It began as most misplaced adventures do, with a sudden decesion to act followed immediatly by the decision to not worry too much about the consequences... At about 6 in the evening I decided I really needed to go on a hike. I decide to go tot Happy Jack and hike the Headquarters trail and Summit trail loop. The total length being about 4 to 6 miles.
I drove to Happy Jack and parked at the trailhead on the sounthern side. There is another trailhead on the northern side that becomes significant a bit later. Headquaters Trail stretched from one trailhead to the other with Summit Loop Trail splitting off and then connection again. Perfect loop for a short hike.
I started the hike around 6:30pm and was soon enjoying the quietness and solituded of the forest and kind of ignoring the somewhat stormy clouds overhead accompanied by the somewhat distant thunder. After a while I saw a trail that split off and decided to go exploring. I walked down this trail a ways and eventually came to a dirt road. I was not alarmed since the region I was in is looped by a dirt road and Happy Jack highway.
Not being sure exactly where I was on the road I had a somewhat important decision to make, left or right.... In one direction was the trailhead that I started on and my car, in the other direction was the trailhead on the northern side. I thought (very wrongly it turns out) that I was closer to the northern trailhead than to my car. So I start walking along the road in that direction. After a mile or so the road split and I then knew exactly where I was, it was not where I wanted to be...
At this point I was 4 miles from my car back in the direction I came from. In the direction I was going I had about a mile or more to the northern trailhead and another 2 to 3 miles through the woods to get to my car. Tough decision here. I had a couple of hours of daylight left and the storm seemed to be distant. The way back along the dirt raod was a sure thing but not very exciting. I decided to head for the norther trailhead.
At this point you may be interested in what I had with me. Very little... I had my cell phone, lighter, pipe, and a sweatshirt. I did not have a compass or a flashlight.
After about 2 miles of hiking I finally reach the trailhead in a bit of a predictament, that is, the Sun was setting very soon. Through the woods along the trail is about a 2 to 3 mile hike to the other end (where my car was). Along the road to my car was 5 to 6 miles. I decided to take the woods. By this point I had been joggin down hills and along flat sections, aware of the approaching darkness. I was now ready to hustle through the woods. But first, I recieved a phone call.
Actually, my friend Cassandra had called earlier but my phone did not have recption. At the trailhead my phone beeped at me telling me I had a voice mail. I check my message and call Cassandra back. I am somewhat out of breath at this point and leave a message on her voice mail.
Hi, sorry I missed your call (heavy breathing as I'm trying to catch my breath). I'm in Happy Jack and my phone just now got reception. I'm still about a mile or two from my car and it's getting kind of dark out here (it was about 8:45pm). I probably won't have service once I'm in the woods, (more heavy breathing) so I'll call you when I get out.
I then take off into the woods wondering if I'm doing the smartest thing. A little bit into my trip as I climb along a ridge I get phone service again. I have two messages, both from Cassandra.
Cassandra (very casually): Hi Travis, sorry I missed your call. I was talking to my parents. I was just wondering wha tyou were up to tonight. Give me a call when you get a chance.
Cassandra: (not so causal): Travis! Call me as soon as you get this. Are you okay??? We'll come get you if you need us to. Just call as soon as you get this!
So I call back and try to reassure that yes, I'm okay. I just have to hurry through the woods before it gets dark. No. it's not raining here. I'll call you as soon as I get back to my car. No, you don't need to come get me. I'll be okay...
Well, it got dark pretty quickly. The nice thing about trails is that tend to be somewhat easy to see when there's not a whole lot of light. They stand out from the surroundings. However, it soon got really dark. I took my phone out and turned the backlight on. It was a pathetic amount of light but it did help a little. Only problem was I had to keep it about a foot off the ground so that I could distinguish the trail. Eventually it got so bad that I lost the trail a couple of times. I would backtrack until I found the trail and try again.
At one point the phone wasn't cutting it at all. I was in a densly wooded region and the trail blended in too well with the surroundings. A few times I discovered I was off the trail when I smacked into a tree branch (and once a tree trunk). At this point I was a bit frustrated and possibly a little panicky. Worse case would be that I'd spend the night in the woods. It wasn't very cold and I had a lighter so I probably could have gotten a fire going. But I really didn't want to do that and my friends would have been really worried had I not come back that night. I needed more light...
Before this point I had an option for mre light but it was somewhat desperate. Unfortunatly, I was at that desperate point. I took my t-shirt off and ripped it into strips. I found a long stick and tied one of the strips aournd it. To my surprise, my t-shirt sis not light on fire all that well. Eventually it did and there in front of me was the trail!
I now ran through the woods along the trail that I could now see. The torch filckered about a lot and was not all that great of alight source but it was passable. Unfortunatly, soon after this point I came upon a split in the trail... I knew the trail I wanted curved somewhat east but I wasn't sure which direction I was facing. I took the trail to my right since it looked slightly more used int the torchlight. After going through this process a couple of times I saw city lights in the distance as I crested a hill. Much to my dismay, these lights looked very familiar to the lights I saw in the distance when I started this trail.
I had no choice but to keep walking. Finally I came again to the dirt road. I looked left and I lloked right but could not figure out which way to go. I decided to go right. I walked for about 10 minutes and wondering if I took the right path I turn around. In the distance I see headlights!!! But they do not come my way. I know I must be close to Happy Jack highway then. So back in the other direction I go. At this point I call Cassandra back.
I'm out of the woods and umm... I think I'm only about a half mile from the northern trailhead. No, you don't need to come get me. Yes, I know exactly where I'm at now. I'm just going to walk to the highway and take that to my car.
It turns out that Cass, Sabrina, and Carolynn were watching the movie "Signs". Before that they were standing outside watching lightening in the direction of Happy Jack. Consquently, they were a little worried about me...
Around an hour passes and I'm still hiking down the road. Cass calls and says their coming to get me weather I want them to our not. If you get to your car before we get you, call and we'll turn around.
Well, I didn;t make it my car before they found me. It was abour 11:30pm and I had been walking non-stop since 6:30. I got into Sabrina's truck and she clocked how much farther down the road it was to my car. Four more miles...
I now carry my compass, flashlight, knife, and matches on all my hikes. Just in case I ever get turned around again.