I know where I was when this walk turned into a hike. Well, I didn’t exactly know where I was, or this never would have been a hike. The lack of GPS service, and you 20 feet ahead of me, taking turns at breakneck, roll-ankle speed, made it hard to know exactly where I was, but I still had a hunch. So I guess you could say that I knew where I was mentally, though not locationally.
To keep up with you, I had abandoned my pace and my resting heart rate. According to my memory, we’d blown right past the last of my requests to slow down, a half mile ago. If a plea falls in a forest and there’s no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Maybe it’s my fault for obsessively searching for trail blazes and missing all the other signs. We had stopped for a few too many water breaks for this to be merely a walk. My sweat had gone from potential to kinetic to wayyyy too visible. We brought gorp for christ’s sake!
I think we were well into hike territory when fear lapped imagination. We were certainly no longer on a walk when the trees I had initially imagined the Keebler Elves popping out of became the trees I felt might be the same ones from The Blair Witch Project. But we kept trudging, a mile and then another mile without stumbling upon an eerily recognizable rock pile (not to be confused with a wayfinding cairn), nor an EL Fudge cookie.
When the sun started getting lower in the sky, we’d gone from hike to “we gotta get the hell outta here” territory. We power hiked through the golden hour and didn’t spend a moment trying to capture even one envy-enticing Instagram photo that would make people think that everything went according to plan and not the reality… that I was a lunatic, swearing at trees and rocks and clouds.
And we did. As it always happens. Just as one resigns to living in the woods forever, dying here peacefully among the cursed-out trees. “THERE ARE TONS OF WELL-ADJUSTED PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE NATURE,” I said loud enough to convince myself. Because once you’ve vocalized it to the gods, and hit the acceptance portion of grief, the path unscrambles itself for you and shoots you out back by the parking lot.
I want to leave myself a note to remember this the next time we go out for a walk, but my brain and my phone are out of battery.