I went a-running, as I usually do. As I was leaving, I told Liz: “I’m bored with the roads and paths I have been running lately. Today I am going to go run somewhere new, and I don’t know where”
So off I went. 5 minutes or so I found myself approaching the neighborhood elementary school where Jonni goes. I noted a gravel path into the unmowed jungle that surrounds our little town and thought: “what the schmee. I’ll see if it goes anywhere.”
It did. The gravel road ended and a dirt path took over. The dirt path forked and forked again. The woods on either side hung over the path so that I was obliged to duck like a goblin as I went. The creek (the same as the one that our ditch leads into) crossed the path and I did some wading. By now, my run has turned into more of a shamble, as the terrain and flora are becoming more of a problem. But the path is still clear. People obviously use it, but I don’t think anyone maintains it. It’s not scenic or pretty for old people to stroll on, but dank and ignored for kids to hide in. Lots of forks. More water crossings. New running shoes too, all soaking now. And the grass is getting taller on the trail. And the spandex shorts I am wearing are not ideal jungle gear. (I wound up with 5 ticks!) Lots of mud too because it’s been rainy lately.
Suddenly an open field. Surrounded entirely by jungle. No houses visible at all. Oddly enough, an abandoned pair of b-ball hoops set in a slab of cement in the middle of this place. Kind of an after the bomb sort of feel. My kind of thing.
“Why are these lonely hoops here? What did this place used to look like that someone thought B-ball hoops would be a good investment here? And speaking of here, where am I?”
Well, I had a fairly good idea, I thought. My plan had been to follow the jungle path until it dumped me out somewhere civilized again and then find my way home from there. Or, if the path dead-ended first, to simply back track. I considered that I was about at a point where neither option was manifesting and figured I’d go ahead start backtracking now. So I went back the way I came. I picked up my pace to a run again, with my work out in mind.
More damp. More goblin duck walk under branches. More forks. More nearly undefined path. Pretty soon I had to admit to myself that this poorly defined path I was on was actually not really a path at all, but more like a figment of my imagination. So I hadn’t come this way the first time through.
I’m not lost, clearly, cause I am still parallel to the stream, and how lost can I possibly be with that landmark handy? The various pathes have crossed the stream all over the place so, I figure the best move, since backtracking has failed me, is to find the stream and stick with it.
Finding the stream is easy. Having done that, I realize that all I have to do is head upstream, until I find my ditch.
Or is it down stream? Fish. Not sure, but my hunch is upstream.
The path is dead on my side of the creek now, so I wade across (new shoes sustaining no new damage at this point, anyway) and pick up the trail on that side. Two or so minutes later however, it’s dead again on this side, but looks possibly active again on the other side. This crossing isn’t so pretty. Its gotten a little deeper; before I could see my feet under water. Now not so much. Not liking that.
On the other side I find that the trail appears to be die almost right away. It might, might, might, sort of pick up again on the other side, but this crossing is not straight across, but actually pretty stinking lateral, the bank on the opposite side allowing no purchase until I have forded through the middle of the water a good 30 yards or so, and none of it is seeing-your-feet water.
And the path… the more I study that far bank, the less convinced I am that there really is a path over there at all.
I stand on my sandbar for a good 5-7 minutes or so thinking. I waded out about 4 feet. If I was assured that there was something worth having on the otherside I’d go for it, buuuut…
Well, the one thing I am not going to do is backtrack. Rewade all that crap, only to be back where I started? No.
Ultimately, I decided to blaze a path through the forest. I could pretty much guess, looking at the skyline that there was some sort of clearing up hill and 25 or so feet laterally from the creek, but no sort of path to get there, and me in spandex. But it looked like my best bet. It was a solid up hill, but when I broke into that clearing I was glad that I did. I was on train tracks. Well, not on the tracks, but beside them.
Two directions to pick from now, and I knew one of them would get me somewhere.
There was a bridge going over the tracks in one direction that I suspected was one that I sometimes go running over, so I made for that direction, and it was a good thing I didn’t go the other way, because if I had I wouldn’t have intersected civilization for 3 or more miles and then I would have had to hoof it another 3 miles from there to home, and by then I would have been classed as a missing person, maybe. The bridge was about a half mile off, and I’m already a half hour or so late home from my run, so I set in to jogging. Railroad gravel is no good for running on. Its not gravel at all, but more like boulders, so I made bad time, but it was my bridge when I got there and then was pretty much home free.
So that’s how I got lost within a mile or so of my own home. Go ahead and laugh. There are three major geographical features of my town, one being the interstate, which doesn’t come into this story and the other being the railroad and the creek. Our neighborhood is bounded by the creek on 3 sides, my ditch being a tributary to it. There’s more neighborhoods beyond the creek, but before you get to them you have to cross the rail road. The space between the railroad and creek is all wild and belongs to nobody especially, and is all just woods, and that’s where I was. It’s not a broad strip of land, its an embarrassingly slim place for someone to get lost in, but there it is.
I’ll have to go back in jeans and boots and a hat and explore. Brad, if you make it out this way this summer, we’ll have to have a shot at it, interested?