groundhog? Possum? I know it’s an Opossum but this is Alabama – we see no need to pronounce unnecessary syllables. It’s dark and I mean DARK.

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I can’t see my hand if I put it in front of my face so forget trying to see the mystery creature that is up on the hill less than 15 feet behind me. I’m quite sure that whatever it is, it is nocturnal and it has large eyes with which to see me…lucky devil…I’m at a disadvantage.  If it has large eyes and it’s a night predator that probably also means it’s a hunter, a meat-eater, a nasty blood-smelling beast which also means it has very LARGE claws and very LARGE teeth with which to tear me to shreds. Suddenly I’m re-thinking the groundhog idea. I can hear it crunching its way along ever so gingerly, snorfing around, rooting in the leaves probably trying to catch a whiff of live prey. Wild boar! That’s it! That’s got to be it…they are rampant in this area. Why they even have promotional wild boar hunts in this area because they are doing so much damage to the wilderness! Great…I’m going to get eaten by a wild boar in the middle of the wilderness – that is if he can get a good grip on my spastic, convulsing, half-frozen body and there’s nothing I can do but sit here and wait for my demise.

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What are my two camping companions doing while I’m anticipating our long, slow, painful death, you ask? Snoring…both of them! Crap! I guess I’m left to be taken out by the three headed wildebeest all by myself and they’ll just snooze right through it all! My great protectors. Well, whatever that mystical beastie is looking for, he must have found it because just as I’m building up my mental summation of our imminently bleak future, he or she wanders off into the distance.  It’s back to sitting against the tree in total dark silence for me  and that’s quite a relief over the alarming and worrisome crinkle crunches I had just been hearing.

Now that the possible danger has passed I try to lie down again – nope, it’s still as cold as it was before. The never ending ritual continues …face in shirt…breathe…face out of shirt for cool air…head against tree…stretch neck…it’s cold…face back in shirt…face back out again…legs hurting…lie down…face in shirt…can’t breathe…need air…face out of shirt…the ground is ridiculously cold…sit up…face back in shirt…lie down…sit up. It’s a repetitious cycle of movement. I’m just trying to catch a few minute’s rest and find some sort of tolerable position to wait out the rest of this infinite, black, cold void of time I’ve found myself in. I’ve lost track of everything, my vision, my surroundings, time and spatial awareness. It’s like I’m sitting in a refrigerated, blacked out solitary box and I feel like I’ve been locked up alone for days. It’s physically and mentally miserable.

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I have given up on looking at my cell phone to see how many hours have passed because time is just not moving quickly enough…it’s frustrating and disappointing. The only break in the cold, dark silence is an occasional muffled statement of discomfort from my companion when the chill of the night rouses him from his slumber. As we each tarry individually in our dark worlds, unable to see each other through the black veil that surrounds us, we speak brief, gentle words of reassurance and encouragement to one another. I’m grateful for these fleeting moments of conversation that give distraction to the seemingly endless vortex of this night. I don’t think I have ever experienced a longer night than this. As time ticks away slowly I hold tightly to my resolve and keep in mind that this night will end….eventually.

It’s about this time that I see “them”. I can’t see ANYTHING but I see THEM. Oh man, I must really be hallucinating. Tiny iridescent flashes…not really flashes…almost pulses. The ground around me is covered with tiny glow-in-the dark polka-dots that seem to be alive with an other-worldly energy. In the blink of an eye dim greenish pulses appear and then, as if by magic, disappear immediately. There it goes again. Oh, this isn’t funny. I must really be losing it. What in the world? Wait a minute…there’s more over there and over there too. In an instant I see that they are EVERYWHERE. They look like minuscule green glowing heartbeats. That’s it.  I’m done for.  I’ve gone off my rocker…call the white coat men. But if this means I’ve gone over the edge, what a beautiful way to go. The tiny, soft green glowing orbs pulse slowly here and there in the midst of nothing but solid black darkness and it is mesmerizing. They look like tiny little glowing fairies. My mind wanders to a mystical fairy land full of tiny little creatures hard at work and play in their own little world of magic. It’s fascinating and I can’t stop watching this colorful tiny light show. Then it hits me…the Dismalites!

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We are in an area of Alabama where the Dismalites thrive. In fact, there is a canyon rightly called Dismals Canyon (http://dismalscanyon.com/), not far from the Sipsey wilderness and they offer night tours so that people can observe these wondrous little beings:

Past twilight the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent creatures we call Dismalites. These “glowworms” require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are “close cousins” of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.

Colloquially known as Dismalites, they are the larvae stage of a unique, native, and endemic species of insect (North American Orfelia fultoni) that emits a bright blue-green light to attract food, in the form of other flying insects.

It requires a select habitat to survive: humidity to prevent it from drying out; hanging surfaces to allow it to build sticky webs to trap the food; an adequate food supply of insects; a still atmosphere to prevent lines from tangling; and darkness to allow it to show a light.

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How cool is this!! I have always wanted to see the Dismalites and even went to the canyon once but couldn’t stay overnight. This may actually make this unplanned arduous excursion worth the strain. Temporarily I forget my surroundings and simply take comfort in the wondrous beauty of our world.

All was well for the moment, the wildebeest had wandered off to find some other unwilling victim and I was being entertained by one of the coolest light shows that nature has to offer. It was still cold but at least it had stopped raining.  It appears that I still have my senses about me even though I had questioned my sanity for a fleeting few minutes. I’m still shaking like a wet dog after a cold bath but the night was slowly moving along. Daybreak was not very far away so things are looking up and blessings are still abundant enough to count. We may survive this after all.

The night rolls slowly by in dark silence. Eventually the nocturnal creatures of the night were spurred forth by their inner clocks and sensing the approaching dawn, slink back into the invisibility of their secret lairs. I’m once again left to ponder my own thoughts serenaded by the gentle breathing of my two slumbering companions.

Finally I start to see the first inklings of light. I am very anxious to get back on the trail but my anxiousness doesn’t prompt favor on Mother Nature’s willingness to cooperate with us in the least little bit. Today’s dawning was a slow process. Most days the sun rises much too quickly for me. I am not a morning person and I tend to want to ease my way in to my daily routine. Not this morning, I’m chomping at the bit. I can not wait for sunrise – can’t wait to get back on that yellow brick road that would lead us out of here and back home.

My companions had slowly awakened…at least one of them…Girlfriend was not backing off of her customary twenty three hour sleep schedule simply because we were wilderness bound. Russell and I sat there together under our tree of shelter both waiting and longing for the first kiss of dawn to greet us.

