Well, I didn’t expect to almost die today but here we are.
Made last minute plans to spend Memorial Day weekend at Savage River Lodge in Frostburg Maryland. I’d been here before six years ago with Annie and my high school BFF Mary and we had the time of our lives. Gorgeous cabins in the woods, gourmet food and dog treats delivered to your door, acres of forest to hike in – what more could one want?
Annie and I set out for what was anticipated to be a short 1.5 jaunt in the woods this morning just to stretch our legs and shake the cobwebs out of our heads. I didn’t bring my phone as I didn’t have pockets and didn’t want to be encumbered or distracted by technology. But we did have this brilliant “map” that’s perfect as long as you don’t care about things like scale, a compass, topography, etc..
About halfway through that one trail at the top-the one that is all on its lonesome in the middle of a state forest-we came to a giant felled tree blocking the path. No problem I thought, I’ll just go into the woods for a bit and go around it. Well, we went into the woods and it seemed as though the border of the path rose up and we were going to be unable to exit up ahead and so I turned back the way I had come and all of a sudden the woods had closed around me and we were utterly and completely lost. Just like that. In an instant.
And then we spent the next THREE HOURS LOST AND TERRIFIED IN THE WOODS.
Initially, reasoning that we couldn’t have strayed too far from the path, I tied Annie to a tree and hiked roughly 30 yards out in each direction, intending to stumble upon the path that way. No dice. I tried ever-widening circles around the tree. Nada. Now the trail was pretty overgrown in spots and the markings were few and far between, so it’s possible I crossed the trail and just didn’t realize it.
It got worse from there. It was pretty close to noon so I couldn’t rely on sun position. As near as I could tell from the “map” three of the four directions available to me would have resulted in wandering indefinitely through state forest and private property, leaving me only a 25% chance (at best) of choosing the correct course. And I have a minimal sense of direction, so the time passed as follows: sit and stare helplessly at map, formulate plan, spend ten minutes executing plan, panic, repeat.
Eventually we found a stream to drink from. Also enjoying the stream? A for real coyote. Yes. I tried to look as fierce as possible, and he eventually wandered off, but he showed no fear and I knew if we were still lost at nightfall things could get ugly. At that point, there was no reason to believe we wouldn’t be there at nightfall, and it hit me that no one would realize we were missing until checkout time 48 hours in the future.
So my aging and arthritic dog and I were forced to do a five-mile walk over uneven terrain and branches and rocks and quicksand. There was no response to my constant shouting. I’d like to say I had some flash of genius that eventually led our way out, but really it was dumb luck following a stream that was not the one I thought it was and eventually making an educated guess as to which way was south. After three hours of absolute and utter fear we made it back to the cabin.
I had come down to the lodge to get a well earned burger and drink. As I approached I spied three fire trucks and two ambulances and was alarmed at yet another emergency situation but was a bit distracted so forgot to ask. a short time later I received a message on my phone. I thought maybe someone had called to complain that Annie was barking, but it turns out that there was a “missing persons report” and they wanted to make sure everyone in my party was accounted for. I said I had been lost in the woods for about three hours this morning but was fine now. She asked if I had been calling for help and I said yes and gave the times. I realized all those emergency vehicles had been for me!
I had to be interviewed by TWO policemen who assured me I “hadn’t done anything wrong” (no duh) while asking if I was the registered owner of my vehicle, taking a photo of my drivers license, and apparently entering my cabin because I was locked out of it. As near as I can figure, someone must have heard me calling for HELP near the end of my adventure and advised the resort who called the local emergency personnel. I didn’t see any vehicles when I came out of the woods, so it must have all gone down once I was safe.
My next door neighbor hails me as I’m taking Annie for an early-morning constitutional. He asks if I’m the one who was lost in the woods. I confirm and fill him in on the details. He responds by pulling out his cellphone to show me the RESCUE CHOPPERS that had been out looking for me (after I was safely returned and enjoying a nap and/or burger.)