Running around in the woods in the dark until my legs fall off

I went hiking yesterday. In St. Mary’s Wilderness, to be specific, off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was educational. Here’s what I learned about hiking:

1.) Unless it’s a trail that’s plastered all over the internet and trail books as being popular, bring a map of some sort.

Oops. I ended up walking down some dirt road far longer then I was supposed to, as I was under the assumption that the connecting trail I was looking for would be obvious. Not a single sign. Totally missed it. D’oh!

2.) If you get lost, set a ‘turn around by’ time.

I had really meant to do this. First, it was going to be 3:00. But I kept thinking the connecting trail would be right around the corner. Then I kept thinking how far I’d already gone, and how ridiculous it would be to have to turn around when I was over 1/2way done with the hike. I ended up turning around at 3:45.

3.) Always bring a flashlight.

I hadn’t actually thought I’d need it. But I brought it anyhow, and am quite glad. The hike that should have ended around 5:30 or so ended around 6:45 instead. Luckily the dirt road I was on connected back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I could walk from there to my car. I only learned this due to an initially turning the wrong way from the path onto this road, then having to backtrack and go the proper direction. I’m rather glad for this, in hindsight, as it saved me much woods-stumbling.

4.) Don’t hike alone.

It’s dang lonely hiking alone. But the semester is almost over, Drew’s up to his neck in HW, I lack a convenient array of friends who also like to hike, and I just really really wanted to go hiking that day. Which was ok while it was light out, but being alone in the woods at night is rather discombobulating. I was saved, though, by my Sandisk. I listened to built up selections of This American Life. The first 2 were rather interesting, but the third was about the collapsing economy and paper markets and bonds and other things my brain really wasn’t all that interested in processing. But, since by that time it was really dark, I left it on anyhow, as the voices were strangely comforting.

5.) If you’re gonna hike alone, tell somewhere where you went.

I totally forgot this part. I told Drew I’d be hiking, told him I’d rejected my initial planned hike as it was over 3 hours away, which I hadn’t realised until I mapped it out. So all he knew was that I was in the mountains, somewhere, less then 3 hours from here. I got home safe and all, but if anything stupid had happened, that would have sucked mightily.

In any case, I ended up missing the more scenic parts of the trail, including the alleged 30 ft waterfall. Not that things would be all that scenic this late in the fall anyhow, what with everything being dead and all, but still. I did come across this bus, though:

Bus by daylight

It conjured up visions of Into The Wild, minus all the snow and death. That was the photo on the way in. On the way out conjures up a bit more death, for some strange reason.

Bus by dusk

In any case, my legs are dead. Hiked from 11:30-6:45, with brief stops in there for food and bladder relief. Hiked way too fast near the end, due to paranoia of being stuck in the dark. Good post-Thanksgiving workout, though!

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