Slowly the sun rises over the bluff and my surroundings start taking shape. I can now make out the faint shape of trees, then limbs, then leaves and finally, the ground. I can imagine that it must have been much like a person gradually regaining their vision after long-worn bandages have been removed. Focusing was slow and hard. My surroundings are in disoriented disarray. It’s taking quite some time for the world to slowly come back into view. It is very, very foggy and densely gray. There is a slushy, sluggish feel to the air, still full of moisture from yesterday’s rain and it’s being incubated by the vast thickness of the wilderness.

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Finally, I think I can make out the ground well enough to stand up and move around without fear of stumbling and falling down. Before we start our morning journey let me just put a vision in your head. Think back to when you were a child and you were on a merry- go-round… or some other spinning object…a swivel chair, a swing, or just twirling in circles spirited round and round, faster and faster by the movement of your own two feet, making yourself dizzy – the world spinning wildly all around you. The feeling of gravity is lost – life and body are out of focus. You are unable to control your movements or steps.

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As a kid it was so much fun, right? Yeah well when it happens after you wake up cold, soaking wet, under a tree, in the depths of the wilderness and yearning for home – not so much fun. But that’s what happened. I ease myself up from the ground and wedge myself from the welded position I have established against the tree. I stand up, stretch and take a first step. Oh…ohh…ohhhhh…wait a minute….where’d the ground go? I can’t make my legs work so I put my arms up for balance…that makes things worse. The world’s axis has been tilted and I can’t find the new line of gravity. I sashay this way, then that way.  Stumble, stumble, trip. The ground seems to be moving under my feet. I feel like I’m walking on some twisted, whop-sided, fast-moving conveyor belt that has been built for a carnival fun house. Russell looks at me with this odd, questioning look on his face and says “Are you ok?”.  I say “I can’t walk. My balance is off” or at least that’s what I try to say…what actually comes out is “Ahh cannnn wohkk. Mu bawnce is uff” What? What is wrong with me?! I can’t walk – I can’t talk.  Disequilibrium to the max but I keep trying. I take a step…the world shifts to the right. Another step…everything tilts left. Arms flailing, feet dancing the dance of the Two Left Feet Tribe. I must have been a sight to behold. I tell Russell “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t stand up straight. Everything is spinning.” It comes out like this…”Uhh dunno what wong wiff me. Cain’t stan up strrrraite. Eberyfing ifspinning.” I now know that what I was experiencing was the early stages of hypothermia. I didn’t know it at the time – I just thought that the invisible magic tree monkeys had sprinkled me with their funny fairy dust and that I needed to relax, remain calm and take a deep breath until the effects wore off.

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Or will the effects of this cold, dark night wear off? Unfortunately this question will remain unanswered until we meet once again. I hope that you will join us again as our journey unfolds on The Trails of Misadventure.

To be continued…

The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part Three – This is adventure?

When we last left the Trails of Misadventure, Russell and I were standing at the edge of a very steep bank wondering who was going to get stroll down the slippery, slimy bank and cross the creek in search of the elusive hiking trail that had seemed to be hiding from us up to this point. So let’s pick up the trail from here-

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Russell has bad knees that tend to pop out of joint unannounced and Girlfriend is a dog so who does that leave? Ding, ding, ding—-we have a winner!

There’s no need for all three of us to brave this treacherous downhill ride just to find out if there’s reason to cross the creek so the decision is made that I will cross first and if I find the trail, I’ll come back to help Russell “persuade” Girlfriend down the slope. If you remember, her spirit of adventure left a few miles back and she’s just about done volunteering to do anything that requires physical exertion at this point.  In other words, she has laid her butt down and is refusing to get up.

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I hand my beloved camera to Russell, tell Girlfriend to stay (like she has plans to do anything else) and turn around to eyeball my opponent. I stand there staring down at the red mud bank mentally wishing away the cold water that awaits me at the bottom. I put on my best game face, turn around facing my two trusty companions and tackle it backwards.,. feet go first, belly down, snake-sliding my way to the to bottom as I hold onto protruding roots here and there, slowly traveling down the steep slope. My feet meet the cold water with a splash and off I go in search of that golden treasure sought by amateur adventurers worldwide – the elusive hiking trail.

There is no need to try and keep my clothes dry. The constant gentle rain that has been our companion for sometime now has made sure that dry isn’t the vocabulary word of the day. Given that I’m already soaked to the bone, I sprint full speed ahead across the creek over mossy rocks and through muddy leaves to my awaiting destination. I easily climb up – managing to stay upright this time. The bank is wet, muddy and slippery much like the other one but I’m grateful that this one doesn’t require rappelling talents to conquer.

I find myself at the top of the tree-lined bluff and start looking around pensively for something, anything that looks like a trail…one, two, three steps through the brush. Is that? Is it really? Wait…it can’t be. I must have hit my head coming down that muddy cliff. It can’t be this close. I take a few more tentative steps to get a closer look. YES!! YES!!! YES!!!  I see a clearing!! A big, wide, beautiful, clearly-there clearing!!! It’s big enough for three people to walk side by side with no problem!!! I can’t believe my eyes…it’s the trail!!!!! I start yelling frantically as if I had just won the lottery. “It’s the trail!!! It’s the trail!!! I found it!!!!” I was jumping around yelling so loudly that you would have thought The Prize Patrol had just come marching out of nowhere to declare me the winner of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. In fact, at that moment, I think winning the lottery would have been a damper compared to finding this glorious trail.

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I hear a “Whoo-hoo!!!” from off in the distance behind me so I rush back to the edge of the creek still yelling like a crazy lady:

“You need to hurry and get across the creek! I found the trail but it’s going to be getting dark very soon! Hurry, hurry!”

“I can’t come down the way you did – especially with Girlfriend. I can’t scale down backwards and hold her too.”

Crap. In my excitement I had forgotten our agreement. I had said that I would cross back over to help with Girlfriend. I knew there was no other way to do it. It’s going to take both of us to get her down that creek bank so I respond:

“Hang on, I’ll come back across and help you with her. Maybe if I come back over there and she sees me standing at the bottom of the bank, she’ll just come to me voluntarily.”

What was I thinking??

So I wade once again…

Actually I’m running as best I can across that creek while hoping that my inner klutz doesn’t show up to push me face-first into the cold, rock-bottomed stream. Within a few seconds I find myself standing at the  base of the muddy slope staring up at my four-legged buddy. I clap my hands together softly, smile and in my best “come hither” voice I say-

“Come here Girlfriend. Come on. We have to go. It’s going to be getting dark soon and we need to try to get out of here.”

She wags her tail and pants – happily content to stay right where she is at.  Russell is trying his best:

“Go on Girlfriend. She’s right there. Go see her.”

