In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Monday, May 28, 2007

That sucked

Those of you who were just eaten up with jealousy over my last entry (and who wouldn't have been) will be fiendishly tickled with this one.

It all started off innocent enough. An overcast day with light showers on and off and the sun peaking out now and again. A perfect day for a hike in the woods. I looked at the map and started driving into the Coeur d Alene national forest to find a good hiking trail. My first stop was a very short hike as the trail just plain dead ended after about 1/2 mile. It was still worthwhile though since I got to see some purple Trilliums, which I'd never seen before. I saw plenty more through out the day though along with many white ones as well. I got back in my car and continued driving until I reached some trailheads on Monument Mountain. I looked at the map and saw that forest road 813 appeared to make a loop around the mountain and then came back to the parking area on the other side. Looking at the trails seemed to confirm this as their was a forest road marked 813 on either side of me(many of the forest roads are open to ATV's and hiking only). Taking a quick eyeball measurement on the map it looked like the trail was about 4 miles long and I didn't figure it would be any problem knocking it out in about 1 1/2 hours.

It was a very nice hike around the side of the mountain with dense woods on either with plenty of wild flowers blooming. After about 1/2 mile or so I came to a picturesque little stream coming down the side of the mountain where I stopped to take a couple pictures. Then about 1/8 mile after that I came to a fork in the road. One trail led up and to the right and the other went to the left and seemed to continue along much the the same path I was already on. The trail to the left was marked as forest road 801 and the trail to the right was unmarked. I found myself staring at the marker trying to remember what trail number I'd started out on. I knew it was 800 something, but was it 801?

I was able to convince myself that it was indeed 801 that I'd started out on so I happily went to the left and continued on my journey clockwise around the mountain. Everything seemed to be going just fine with plenty of gorgeous scenery and the trail kept curving to the right, as it should have been. It started to rain a little after a while but it was no big deal since I'd brought my rain jacket and also had on my waterproof hat. It didn't phase me a bit, it just added to the atmosphere of the woods and I continued merrily long. When I was a little past what I thought should have been half way the trail split again. This time 801 was marked as staying to the right and continuing the same trail and an unmarked trail went down the to the left; I again stayed on 801. Around this time I started picking up the pace since I wanted to get back to Hayden before Don and Gayle left for Mexico. By now the rain had quit, the clouds had parted a little, and the valleys below me were covered in fog that rolled up and down and in and out all the little nooks and crannies. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch.

After stopping for a few pictures I continued on to make it back to the car. I was starting to get a blister on one of the toes on my left foot but I just kept going because I was now on the same side of the mountain as my car and I knew it would be “just around the next corner”. Well, it wasn't just around the next corner, or the corner after that. I started to notice the trail was going uphill quite a bit and it appeared I was starting to wind my way back around the mountain again. My blister started to hurt pretty dang bad so I stopped to wrap my sore toe with some tape, which made a big difference.

The trail came to a couple more splits and 801 was always marked and the other trails never were. I began to think that maybe 801 wasn't where I wanted to be and that I'd gone past the car already; that I was higher up on the mountain and that now I was just winding my way to the top. I tried to remember what the rest of the trail had been like, had I been going up or downhill earlier? I hadn't paid that much attention or even bothered to bring a map because it was just a “simple” loop trail and the map didn't show anything else intersecting it. I tried taking a couple of the unmarked trails for about 1/2 mile to see where they led but gave up on them and doubled back when they just kept climbing higher. I thought of just turning around and doubling back but I knew that that was a long ways and I just kept thinking it would be “just around the next corner”, but it never was.

I saw a trail straight down the mountain from where I was and I hoped that maybe it was the trail that I started on and that it would take me back to my car. I dropped downhill to get to it but found it wasn't the trail I'd started on afterall. I followed it for a ways but it didn't seem to be going where I wanted it to either, still continuing around to the wrong side of the mountain. I decided to stop to drink some water, eat something and decide what I wanted to do. It was just after 7:30 and I'd been hiking for a little over 3 1/2 hours. The sun sets at 8:30 (it will set earlier then that behind the mountains) and with the cloud cover it was already getting fairly dark. After a short break I decided to follow 801 a little farther just in case before doubling back the way I came. I knew it would be a long hike but I also knew I could find my way back without a problem and I didn't want to start getting on unfamiliar trails in the dark. For all I knew I wasn't even on the same mountain anymore!

I started back going as fast as I could walk, wanting to cover as much ground as possible before dark. Before long I started feeling a blister on my other foot. I knew I still had a long way to go so I stopped and taped it as soon as I felt it; which helped keep it from getting much worse. My hip joints were starting to hurt and I was really wishing I wasn't carrying all that camera equipment in my pack. As I got to the opposite sound of the mountain I figured out that I had originally been going downhill, so most of the trip back was all a slight incline; which didn't help out my joints any. I tried to keep the pace up but couldn't help but slowing down towards the end. My feet were feeling very heavy and all my joints were aching. I'd expected the hike back to take at least three hours and I was very relieved to find myself back at the car in two. I guess it helped that on the way back there was no stopping for photos or exploring and doubling back on new trails.

It felt extremely good to finally sit down in the car. I managed to stay awake for the drive back to the house where I crashed on the couch.

One of the things I really didn't like about living in Iowa was that it was hard to go for a long hike. There were very few wooded areas (and the ones that are there are pretty small) and the prairies areas are pretty broken up. The one thing about Iowa though is that it's pretty much impossible to get lost and I guess that's something that I've taken for granted all these years. I'm not used to being somewhere were you can't see for miles with plenty of landmarks to orient yourself (though I suppose much of that is familiarity with the area) and where you can walk for miles without seeing another person or even coming across a house. It looks like I'm going to have to take my hiking preparation a little more seriously now.

When I got back to the car I looked on the map and couldn't find forest road 801 anywhere. When I studied it closer it looked like the original trail I'd started on was longer then I'd originally thought though. I still think I'd gone too far since the parking lot was on the SW side of the mountain and I was staring to head NE again by the time I turned around. One of these days I'm going to go back out there and I'll start to take road 813 the opposite way to see where it goes. I'm going to be pretty pissed if I go 200 yards down the trail and find it's the spot where I'd given up and turned around.


debbieuu said...

Oh Alan. I'm glad you found your way back and you've had a learning experience. I'm really counting on you to take good care of yourself. How long were you on that hike?

Alan said...

I think I started at about a quarter to three and got back about a quarter to ten. The length of the hike wouldn't have been so bad if I'd planned on it and hadn't been walking so hard the last 4 hours or so trying to hurry.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.