Morrie pants, as I look around at the towering trees. It’s quiet.
The only exception is the sound of my voice and the slight rustle of leaves.
“Hello?” my brother’s gruff voice answers the phone.
“Rick?” I say, my phone’s low battery notification dinging again. “It’s Missy.”
I decided to go to Devil’s Bathtub for obvious reasons. The name. Plus, it wasn’t too far away from home.
Morris and I headed out mid-afternoon, after I had gotten a bit of work done. We zoomed over to Mendon Pond Park, parking in a mostly empty lot. There was a simple wooden sign that marked the beginning of the trail, hanging over a gateway of rustic stairs.
We started at the same time as the rain.
It was sporadic, but welcomed. We made our way down and around the pond, with Morris sniffing and peeing on everything in what I assume to be admiration for the wilderness. We’re a little less than a mile in when I get bored.
I spot a trail with more of an incline (in my opinion, the trail becomes increasingly less marked as you go through), and we hike up a hill to get there. Up on the incline, nirvana – a well formed path with barely any horse crap.
Well, at least I hope it was horse crap.
We’re walking along, enjoying the occasional rainfall, as well as each other’s company. I see a clearing up ahead, and as we approach, I realize it’s a parking lot. Just not ours.
I’m not ready to leave, but Morrie’s hot. I give him some water, and turn around, despite his resistance. He sits and half smiles, half pants as I tug his leash.
“Not an option, buddy.” I say, a little more persistent with the tug.
He takes the hint and we continue back the way we came. I see another trail, a little more covered by weeds and such, but figure it’ll be more interesting to take a different way back. It leads us out onto Grasslands Trail, which I identified later on a map.
“What the-” I start, as I watch cars fly by on 45.
Unsure of why the trail would bring us this way, we turn back onto the remote trail. I continue forward, not seeing any additional markers, but the trail is cleared and unobstructed.
I keep following it, with Morrie’s breathing becoming more labored as we go. I desperately look for more trail markers as we go, and contemplate turning around. I take out my phone, and although I show up on Google Maps, there’s obviously no specific directions.
Then I slowly realize that “turning around” wasn’t an option. In my pursuit of the trail markers, I had lost our way. Every turn brought us deeper into the heart of the woods, and I honestly didn’t know how to get back.
My phone beeps. 12% battery.
I’ve watched 127 Hours and Wild, two great movies that obviously point out the potential hazard in traveling alone. In this case, I wasn’t well prepared, but for a decent reason: it wasn’t a long hike. I was close to home. It started out really easy.
If at any time I had felt unprepared, I would have gone back to the car. But in my mind, I was prepared enough – I had cold water for both of us and my phone. I had successfully hitch-hiked around Iceland, climbed up Piestewa Peak, and Morrie and I have hiked together before in much less familiar areas.
Not even for a split second did I consider I could get lost in Mendon.
My mind was buzzing all afternoon, but any thoughts about future travel plans, ideas for essays or boys faded. I had to keep going, running the risk of getting us even more lost, but staying stationary was no good. The one thing I could do, though, was tell someone where I am, and the potential trouble I could be in.
I checked the time, now knowing my brother’s schedule well enough to know he’d be home soon. I call, my phone ticking down to 10% as I lay out the scenario. I was lost in the woods, my car was parked at the entrance where we started, and I only had a little blue dot on a Google Map to speak to where I was.
I sent him a screenshot, then put the phone away in hopes of conserving battery. Then I continued, shaking my head to myself as I worked our way south(ish).
I like to hike. I mean, I really like to hike. I don’t think I realized how much until I had more time for it, eagerly scouring All Trails in search of places to explore with Seymour.
I love the dirt, but prefer the mud. Being sweaty during a long hike, the way the heat has a way of clinging to your skin, is probably one of my favorite sensations. I like the feeling of being so far away from everything, from people and overcrowded gas stations, from stupid retargeting ads I need to close out of to watch a YouTube video, from questions and problems and texts that pop up at the most inconvenient of times, demanding attention.
A good hike doesn’t demand anything except for your appreciation.
Plus I have good instincts outdoors, at least most of the time. I’m protective of Morrie, I try my best to follow the trail, and I’m not reckless. Today may suggest otherwise, though.
The wooden staircase we started down comes into view. I sigh in relief, and call my brother. He says he’ll see me later.
I feel sticky, but satisfyingly so, on the drive home. Morrie stops breathing heavily. The cool air from the A/C washes over us, another trail checked off the list.