I’m stretching my hands upward as far as I can … as if I were going to be able to supernaturally turn into Stretch Armstrong and gap the needed three and a half feet to be able to snag a hold of my precious, sweet pet.

No luck, I can stretch all I want as far as she’s concerned – she just sits there, -looking down with those big, brown eyes as if to say “Come on up…the weather’s fine! I’m not moving”

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Okay…I have to re-think my game plan – let’s try the “You want to play?” strategy-

I start patting my hands rapidly against my legs, smiling broadly and putting on my best lets-get-excited expression while bobbing up and down. My jeans are wet and squishy so every time I slap my hands down, droplets of muddy water go flying everywhere all the while I’m cheering and willing her to come to me:

“Come here Girlfriend! Let’s go! Come on! Come on! Hurry! Let’s go! Come see me! Let’s play!”

You’d think that this proposition would be too good to be passed up by a playful, water-loving Lab but nope – nothing – nada. She is not budging and that’s that.

Bottom line – this is going to call for the physical extraction of her hiney from the ground. Great – this means more pushing and pulling on eighty pounds of wet, smelly, stubborn dog, not to mention that I have to climb up this blasted creek bank one more time.

So I scramble up the incline one more time to see how I can assist in getting Girlfriend motivated enough to take the plunge and cross over the great divide. At this point, I don’t care what we have to do. I have found the trail. Things are looking up.

After I have caught my breath I say to Russell, “Ok. Help me get Girlfriend first and then you can come behind us. Give me my camera. I’ll put it in my back pocket.”

Once again I look down to make sure it’s as sharply inclined as I remember and once again, I come to the conclusion that there’s just no way to walk down this thing…its’ much too slippery and steep…especially with a dog. She’d just jerk me down and there’d I’d go bouncing uncontrollably downhill probably sustaining sprains, breaks and bruises the whole way down to the creek bottom where more than likely I would die from drowning as I’m not able to pick up my torn, shattered body from the raging, rock-riddled waters below. Wait…it’s not that bad…being lost does weird things to your imagination or maybe it’s just my imagination. Either way, we aren’t going to be walking down this bank today. The only other option is the “butt in the mud” one.

With my only real possessions, my camera and my cell phone, safely tucked in my back pockets, I sit down at the top of the embankment and Russell helps a reluctant Girlfriend into my lap. I grab her tightly and away we, go- slip-sliding down like it was the world’s best water slide. It was fun the first couple of seconds…until…we hit that very large tree root that just so happened to be growing up in the middle of our muddy getaway. It had grown just enough above the surface to be a major nuisance. There is a distinct burning sensation on the back of my leg as I hit the root at break-neck speed. I feel it snag my jeans and rip a very long gash straight up the back of them. My butt cheek feels like it instantaneously catches on fire and Girlfriend bounces from my arms and continues to bounce in a head over paw free-fall all the rest of the way down until she lands in the creek with a big splash. She lets out a yelp as I’m greeting her with my own big splash into the creek.

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I pick myself up and check on Girlfriend. She’s limping pretty bad, holding up her rear leg up and refusing to put weight on it. I feel her pain…my haunches feel like I got caught in a vice grip myself. It appears that we both took a direct hit to our posteriors from the collision with that troublesome tree root.

“Are you ok?!!”

“Yeah but Girlfriend is hurt. She’s limping and my butt’s on fire. We’ll be ok. I wouldn’t advise taking that particular route down.”

I leave Russell to make his own decision on how to tackle the downward trip while I check on the other potential victims of our sliding mishap, My phone is good. It’s in one piece and appears to be damage-free which is wonderful news because I’m probably going to need it to send out SOS signals IF we ever get to a place with good cell signal. My camera gets checked next. Had it survived the downhill cruise without a bruise? Nope. It’s sporting brand new scratches on the LCD screen. Awww, man – this sucks. I hadn’t had this camera for very long….maybe 2 -3 months and now the screen looks like it’s fifty years old. But the big question is – does it still work? I turn it on…the lens pops forth without a hitch…yes…a little wear and tear but still going strong!

As I look up I see Russell standing there looking down at that muddy hill. I’m sure he’s thinking about his bad knee and he says to me, “Well, I’m not going down the way y’all did.” Ha! I can hardly blame him given the rather big sore spots Girlfriend and I are sporting from our tumble down. Unfortunately her injuries aren’t going to make the rest of this trip very easy. It’s hard enough to hike the wilderness on four good legs, but three legs is going to put a whole new challenge on all of us. Russell walks down a little further in hopes of finding a milder incline…no luck. He’s got to take a chance and do what he’s got to do. Daylight is wasting away.

Do you know what the backwards turtle crawl is? Yeah well that was his answer to making it down that hill. He turns his back side to me and dangles one leg over the edge of the small bluff, touches his foot to the ground while holding on tightly to the roots coming out of the ground- next comes the other foot –  he’s on his belly – gingerly slithering down that hill backwards. Slowly, slowly, slowly he makes his way down slipping here and there on an occasional mud slick. Finally he reaches bottom and fortunately, without injury – it’s more than I can say for myself and Girlfriend.

Now, across the creek we all go. Girlfriend and I are both feeling and walking a bit out of sorts but we shake it off as best we can and limp through the cold knee-high water right along with Russell until we reach the mud-riddled shore on the other side. Once again, going up was easier than coming down…thank goodness for small bits of fortune. Even so, Girlfriend isn’t a willing participant in the uphill trek so we give her a little coercion in the form of some gentle pushing on her posterior being quite careful of her recent injuries. It’s not easy pushing a large, wet, injured dog uphill in the mud. Trust me on this one.

Big hugs, high fives because we’ve made it but we’ve got to get moving quickly. There might be thirty minutes of daylight left if we are lucky and I’m quite sure the car is at least another hour or more away, maybe further in terms of achievable walking time since we are now sporting injuries to slow our progress.

It is so nice to walk down a good trail. No more tree falls, no more weeds even though there are still lots of leaves covering the trail, it’s still easily distinguishable. Upon finding this trail, the panics have left me and they’ve been replaced with a calm resolve. I know we’re making good headway but dusk is chasing us quickly and with every passing minute, I’m trying to prepare myself for the upcoming probabilities as I see them.

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I retreat to my inner thoughts as we are trudging along;

If we can only find our way to the third and final trail, we’ll be ok. I’m not giving up hope yet. Daylight is leaving but I’m going to give it my best shot and try to get out of this place this evening. We found this trail, maybe the other one is close by. We are going to be ok even if we don’t make it out of here before the sun sets but honestly – I REALLY, REALLY want to make it out of here tonight even if I have to walk a ways in the dark. If we don’t make it out, there is nothing to do but accept our fate and hope for the best. Oh, but I really do hope we can get out of here.

