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The last day of freedom before school started. My friend and I decided to spend a brilliant end-of-summer day hiking in the Old Forge area of New York’s Adirondacks.
Sherry—last name is withheld to protect the idiot, I mean innocent—told her husband the general area we planned to hike. We loaded our three dogs in the car and headed out.
On the way, I showed Sherry my new Adirondack hiking book. Ooooh, choices! Instead of Old Forge, we headed well south to an interesting trail we’d never explored.
We took a quick look at the map to judge how long it would take, then left it in the car.
The walk was pleasant. Wandering along a shaded trail through the woods, we arrived at the river which led to a waterfall. The only way to cross was over an old beaver dam. The result was wet feet.
The falls weren’t that great, but we played water fetch with the dogs and headed back.
“Oh Look!” There was another trail that led across the river before the beaver dam. The trail led to an island which could be used as a stepping-stone to keep our feet dry. The path continued on the other side of the river heading in the direction back to the main trail.
But we didn’t come across the main trail.
I suggested we turn back. Sherry said we were going the right way. Her sense of direction is great, mine is non-existent. We kept going.
The path petered out.
We kept going.
Eventually, as evening advanced, we came to a marsh. Sherry said the road was on the other side.
Being the younger and more stupid, excuse me, more agile of the two, I headed into the marsh/bog to see if we could cross it. Within yards, I slid into a waist-deep hole with water up to my knees. I struggled, pulled and crawled out, tried again and slid into a second deep depression. I was soaked up to my knees.
Sherry said we should keep going. The road had to be ahead of us.
We walked another twenty minutes and I looked up to see the sun setting—in front of us. We were supposed to be heading east!
Sherry insisted that it was afterglow; the sun was behind us.
I said, “No, we’re heading west.”
She headed overland, following a dry watercourse up a hill.
At that, I put my foot down. “We know where we are as long as we stay by the river. We can backtrack.”
She stood in disgust, “We have three dogs and not one can lead us back?”
Geez. Mental head slap. My border collie, Bryce, loves the car. She always walks behind when we’re heading away from the car, but takes the lead when we head toward it. She’s been walking behind since we crossed the river.
“Bryce, let’s go to the car.” Her tail bannered and she cut a diagonal back toward the river we’d been following and headed back the way we’d come.
By now it was dark. Sherry’s elderly collie was having a rough time, tripping over fallen trees, staggering. It wouldn’t be long before us two-legged humans started tripping over logs and bushes as well. We couldn’t afford injuries.
I suggested we stop.
Sherry pointed to the past-quarter, waning moon. “As soon as the moon gets above the trees, we’ll be able to see to go on.”
“That’s the west. It’s setting.”
Sherry insisted it wasn’t. I had her line the moon up against a branch. We waited about five minutes, and the moon was now below the branch. It would soon be completely dark.
We gathered ferns and grasses to make a bed. It was getting cold.
I suggested we may have to “spoon” sleep pressed back to front. Sherry vehemently denied that possibility.
Two hours later when we could see our breath, she changed her mind.
My lightweight pants had dried, but my wet feet were turning to ice. I knew I shouldn’t, but I took off my shoes and socks. Much better. I knew it wouldn’t last. Sherry had on a sweatshirt and nylon jacket. I had a T-shirt and single-layer cotton jacket. I took off my T-shirt and wrapped my feet.
We tried to use the dogs to keep us warm. They weren’t too cooperative. Sherry’s collie was exhausted and wanted nothing to do with our nonsense. I so wanted a dog to lie on my feet.
In the morning the sun crept over the hills and shone on the diamond frost on the marsh grass.
I told you it was cold!
My dog, Bryce, happily led the way. Without her, we may have missed the crossing back over the river to the island. We crossed the beaver dam again—who cares about wet feet now.
We reached the car and studied the trail map. We hadn’t been aware that another river joined the one we were supposed to follow. Instead, we had been following the tributary. Sherry’s direction, however, had been accurate. The river did come right toward the road, then curved back in a U, the opposite way. When we tried to cross the marsh, we were within fifty yards of the road.
Sherry tried to call her husband. No reception.
Half hour later, we reached a store. Food!
Sherry reached her frantic husband. He’d called the Old Forge sheriff, but didn’t know my license plate and didn’t know the make of my car.
Do I now carry a day pack with emergency supplies when I hike?
Well, no. I rather enjoyed our little adventure.