There was a time when I'd lope off into the woods, hike all day and come back to the car at sunset. Once, in the ponderosa and cinder fields near Bend, Oregon, I discovered I'd gone in a circle. Another time in the piney woods near Los Alamos, I came to a promontory overlooking some hills and mesas I didn't recognize. There was a momentary sense of panic, but I ignored it. I arrived just as the sun was sinking.
In my youth I traipsed the high, thin trails of the Salmon River Wilderness (now credited to Frank Church). One time though, when camped near a road, I went to the creek about 300 feet away to get water. Returning, I was surprised when I came out on the road, I thought I was goig back to camp. The road was straight and closely bounded by very same-looking trees, I had no idea which way camp was. It was getting dark and the camp wasn't right on the road. I had a 50-50 chance.
At some point I realized my luck had run out and got a GPS. Of course, electronics come with the requirement of carrying an extra set of batteries...maybe even TWO sets. And if I'm gonna carry something, I might as well take a flashlight, rain poncho and some water. I keep a pack with all this stuff, including the kitchen sink, ready to go.
But there's nothing lik an *old* fool. And so, every now and then I think I'll just follow the road/trail a little ways and see where it goes. Each time I've gotten lost. This time, in the pinyon-juniper west of Cameron, Arizona, I was surprised at how quickly the panic set in. It was interesting, much different from the deliberations on self-delivery that sometimes accompany tho'ts of age and infirmity. It's a matter of control, I surmised.
As I strolled along, checking to see if I was getting thirsty yet, I recalled an essay in High Country News (great magazine!!) by a guy who lived in Alaska. He told of how whenever the party conversation waned he'd whup out his "I'm from Alaska!" and everyone'd be awestruck. He acknowledged how pretty it is, but said he never ventured far from the bike path. He had no interest in encountering grizzlies, wolves or other predators; he was, he said, perfectly content to enjoy it from the safety of the street.
My encounters with wildlife have always been numinous, but I've never gotten over the time I had to climb down a mountain to get to the creek at the bottom. It's been nearly fifty years and to this day "Ah *alwayz* filz up muh jugs."
I soon found the road I'd driven in on. I carefully marked the two-track I'd come down and went in the direction I thought likely. Luck was with me.
Upon arrival I paid obesience to the GPS...and promised I'd never go off and leave it again.
Eggbert hidden by trees...