I’ve been lost in my own thoughts as we’ve been going along our way when all of a sudden…here we go again…another decision is upon us. It’s another cock-eyed trail sign. Which way is that stupid arrow pointing??? Across the creek again??? Really??? The map we brought with us was now muddy, wet and torn but it really doesn’t matter much anyway. We had studied the map before we began this little journey and it was a very basic route. One trail leading to the creek, one trail running beside the creek and one trail leading back to the parking lot so thinking it’s going to give us some magic answer at this point seems futile.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m map challenged. I use them to plot a course but when it comes to the navigation of that course…I’m not so talented and when it comes to determining a direction to go, I’m usually not your best option.

So, I turn to Russell-

“I don’t know. It looks like the stupid sign points to the creek to me.”

 “No – that can’t be right. We just came from that side.”

So we pull out the muddy, wet shards of map and start looking around to compare our surroundings. What do you know? Lucky us! There appears to be TWO trails to pick from but only one is shown on the map. Which one is the right one? One trail goes up a slight incline and the other one leads around the hill and continues parallel to the creek. They are only a few feet apart. Wonderful!!! How to choose? Shall we draw straws? Russell opts for the one running parallel to the creek and I’m game…as I said…I have no directional abilities worth trusting. So off we go.

We walk about a quarter of a mile when the trail dumps off straight into the creek! YAY!!! This is freaking unbelievable…the map clearly shows that the trail did not cross the creek again so you know what this means? Back-tracking!!! This day just keeps getting better and better.

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We walk back to the fork in the trails and take the trail going up the incline. This one appears to be going somewhere which is a good thing because it’s getting darker and darker with every step we take. What are we going to do once the sun is gone? We only have our out-of-range cell phones on us. No flashlights. Even if we had flashlights I doubt seriously we could make our way out given how hard it’s been to traverse these trails in the daylight. We’re going to be stuck here overnight. I might as well accept it. I give up. I give in. You’ve won Wilderness. I will be cradled in your cold, wet arms throughout the deep, black night. I can only hope to survive the dark embrace that you are about to bestow on me.

The path is good. It’s wide. It’s easily traveled but it is getting dark. It’s going to be very hard to see shortly. With no visibility, it’s going to be impossible to get out of here. We barely found our way this far in the daylight, how in the world would we ever manage to stay on a trail that we can’t see? We keep walking. If we can just find that third trailhead, at least in the morning, when it’s daylight, we’ll know just where we are and we can just skippity-be-bop back to the truck.

With every passing step, it gets one degree darker and we walk a little quicker with our reluctant, limping dog in tow. We’re all so very tired. I think at this point, I’m too tired to be scared anymore. It’s almost like the fear has re-invented itself into pure determination. I know our steps are limited by the ensuing darkness but that doesn’t stop me from taking them. Russell and I haven’t really been talking much since we’ve been on this trail. I think we both have just been in deep thought – mulling over in our minds what we know we are facing. We’ll be ok. It’s just a little daunting to face a night alone in the vast wilderness with no protection, no light, no food, no water (except what we slurped out of that creek earlier – going to be worrying about bacterial infections for a couple of days). In the morning, it will be easier to walk out of here. We’ll just have to push through the night somehow. About the time that I’m going over all of this in my mind I notice that it’s gone completely dark around me and I mean DARK. I can’t see my surroundings. No trail, no trees, nothing. I pull out my cell phone to use it for light. I had only staggered a couple of feet by the light of my cell phone when I caught sight of it. It was barely visible. I could only make out the outline of some type of figure – it was tall and rail-thin,  like a post sticking up out of the ground.  I lifted my cell phone high in the air in order to cast it’s light properly so that I could make out the figure better. What the dim glow of that light revealed was a small, old, brown arrow shaped trail sign deeply etched with dark numbers….the numbers of our LAST trail!!! This was the trail we had been looking for! This is the trail that takes us out of this lonesome wilderness!! We found it!!! Finding this sign just kicked my peace of mind into high gear because I know that once we reach the other side of this night and morning breaks, we will be able to pick ourselves up and march ourselves back to civilization. At this very moment we are probably less than 45 minutes away from that wondrous mechanical invention on four wheels!!! My truck! I love my truck! I miss my truck! I shall see you in the morning my truck! I’m standing there in that blanket of darkness, holding the shallow light of my cell phone in the direction of that small wooden trail sign with a grin the size of all of North America slapped right across my face. And that’s when I heard “Well, what do we do now?” Russell’s voice jerks me back into reality. We are still facing the night…out here…in the dark wilderness. My response? “Well, we are going to find the biggest tree we can find, hopefully in a small alcove or ditch and spend the longest, wettest, darkest night of our lives together.” The prospect didn’t sound too appealing but it was the only one we had.

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Our story stops here as the curtain of darkness has fallen on our adventures of the day. I hope that you will join us on our escapades in the next part of the Trails of Misadventure.

To be continued…

The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part Two – The Adventure Continues

After hiking slowly downhill over the past couple of hours we had found ourselves at the bottom of a canyon alongside a creek bank mid-afternoon.  The somewhat questionable trail sign indicates that we should take a plunge directly into the creek in order to continue on the hiking trail, which we opt not to do. We loop back and hang a left at the big tree with the pretty fall-colored leaves and this is where our adventure continues…

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We had walked this second trail for about a 3/4 mile when all of a sudden it just seemed to diminish before our very eyes. What had been an easy-to-traverse wide path has gotten smaller and a little less recognizable though we can still see a leaf-covered dirt line on the ground that resembles a small path. It’s not really wide enough for us to walk side by side so we fall into single file formation – Russell, then Girlfriend, then me…the three Amigos. Now remember it’s late-autumn – a massive amount of leaves have fallen and they have covered the small trail so it’s hard to distinguish between the actual hiking trail and the little rabbit trails that run off the main hiking path to various parts of the unknown wilderness. And the felled trees across the path? Unlike the previous tree falls, these weren’t cut into halves to make way for hikers. It seems that the further into the wilderness we go, the less the trail is maintained. The only way to get past the tree falls is to go all the way around and risk losing the already almost invisible trail or….climb over.

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The atmosphere starts taking on a tense feel…

“Are you sure we are supposed to be going this way?” I ask.  Russell responds “I’m pretty sure that we are. It’s been a long time since I’ve hiked this trail…years in fact…but I know that we don’t cross the creek and we keep the bluff ridge on our right. Let’s keep going – the trail will open up shortly.”  I’m hoping he’s right but I have a nagging feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Onward we trudge and it’s slow going but I say to myself “We’ll just push through somehow. Surely we can make our way through this and the next trail will be better.”

