Tuesday, January 15, 2013

An Unexpected Journey: New appreciation for the word ‘lost’ – Part Two

Click photo to see an overview of the area.


By Gary D. Myers

I was lost in the woods and ashamed of myself for admitting it. How could I break rule number one? (Rule Number One for Exploring: Never admit you’re lost and keeping on search for the way).

To by fair, I only broke part of rule number one. I still hadn’t given up. At this point, I was not technically lost. I still knew the right direction to go. When I was standing on the rim of the canyon, I knew north, south, east and west. But, and it is a big but, I would have to cross that wide gap of canyon in the dark through rough terrain and keep out of the one of those pesky off-shoots. Down in the darkness of the canyon, I could barely tell up and down much less north, south, east and west.

Back into the canyon I went. I crossed the canyon trying to stay on a straight course. It seemed like my feet could find a single flat spot. I bumped my shins and ankles on rocks and I encountered more thorns. At the bottom I slipped off a rock plunging one leg in calf-deep chilly creek water. Then I started back up the other side. Another off-shoot. I felt lost and I began to pray.

I turned around and went back to the bottom. I planned to walk upstream and out the way I came in. I knew that getting in an off-shoot was still a possibility – maybe even a probability – but it was worth a try.

I knew that Kimberly, Jonathan and Mom had to be worried about me. I should have been home an hour earlier. I was upset with myself for causing them to worry. I began to think about the implications on my predicament. I thought I might have to spend the night in the woods. Unlike the other times, I wouldn’t have the cave for shelter. More prayers – I cried out to God for help.

At some point I simply lost the walking stick. I don’t know when and don’t know how. I guess in my near-panicked state of mind, I just let it slip out of my hand. Somewhere along the way the band of my headlamp broke and I was forced to carry the light. I don’t remember much of what happened around this time. I wandered aimlessly for a while, praying and hoping to find my way. I remembering thinking how easy it would be to walk out in the daylight if I had to spend the night.

My heart pounded so hard in my chest that I could hear it. My sweat-drenched shirt, wet shoes and pants, teamed up with the cool night breeze, to give me a chill.

I continued upstream quite a way until the stream bed started getting really steep, too steep to be the right way. Yet another off-shoot cut from the top of the canyon.  I continued to the top just to take a look. At the top I saw heartening signs. I had been going in the wrong direction and I was now even farther from home, but I could see three lights that helped me know which way was home. I could see a natural gas facility on a distant hill. I knew it was several miles southwest of Mom’s because I had seen it perched on a tall, bald hill as I walked to the canyon that afternoon. I turned 180 degrees to see two lights northeast of my position. I surmised that the lights were my Mom’s house and her neighbor’s house.

Problem solved right? Wrong. My hope was tempered by the fact that the main channel of the canyon and this off-shoot were both between me and home. I need to cross or descend the off-shoot and then walk to the east, either in the creek bed or on the rim. Then I could cross the canyon at an easy spot and head home.

One of the random photos
I had only taken a few steps back into the off-shoot when I stepped into a deep hole between several rocks. The hole halted me in my tracks and my shin banged against the rocky side of the hole. The light launched out of my hand. It is only by God’s grace that I didn’t break my leg in a hole like that -- my momentum had put quite a strain on my leg.  I sat there several minutes recovering from the sharp pain in my shin. Then I realized that the light was gone and I couldn’t find it. When it hit the ground, it turned off. What a fine mess!
I took several random photos with my camera hoping the flash would help locate the light. No luck. After several minutes searching I saw the headlamp in moon’s reflection on the light. To my surprise, the light still worked. Finally, something went my way.

I decided to cross the off-shoot and climb the other side. At the top I stepped out onto a wide plateau. Finally, the clouds cleared a bit and the moon shone bright providing some much-needed light. The plateau stretched out as far as I could see to the east. To my left (north) I thought I could see a faint tree line 300-350 yards in the distance marking the south rim of the main canyon.  Beyond that, about a mile away, I could see two lights – my beacons of hope. I walked straight east in hope of finding the old dirt road that crosses the canyon on the way to Mom’s.

It was after 8 p.m. when I reached the plateau and though the terrain was much easier – just two foot high grass and a few short bushes – every step was labored. I was tired, hungry, battered and bruised. Relief spilled over me when I reached the road. I thanked God for His guidance and protection and turned toward home. I wish I had just followed the road’s twists and turns. But I was so focused on the lights that I left the road to take the straightest path home. That involved some really rough terrain and getting wet again, but before long I was across the creek that pours into the canyon and back in familiar territory.

I plodded along on heavy legs until Mom’s house was in view. I saw the back door open and I waved the light overhead. Soon I was greeted with hugs and tears by my Kimberly, Jonathan and Mom. I was well after 8:30 p.m. when I got home – I had planned to be back a little after 5 p.m.

I quickly changed out of my wet clothes and had some food and water. Then I took a long hot bath. I was physically bruised and battered. My shin had a growing swollen bruise. The biggest bruise, however, was reserved for my pride.

I knew my whole body would ache in the morning, but I had made it home. I slept very well that night.

To Be Continued

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