A Big Forest

To reinforce my last post about detours and distractions I have story to tell about being lost in the forest, click here if you missed it: Road Work Ahead. Enjoy!

The Path To Uncertainty.
I am not sure of my reasoning. It was obviously flawed at that point. In  the summer of 2005, I had been navigating the camp's property  as a counselor and teacher for several months. Though, navigating and knowing your way true are two different things. I had been a poor navigator even up to then. I was notorious for getting my campers lost. Familiarity with landmarks and general direction were my only working tools. When I discovered my error it was too late! My daylight was running short. So, I fumbled along an unfamiliar ridge for a period of time. The crazy thing about dark forests in Southern Ohio is the indefinite altitudes and the rocky death at the bottom. Even a survivalist familiar with the area can be caught off guard by a random drop into a gorge if they lose their way. The supposed path I thought I was on had dissipated into the ambiguous forest floor. I could be heading further toward central camp or away from it. At that time I had to make decisive choices or end up using my night time survival techniques. I feared the worst, so I kept moving. What do you do when you miss a turn? I thought back to where the bad decisions started.

Disaster Was Imminent.

The trouble started when I realized I couldn't cool off until it got real late at night, so I acquired permission from the camp director to rest in the group cabin. The trouble compounded when my mind was still racing with worry and anxiety about my duties as a camp counselor. Guilt plus shame and being sick do not work together. I chose to deliver supplies to my campers out near one of the caves in the big camp forest. I knew the trails to the spot where the campers were at. That much was clear. But I reasoned that I could take a quicker way back. Thinking that I knew where I was going,  I took a turn in the wrong direction just after I left the campers. My confidence in spite of my condition was amazing. Disaster was imminent.

Unfamiliar Territory.
Shortly after leaving the campers the forest ran out. I hit a large grassy hill. It had numerous ruts that I found as I descended the steep hill. The going was difficult. If I didn't fall down the hill altogether, I was sure to sprain my ankle. These ruts were ingeniously cloaked in shoulder high grass. The new realization of being lost hit me: Where was I? Was it familiar? Knowing the general parameters of the grounds led me to this conclusion: The property I had stumbled upon was perhaps nearer to the Eastern corner. Finishing the grassy hill, I found that it was next to a road. As I came to the road I couldn't remember passing this way for sure in past camp trips. Most of the houses along any given road in the Southern hills of  Ohio looked the same. Even so, I continued on the road and came to the conclusion that I couldn't know for sure which direction was the right direction.

Getting Back To Camp.
Obviously, I was weary. I was lost and had no means of communication. So I did what I had to do. I figured that if I could get information from one of the locals I could get home alright before the sun had set. This was problematic, because you did not know if anyone would be home or if they would trust you or worse if they would cause you harm. I chanced it, because I had no choice in the matter. I knocked on the door of what looked like a trailer displaced from its park. A child answered the door. I asked to speak with an adult. As I expected that they were stand-offish, I explained what camp I was from and that I was lost. The father did oblige in telling me the roads that might get me back. So I was on my way in said direction.  After walking in the recommended direction, dehydrated, doubts clouded my mind. I trekked up steep hills and around sharp turns, until I finally found the cross road mentioned. This road was familiar and I knew where to go from there. As I arrived back at the camp I figured that maybe others had missed me, but I was wrong. My joy was in the arrival. I was so glad to get back and be in my bed. My anxiety had done little, but get me in trouble.

Anxiety is a poor guide and illness is a poor excuse. It was a miracle that I made it out of that forest alive and relatively intact. It was an adventure, but it remains as a story that reminds me of how my bad judgment can get me in trouble. We often don't want to admit when we are wrong. And we often don't want to admit that we got ourselves into our own messes. Detours created by other people are difficult, but ones set up by our own stubbornness can be deadly. So it is important that we always remember that there is a way out of the forest.

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