We follow the trail as best we can and try to reason ourselves in the proper direction to go…

“Is this the right way?”

“No – it’s a dead end…we have to backtrack.”

I see that more trees have fallen across the path…wonderful….we walk around them hoping to find the trail on the other side…now where did the trail go? It was just here!!!

“Wait! I think this is it.”

I find another small pathway. It seems to be a true trail and not just a dead end. Nope – it’s another dead end. There are leaves EVERYWHERE covering the ground…this is getting frustrating!

“Is this the path?”

“Maybe – I can’t tell.”

“Let’s just follow it and hope for the best.”

“No, this isn’t the trail…we’ve lost it again…I think it’s back there….let me climb over this massive gaggle of fallen trees…it’s much too large to walk around…you watch Girlfriend.”

“No, I don’t see the trail over here either….hold on, I’ll climb back over. I don’t want us to get separated.”

This is our unfortunate pattern for the next couple of hours – searching, backtracking, taking turns climbing up and over tree falls only to be disappointed by an elusive, seemingly non-existent pathway.

And…it starts to rain.

We need to hurry. With all the missteps and re-routing, we’ve been on this part of our little hiking excursion for much, much longer than we anticipated and daylight is going to be leaving us soon. The prospects of us keeping our day hike schedule on schedule is slowly diminishing.

I start thinking that maybe we need to cross the creek just to see if the trail is over on the other side. I doubt that it is but, I need to try something…anything. At the rate we are going we just seem to be going nowhere quickly. Luckily we are on just a slight incline and the creek is not very deep. So I tell Russell to stay with Girlfriend…no need for both of us to get our shoes wet, it’s bad enough that it’s gently raining and our clothes are getting wet. Down into the creek I go. I pitter-patter through the shallow creek hopping from stone to stone as much as I can, trying to keep my shoes a little dry. I make it to the other side and scramble  on hands and knees up the high, root-riddled embankment all the while thinking that I’m quite sure I would pay for this unusual physical exertion in the morning. And at the top of the ledge what do I find? Nothing.  No trail.  No trail signs.  No nothing. Just woods – just more huge trees and forest growth with an overabundance of leaves scattered all over the thick, damp, earthy bed of the wilderness. So back down the embankment and across the creek I go once again – disgusted, unnerved and ready to get out of this place – now.

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I tell Russell that there is no sign of a trail and we push forward on our original but limited hiking path. We do our best to pick up the pace and march along hurriedly, trying to make as much headway as we can. We know that time is of the essence and that dusk will be approaching within a couple of hours. It’s taken us twice as long to get to this point as we anticipated. If we are lucky, find the trail and have no more confusion, we’ll be back at the parking lot just about, or shortly after, dark…IF we are lucky….that is.

Here the three of us are basically trying to do a fast-walk high step on a damp, leaf-covered, haphazard obstacle course. Hurry, hurry, hurry – time is wasting. We must go faster.  We have to make up for lost time. Yes – we’re doing good now – we may just be able to make it if we keep walking at this pace.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle. Drip, drip, Drip. Give me a break. My clothes are wet. I’m tired. There’s a constant gentle rain coming down– just enough to be a pain in my tail feathers. I think to myself “I really want to get out of here. This trail is so rough. It’s like trying to make our way through the thicket of the rainforest.” but I keep rushing along the wet trail through the slick leaves, rain dripping on my head, branches slapping against my face and…now…what’s this? Huge, tall weeds? They are up-to-my-elbows tall! Where did these come from? Really? Where did that flipping trail go to???

It seems I had been marching so fast that I hadn’t noticed that I was basically just marching off into nowhere. And the idea of not wanting to get separated from Russell and Girlfriend? Where are they? I start looking around and they are about 200 feet behind me, having a hard time keeping up. It seems that in my state of discontent, I had rallied way ahead and left them to fend for themselves – so much for my team spirit.

I start scoping around my general area only to discover that the trail has completely disappeared with a capital D-I-S-A-P-P-E-A-R-E-D. It’s nowhere to be found and I’m standing in weeds up to my armpits with my companions no longer by my side even though they are at least within sight. Thank goodness for small miracles.

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Now normally I’m a fairly strong, held together person. I usually keep my cool and my wits about me but just how to do that at this particular space in time completely escapes my mind altogether. I’m standing in the rain…soaked to the bone, wearing wet tennis shoes, jeans and a rain-drenched short sleeve t-shirt. My make-up is running, my hair is a wreck, brambles and wet leaves are sticking to me, I’m up to my chest in weeds with intimidatingly huge tree falls surrounding me and there’s no path to be seen. It’s very late afternoon, dark is approaching quickly, it’s getting cooler, we are NOWHERE near the parking lot where my trusty truck is parked, my cell phone doesn’t work, there aren’t any trail signs much less a trail. It was mental overload. At this moment all I know is that the meltdown is coming. It’s coming fast and it’s coming hard.

Ok, now I know most of you have visited the zoo and for those who have, I can pretty much guess that you’ve been to the primate area and you’ve probably seen the big orange orangutang get out of sorts at some point. He excitedly runs around flailing his arms, making loud grunting sounds because some other primate got too close to his woman orangutang or his food. If so, this scenario will be more than sufficient for you to imagine the upcoming scene as it unfolds.

As previously mentioned things are looking quite dismal at the moment…and that’s when it hits me…we are going to be spending the night…in the woods….in the dark…in the rain…in the cold…in wet clothes…with no light except the dim glow of an out of service cell phone. I’m scared of the dark (literally)…there are wild animals in the woods…the kind that like to come out at night…they smell fear…LARGE beasts with LARGE teeth and CLAWS! I feel it. It’s welling up. I’m not going to be able to stop this. I’ve lost control!

AND here comes the freak out…

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I proceed to raise my arms high above my head, flailing and flapping them about  (much like the aforementioned orangutang) like that will help me take flight and make my grand getaway from the mess we’ve found ourselves in. I then proceed to start running around in circles at break-neck speed in the high weeds, flailing arms raised as high as they would go, barking VERY loudly in my two companions’ general direction. “I’m SCARED! (these words do not come out of my mouth often…when I say them…you can trust that I truly mean them with all certainty) I DO NOT WANT TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE WOODS! WE HAVE GOT TO FIND THE WAY OUT OF HERE! WALK! WALK FAST! WALK AS FAST AS YOU CAN…..NOW!!! AND……PRAY!!! I BETTER HEAR YOU PRAYING OR I’M GOING TO KICK YOUR BUTT!!!” Just to prove my point I turn around mid-arm flail, point my finger and give my best evil-eye “I really meant it” look. As I’m fanatically gesturing at Russell, the next words that fall from my lips are a prayer. As a born and raised, albeit sometimes back-sliding, Christian still in good standing with the faith, I recite the standard prayer of the doomed…”Lord, I know I haven’t been living right and Lord, I’m sorry about that but I have a really big favor to ask of you….” – you get the picture.

