Thursday, August 18, 2011

hiking, getting lost, angels and devils

Hello there!
Wow! This feels awkward!
I haven't blogged in such a long time, I don't know how to start.

Well, I thought I'd tell you about one of my adventures with Ace.
Not sure there's anyone out there to read this anymore (actually, there two people that I'm gonna force to read this. They commented on my facebook page that I should blog about this...tempted me to blog know who you are!)

Anyhoo, back to my story.
Ace and I have been hiking a lot lately.
I guess you'd call it that. Not sure what the difference between walking and hiking is, but hiking sounds cooler.

So, as I was saying, we've been hiking a lot.
It started because I was getting sick of taking Ace to a "dog park" daily.
Dog parks are great, don't get me wrong. I may have strangled Ace as a puppy if it weren't for dog parks. There are some really nice ones around here. Big fenced in areas where you can let your dog off leash and let him run around and play with other dogs. Some of them are pretty fancy with agility equipment, doggie drinking fountains, ponds for swimming and such.
And I met a lot of nice dog owners while standing around at these parks.

But that's just it, I got kind of tired of standing around.
One day last fall, a woman told me about her favorite park where she likes to walk her dog.
So Ace and I decided to check it out the next day.

It turned out to be a beautiful nature preserve with miles and miles of trails.
Some of the trails are wooded, some are across prairies, some are paved, some are gravel, some are just dirt. There's a big lake and lots of wild life to see. Oh, and don't even get me started on the wild flowers!

Ace and I started going there every single day. Rain or snow or freezing temps didn't stop us (okay, I'll admit, when the wind chill drops below -10, I draw the line!).
And soon we started hearing of other dog owners favorite parks. Ace and I always went and checked them out. And then it became kind of a challenge, trying to find new and interesting places around the Chicagoland area.

I'm amazed at all the parks my new home has to offer. I'm even more amazed at how much I love hiking around these parks.

I have begun to expand my search for fun places to hike. I don't mind driving an hour or two to hike a beautiful place.

A couple weeks ago my family was vacationing in Wisconsin. We were camping near the Dells. It was Ace's first "long" camping trip with us. The kids wanted to go to one of the water parks one day. We decided The Hubby would take the kids and I would take Ace on a hike.

I chose Devil's Lake State Park because a friend (and fellow dog owner) recommended it.
It is truly an amazing place. I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. The trails were perfect and it wasn't that crowded. Part of the reason it wasn't crowded was because the heat index was 108 that day.

I took 3 water bottles in my backpack. There were a couple places to refill so I figured that would be enough. We did the first part of the hike, what seemed to be a little less than 2/3rds of the way around the lake, without any trouble. I will say it was incredibly hot and I was trying be very conscious of how much water we drank so we wouldn't run out.

We stopped and had lunch, rested and I refilled our water bottles. I had talked to some other hikers who told me the last part of the hike was easier than the first part, so when we set off I was feeling a little more relaxed and maybe not as concerned about rationing our water as I should have been.

After about a mile of hiking, we came upon a large rock that was coming out of the ground and on one side of it was a cave. It was strange because the area we were in was more wooded than the other trails that we had been on. I walked around the left side of the rock and looked in the cave. The trail continued to the left and we followed it. I saw more giant rocks everywhere and they were beautiful (ask my family...I really like rocks). I wasn't paying much attention to the trail. Ace was in front of me and I was mainly looking up.

The next thing I notice is the trail is gone. Ace and I are standing in foliage. I turn around and I don't see a trail anywhere. When I look ahead and off to the left a little I think I see somewhat of a "path" so we keep walking. At first I thought we had just got a little side tracked, that the trail was just over to our left.

But as we walked, it soon became clear that we were not any where near the trail.
I don't know if you've ever lost your way in a densely wooded area before but I can tell you that it is extremely disorienting. I was amazed how quickly I lost sense of North. I also couldn't figure out the direction of the lake.

Ace and I kept walking. The terrain was steep and either rocky or covered in plants up to my shins (I was sure some of it was poison ivy). There were huge fallen trees we had to climb over. Ace was having trouble getting his footing. I should also say here that I had no cell phone coverage.

I kept stopping to listen, hoping I would hear people on the trail. What if I was going in the wrong direction and just getting deeper in the woods? We had already drank half of our water. What if we ran out? It was so hot! We kept going, slipping and stumbling.

I'm estimating that we walked for about 20 minutes like this (it probably wasn't that long...when your on the verge of panic a minute gets awful long) and then we came around a bend. Straight ahead was a small gorge with lots of big rocks that would take forever to climb over. To our right was a very steep hill with more fallen trees. I didn't feel like there was much choice, we had to go up the hill. I had to climb using my hands and had to help Ace over the first tree. As I climbed over, I scraped my leg pretty good. That's when I started to loose it. I felt tears coming to my eyes.
Just then, I saw a blonde woman standing at the very top of the hill. I felt a huge rush of relief. There was a human! The trail must be up there! Thank God!

I climbed the hill as fast as I could, helping Ace when needed. The whole way I kept thinking "oh thank God" and "this is almost over!". When we reached the top of the hill I looked up and my heart sank. All I saw was more dense woods. At least it was flat, but no trail, no blonde woman, no sounds. I called out "Hello?" but got no response.

I decided to try and go straight ahead a little further (seems so silly now because I was so disoriented). We continued to walk for a few more minutes and suddenly I heard voices. I immediately ran towards them as fast as I could. Finally, I could see a break in the trees up ahead. I saw a group of teens walk past (thank God for noisy teens!).

The teens were down the trail to our right when we finally stepped out of those awful woods. I wanted to kiss that trail. I've never been so happy to see a trail in my life. I walked on that trail as fast as I could without running. All I wanted to do was get back to my car and leave this place.

And so we walked fast. And we didn't see anyone else on the trail for a long time. As I was walking I started to wonder about that blonde woman at the top of the hill. Maybe it was dehydration or maybe the woods were playing games with my mind but a thought flashed in my mind for just a second....What if that blonde woman was really an angel?

But it was only a second. And not because I came to my senses and said "Nah!" but because right at that moment the woods spit out that blonde woman on the trail right in front of me.
And her husband too.
"Holy $#*%! (she didn't seem so celestial now) We have been lost in the woods for over an hour! I didn't think we were ever going to find our way out!"
They both actually feel to their knees on the trail and gasped for air like they had been under water instead of in a bunch of trees.

We walked for a while with our new friends and both agreed we'd made our navigational error at the cave. Then we came to a fork in the trail. They decided to take the "long way". I decided to take the advice of another hiker I'd met earlier that day and go on the trail called "Devil's Doorway".

Yep, I'm really THAT stupid....but that's a whole other story.


Brian Miller said...

good to be lost in the woods...been there and found my way back (obviously) but very scary...glad you made it back...and good to see you...

otin said...

Sounds kinda like a story I wrote. I was surprised to see you.

blueviolet said...

I'm guessing that you and the blonde and her man were not the first ones to get lost there! That's probably the only time you'll ever be thankful for noisy teens. ;)

SO good to see you!!!!

Dawn Z said...

So glad you are blogging again! Loved the hiking story and glad you made it out OK

Baino said...

Nice to have you back and with such a tale! Quite the adventure. So much for dogs knowing how to get back to where they began, I thought that's what all that leg cocking was about!

Barb said...

So glad to see you back in the blog-o-sphere! Great story (cause you survived, of course!). I need to get my dogs out more. There isn't any place good around here. :(

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