From somewhere off to the distance I hear Russell softly say “I’m scared too. I don’t want to spend the night here either.”  Then much in a much louder, clearer voice that is laden with heaps of conviction I hear-

“Our Father, who art in heaven

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come….”

Hmmph. I guess my yelling, finger pointing, evil eye staring, stressed-out debacle put the fear of doom in my faithful comrade. Good. Maybe the Big Guy Upstairs will afford us a much needed favor….I can only hope.

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Then one more stumbling block arises. We run into a tree fall that is much, much too large to go around. We have to climb over it…with a dog in tow. Oh yes, Girlfriend is still with us and she’s been a real trooper but those wild coyote spirits that live deep within her soul? Yeah, they hit the pavement a couple of miles back. At this point she’s looking at us like “Can’t we just go home now and get a nice bowl of Gravy Train?” Unfortunately the answer is no. I take the lead in carefully traversing the tree fall, being cautious not to slip into the mangled mass of limbs – a misstep here could mean much more than just a scare. The last thing our gangly crew needs is a leg injury. Russell “gently persuades” Girlfriend (by basically picking her up and pushing her) over the large mass of fallen trees. Russell comes next – slowly, slowly he makes his way up and over. Somehow we all manage to reach the other side safely and without major bodily harm although I’m sure we will all sport our fare share of bumps and bruises as tell-tale war wounds of this little outing.

Just for the record, Girlfriend weighs about eighty pounds and she is not easily persuaded. Every time we come to a new tree fall it’s the same routine. I go over the top first, he pushes Girlfriend, I pull Girlfriend and then Russell brings up the rear while we wait on the other side of the fall. Sounds like fun, huh? Yeah, well after about the fifth or sixth time of doing that…the novelty wears off. Still, no trail!

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Well, this is getting us nowhere. We have to find the trail. I just keep thinking about that cock-eyed trail sign that was at the trailhead back where we dead-ended at the creek. I start to wonder if we really should have crossed at that point and think that maybe we had made a mistake by not doing so. I had waded this creek once already today and didn’t find the trail but obviously our fate on this side is done. We are never going to find our way out if we continue on like this. The trail is gone and we have nowhere else to turn so trying to cross to the other side seems to be our best option.

Russell and I start talking about the possibilities that may be on the far side and we agree that wading across to the other bank may be the best thing to do. We start peering across the slow moving water to see if we can spot an area that is scalable or even possibly something that looks remotely like a hiking trail…no luck on the trail but the scalable bank is within sight and fortunately for us, it doesn’t look too steep over there. However, there’s only one way to find out if a trail is hiding behind that tree-lined creek bank…yep…somebody has to go stream hopping.

Our only issue is that we’ve come traveled quite a ways from that gentle slope that I had simply eased down earlier in the day. We are now looking down on the creek from a steep 8 ft high bluff. There’s no way to walk down it in an upright position. This is going to call for a backward crab crawl maneuver or a hiney down, have a seat and hold on, skid along, mud ride – downhill all the way.

Looking to our left and to our right, the situation only gets worse. This is actually the most accessible embankment visible and what stands before us is a sharply sloping, slimy, root-entrenched, red-mud mess.

Decisions, decisions – who is going to go slip-sliding down this steep, mucky, root covered descent and wade through the cold knee-high water only to slither up the other clay-laden side of this stream in hopes of finding that a good trail awaits us there?

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And this is where part of our adventure comes to a close. Be sure to check back to discover who braves the wild waters of the wilderness in search of the still-elusive Trails of Misadventure.

To be continued….

The Trails of Misadventure – Surviving the Sipsey: Part One-The Adventure Begins

As I crawled my bruised and battered body into the bed that morning I was remembering all that had transpired over the past couple of days. I can’t recall ever being as tired and physically exhausted as this. Over my lifetime, I have experienced some levels of tired that I hope to never re-visit. This is one of those times.

“What happened?”  you ask. Well, I don’t mind telling you. It is a rather interesting story and it has a happy ending. You like happy endings don’t you?  I thought so.  Well, here we go:

We had planned a wonderful albeit somewhat lengthy hike for that day.  We had brought a light picnic lunch and our faithful dog, Girlfriend, the black Lab.  Girlfriend absolutely loves going on hikes and picnics. Somewhere deep in that couch-loving, shampooed and groomed, domesticated house dog lies the heart of a wild dog…a free dog…with connections to ancient ancestors…wolf & coyote spirits reside deep within so…yeah, a day hike – she’s game.

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We get a late start but it’s not a problem. We opt for a late breakfast with plans to hit the Sipsey wilderness area about 11:00 am. A day hike of about 4-5 miles and then we’d return to the truck, grab a bite and head back home. All of this should be doable and still have us back home around dusk or maybe a little later. It would be a nice way for just the two of us to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon, get some exercise and fresh air – not to mention pictures, pictures, pictures. Nature photography has always been one of my favorites so this was going to be a wonderful opportunity to get some much needed practice. I also knew that as a part of our hike we would be privy to the Johnson family cemetery which dated back to the 1800’s. I was excited to get a chance to wander amongst the spirits of the past and maybe catch a couple of photos of the historical tombstones. I had just started getting into photography and Russell had just bought me a digital camera. I had never owned a digital camera and I was eager to get some wonderful photos on our hike. My 35 mm camera had died a couple of years prior and I had just never replaced it. I never was good at getting those little rolls of film developed any way…let’s just say that by the time most of them made it to the photo lab…the memories they contained had faded so much that the memories were brand new when I viewed them in print form. Needless to say, I’m excited that I will able to snap a photo and see it in miraculous instant digital format, not to mention it’s a perfect venture for testing my photography skills.  It’s a gorgeous day that is filled with abundant blue sky polka-dotted by cotton candy-like white clouds looming overhead. A slight breeze is blowing and daytime temperatures are still warm enough for sporting short sleeves.  It is one of those rare, perfect days normally only experienced in the spring or fall here in central Alabama.  Crisp leaves on the ground, crunching underfoot as we walk along the spacious dirt path that is lined beautifully with colorful trees of every shade.

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I am elated. I am in my element, hiking along that peaceful, wide-open trail in the middle of nowhere with my best friend, Russell, and my best four-legged friend, Girlfriend, right along beside me. Happy, excited, adventurous – all rolled into one. See if you can imagine it. Imagine yourself walking along happily while the sunshine beams brightly down through the iridescent fall leaves, you’re humming to yourself softly… la-la-la, la-la…much like Little Red Riding Hood would have been doing on her way to Grandma’s house just before the wolf put a twist in her adventures. A twist…I guess you could certainly call it that.

We start out at a parking lot near the trail head. Before heading out, we double-check our route, which was to take us to the bottom of a ravine by gradual downhill grades. According to our trusty map, the trail would drop us off at creek side at which point it would turn right and parallel the creek to another connecting trail which would then bring us out by gradual incline past an old 1800’s settlement cemetery before leading us back to the parking lot where we had parked our truck or at least, that was what was advertised.

After we check our trail numbers and make sure we have a general grasp of our hiking plan, we grab our cell phones, some bottles of water, the camera, the dog and strike out on our adventures.

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As we are walking along I notice that there are some very large trees that have fallen across the pathways. Someone (a ranger or volunteer I suppose) has cut through the trees with a chainsaw making an opening large enough for a couple of people walking side by side to pass through the tree fall but still remain on the hiking path. I thought it was odd that they didn’t just remove the trees altogether but that’s when I was reminded that this is a wilderness area…not a state park. Maintenance is minimal as not to disturb the natural beauty of the area and that was cool with me.

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I loved being smack-dab in the middle of the woods (or forest depending on what area of the country you reside in) with nothing but the sounds of nature echoing all around. I think Girlfriend may not be the only one communing with the free spirits that dwell within.

Here comes the first downgrade, we find ourselves slowly traversing slippery  wet, leaf-covered rocks here and there, stepping carefully because there is one member of our little traveling party who is a well-known klutz. Names are being withheld for the protection and privacy of concerned parties. Oh alright, it’s me. I fall down like once a month and usually in the most populated places I can find…downtown during rush hour, in the mall during holiday shopping season, coming out the doctor’s office after an orthopedic appointment…you get the idea.

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Back to the story, we’ve been on the trail for a couple of hours now, we’ve made our way down several semi-steep tiers of pathway and we are hitting the bottom of the canyon.  I’m thinking “We should be almost to the creek and the second trail about now”. It’s just about that time that I spot the creek and I feel a bit of relief. This trail has taken longer to hike that I thought it would. We’re only about a third of the way into our little day adventure and I was pretty sure we should have been at least half way in order to keep our schedule intact. I had really thought that we would have been to the third trail by now but, it’s ok. It’s only a little after 1 pm so there’s plenty of daylight left. It won’t get dark until around 6 pm so that’s still five hours.  It’s only taken us two hours to get to the second trail and even if the other two trails take a little more than two hours a piece, we will still be back at the parking lot by dark. We may get a little hungry before we get back to the truck but that doesn’t really concern me either. I’m having a good time and I’ve gotten quite a few good pictures so far.

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Now let me just take a second to explain something…this is the Sipsey Wilderness area…first let me say WILDERNESS and let that sink in really good – 24,922 acres of pure untamed, unbridled nature at its best. Not a lot of maintenance to say the least…no paid custodians to upkeep the trails, no stone-lined paths, no outhouses much less restrooms, no kiddy-train ride back to the car. It’s pretty much you and the wilds and if you’re lucky – somebody has maintained the numbered trail signs and/or the paths themselves. The far and few between camping areas consist of a single and normally, recent hiker-constructed, fire-pit just off the side of the main trail and nothing gets left behind…no trash…no evidence of human life…nothing. We are talking serious wilderness…serious back-pack country. As I mentioned before, LARGE trees have felled over the pathways, cut by chainsaw just enough to make a pass-through. Oh, and then there are those plastic neon marking tapes…you know what I’m talking about, right? Those brightly colored tapes people (usually scouts) tie around trees so they don’t get lost when trying to find their way out of the wilderness? The concept is pretty ingenious when you stop and think about it. It’s the perfect place for a day hike…nothing but the three of us and the great big, in your face, wild wilderness.

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Now let’s get back to the bottom of the trail and the creek where we are to hook up to our second of the three hiking trails.We spot a small, dark brown, wooden trail sign which was nailed to a wooden post. The number of the corresponding trail had been carefully carved into the dark wood and the end of the sign was cut into an arrow which pointed in the direction of the designated trail. Trustworthy, right?  We follow the trail past the sign in the direction posted and this leads us directly INTO the creek. No, no. This can’t be right. The trail map didn’t indicate that we had to go swimming on this hike, plus it’s October…it may be warm outside but not warm enough for creek diving. It’s about that time that Russell reminds me that he had been on this same hike many years ago and he distinctly remembers that he did not have to cross the creek, the trail is supposed to follow the foothills of the bluff that we had just transcended and it continues to parallel the creek until we reach the third trail that would lead us back to the parking lot – so we back-track to the trail sign. It did look a little cock-eyed – like it may have at one time pointed in the other direction and the other direction didn’t call for creek diving – sounds good to me, let’s go-

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and this is where things start getting off-kilter.

I hope you will join us again as the wandering threesome continue their adventures on the Trails of Misadventure…

To be continued…

Blog What??? Dream Analysis & Self Realization

Last week we took a much-needed long weekend at the beach.  It was the first time we had gotten a real “get away” in over two years.

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The last time we went away for a long weekend we had a lot less responsibility at home but this time, there was a whole herd of animals to be taken care of while we were away frolicking. We are the proud owners of Winky the wonder cat, Girlfriend the sweet black Lab, Pancho & Lefty the donkey brothers and Bonnie & Clyde the pygmy goat couple. That’s a lot to tend to. Fortunately we have been blessed with some of the best neighbors on the planet.

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So we left our crew in the caring and trustworthy hands of our wonderful neighbors, who jumped right on board when we asked if they would mind seeing to our flock’s needs while we were out of town. It’s an indescribable gift to be surrounded by such thoughtful and giving neighbors.

We set off on our weekend with peace of mind knowing that all would be well taken care of while we were gone.

It was a relaxing vacation but even so, we were anxious to return home to check on our beloved pets. We arrived home to a heart-warming series of braying, baahing, barking and meowing.  It felt good to be back.

First things first, we start to unpack the car and as I enter the kitchen I see this HUGE, beautiful arrangement of wines that were accompanied by a gift basket chocked-full of goodies that had been carefully displayed on the bar. It seems one of our lovely neighbors had taken our absence as opportunity to surprise us with a wonderful gift.

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She had purchased wines from Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and California along with a variety of crackers, cheese, dips, cookies, pastries and  candies –  all set up in an eye-catching arrangement with flashing cube lights, wine glasses, a specialty display stand and festive silver paper shreds. It was breath-taking and such a kind, thoughtful gift to return home to. It is the caliber of gift that you would expect to find as a honeymoon gift or some other such special occasion.  I later learned that our neighbor had been working on this present for quite some time and had been wanting to surprise us with it for a while. I don’t think she’ll ever know just how truly surprised and grateful we were to receive such a lovely gift.

Previous to our going out-of-town, we had told the neighbor about my blog and sent her link to it so that she could read some of what I had been working on.  It just so happened that the last blog I wrote before going on vacation was a blog concerning insomnia. This blog must have struck a chord with her because as part of the thoughtful gift she had prepared, she tucked a daily journal into the gift basket.

I received the following e-mail from her the day after we returned from our vacation:

YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW THIS BUT THE REASON I BOUGHT THE JOURNAL WAS NOT FOR BOUTS OF INSOMNIA OR OF OTHER TIMES OF INSPIRATION. I BOUGHT IT TO PLACE BESIDE YOUR BED SO THAT IMMEDIATELY UPON AWAKENING IN THE MORNING JUST SIT UP ON THE SIDE OF THE BED AND WRITE 2 OR 3 WORDS OR SENTENCES ABOUT DREAMS OR THOUGHTS. AFTER YOU’VE SHOWERED, PUT MAKEUP ON AND HAD SOME COFFEE MOST OF WHAT WAS IN YOUR HEAD IS GONE. IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN EVEN IF IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE WHEN YOU READ IT LATER IT WILL STIMULATE YOU’RE BRAIN EVEN MORE. YOU SEEM TO HAVE ALREADY OPENED THE FLOOD GATES NOW AND IT’S RUSHING OUT BUT YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT MIGHT BE LEFT BEHIND THAT IS A REALLY GOOD STORY.

How cool was this??!!  I was so excited.

Years ago I had gotten into dream analysis in good depth.  It was during that time that I trained myself to keep a “dream journal” as a way of remembering my dreams so that I could analyze them later on.  A “dream journal” is just a journal you keep by your bedside and upon awakening from a dream, you jot down the dream so that the symbolism can be analyzed later on.  I was never sure of my accuracy in analysis although sometimes, the analysis that came from the dreams just seemed to make sense, but keeping a journal helped train me to remember my dreams. I’ve always had really vivid, colorful dreams and this was just a way to help me hold onto them.  I quit keeping a journal of my dreams long ago but the ability to remember my dreams has remained with me for the most part.

So keeping a journal – yeah, journals and I were not strangers.  I was really looking forward to trying it again.

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Last night I went to bed and then remembered that I had forgotten to put my journal by my bedside so I get up and make a special trip to retrieve my journal and a trustworthy pen. I had high hopes that I was going to “catch some inspiration” during the night and that I did.

At some point during the night I had this really vivid dream that I was walking on the beach and was surrounded by beautiful, perfectly shaped sand dollars. The dream was so real that I woke up to the sound of waves crashing onto the beach. In the total darkness I immediately reach for my journal in a sleep induced haze. I write the word “sand dollar” although I know that, even as I’m writing, what I have scribbled will no more resemble the word “sand dollar” than a picture of the moon resembles a five dollar bill.  So my half-wake brain sub-conscientiously tells my full asleep brain “Remember the word “SAND DOLLAR”…it’s IMPORTANT!!! REMEMBER—-SAND DOLLAR!!! DON’T FORGET!!” I was practically yelling at myself in my sleep but I would remember….I made a promise to myself to remember and remember I did.

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I fall back asleep.

Later on another dream. This one was about seashells. I was once again on the beach surrounded by beautiful seashells that were laying ridge-side down all over the beach. They were slowly but progressively filling with water each time the waves broke. During the dream it came to my mind “From there to here…remember.  Remember this because this is going to make a wonderful blog. Don’t worry about the sand dollar thing…just remember…’from there to here’ and you will create something wonderful.”

I obeyed. I dutifully picked up my journal and scribbled “from there to here”.

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I awaken this morning remembering that I had made some ill-fated scratchings in my journal but was quite certain that they were just gobbledy-gook and fit for nothing.  I pick up my journal and sure enough…what the heck? I must have really been out of it.  Oh well, there’s always another night to look forward to.

All day, the journal bugged me.  All day, it kept telling me “there’s a story – write it.” But what story? I wrote a bunch of cryptic crap during the night…how interesting!!! What am I supposed to write about? People will think I’ve taken one too many steps over the edge!

That was until I started wondering about the sand dollars.  I didn’t see any sand dollars on our vacation…mostly just broken bits and pieces but I kept a watchful eye…hoping that I would find a whole one. Then I started to wonder…how does sand dollar imagery play into dream analysis? So I get on the internet to do a little research and this is what I find:

Sand Dollar

To see a sand dollar in your dream suggests that your feelings matter. Do not let anyone undervalue your emotions or opinions. Alternatively, a sand dollar symbolizes your unrealized talents. 

Well…how shocking!!!

I have only recently started really delving seriously into photography and then into blogging…could my dream actually pertain to this? How reassuring! I still struggle with my abilities as I see them. I put stuff out there but I often wonder if I have talent or is it a fruitless pursuit? Regardless, I enjoy doing it and as long as I get joy from it, I’ll keep on keeping on.

Next came the question of the seashells. Why were they filling with water and what did that signify? I researched further and this is what I came up with:

Seashells

To see seashells in your dream represent security and protection. You are not showing your true self or real feelings. In  protecting yourself from getting hurt, you are also becoming reclusive and emotionally closed off. 

http://www.dreammoods.com/dreamdictionary/s.htm

Then I remembered that when I dreamed of the seashells the sentiment was “from there to here”.  I even wrote it down so that I wouldn’t forget.

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In my “past life” I would have NEVER dreamed of blogging or expressing my thoughts and feelings openly. That was too great of a risk for me. I didn’t want to chance my feelings being hurt or people seeing too much of what I kept on the inside. That’s where “I was”.  Now “I am here.”  It made perfect, logical  and eerie sense to me.

And so it appears that the wonderful and well-thought out gift that my neighbor so graciously bestowed upon me has served its purpose and very quickly it seems.

I hope that it will continue to serve its purpose. I look forward to many insightful and surprising blogs to come.

My neighbor’s gift is blossoming into something…something more than I’m sure she could have ever perceived and definitely more than I could have ever perceived…especially in such a short time.

Over one simple, short night I have made a new connection in an unexpected way and henceforth, before passing judgment too quickly, I will pose this one question when I look at my journal-

Blog what?

And my hope is that the answer in return will be….your thoughts, your hopes and most of all….your dreams….

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