Before we were Darwin and Snuggles and before the Appalachian Trail was even a thought in our mind, were just an ordinary couple who both enjoyed taking backpacking trips together. This is the story of a beginner “us” in 2012 or 2013 (this is from a journal entry with no year) who went out on a trip a little unprepared. As you may know, any kind of unprepared is a LOT unprepared when it comes to backpacking.
Although we did not have trail names at the time, I will refer to us still as “Darwin” and “Snuggles”
Mistake #1: Not Telling Someone Where You Will Be and Your Plan
Our very first time out in Red River Gorge and I felt a bit weird about it. We haven’t researched this trip as much as we usually do and I made a big mistake. I thought I could call mom and let her know the name of this place and what exact trail head we started at. We ended up driving through a large one car tunnel and that was the end of our signal. We didn’t want to turn back so we hoped for the best as we found a spot to park at a trail head. I could only hope we left a memorable impression with the lady at the gas station we stopped at and got snacks from.
Mistake #2: Not Researching The Area Before Leaving For a Trip/Not Having A Good Map
We started hiking using a map we got from the gas station. It just looks like a squiggle on a white piece of paper. We didn’t have much faith in this guy early on as it seemed like there were a lot of other marked trails not shown. We followed a trail marked by turtles. Darwin informed me these are called “blazes” that will mark our path. I just kept calling them turtles. The unsettled feeling I had after not being able to call my mom eased and was forgotten as I took in the beauty around me. About an hour or two into our hike, it started to thunder then sprinkle. I happily dawned my new purple rain jacket. While we stopped to grab our rain gear, Darwin took a look at the map than directed us down a pretty steep hill. I found myself literally holding on to branches and sliding on my butt to get down. We got to a flat area and came to the conclusion that we were not on a marked trail. Neither of us could remember the last time we saw a turtle. At this point it really started to come down, a monsoon rain.
Mistake #3: Recognizing Your Lost But Continuing Further Off Trail
We saw a rock over hang up ahead through dense Rhododendron so we pushed our way through and dove inside to sit out the rain. Here, we tried to figure out where we went wrong, correction Darwin tried to figure out where we went wrong. I sat and thought about how lost we were and how no one would even notice we were missing for at least two days. WE ARE LOST!!! The Rhododendron around the cave continued to thrash around with the rain and wind while we planned our next move. We decided we would retrace our steps and eventually we would find a turtle. Once the rain died down we headed back out of our hidey-hole and started backtracking. We found the trail I basically slide down and tried to go back up it. This was a total no go. The rain had taken the small amount of dry trail and made it officially a river of chocolate milk.
Mistake # 4: Becoming A Heap Of Emotions and Giving In To Panic
Mistake # 5: Not Being Prepared For Emergencies
We were stuck half way down in the gorge on a random unmarked trail and now totally unable to get back up where we came from. What do I do? Officially flip out! I cussed and cried and screamed at Darwin. We were so in trouble! Everything we could have possibly done irresponsibly we did! No one knew where we were, we got off trail, we had no cell signal, no gps and a sucky map. We were so screwed! Just when my rant was really going, Darwin handed me a rope. I shut up and stared at him, blinking in the rain. “We are going to have to climb up this part” he said to me. I continued to stare at him. Then he grabbed the rope from me as I stood in my stupor, jerked it to show me it was attached to a tree above us and explained how we were going to climb to the tree and side step off, putting us further up the unmarked trail where it was slightly less steep. I responded by crying again and at this Darwin started climbing up the rope. I opened mouth stared as rain continued to pelt my face now along with mud from Darwin ‘s boots. He made it to the tree and hollered at me to make my way up. I continued to cry and started to rant about how impossible this was. Darwin hollered back at me threatening to leave me behind, lost in the gorge if I didn’t start climbing.
After listing my options (which were zero) I hollered back at him something more like a gurgle and a scream than words and now extremely pissed, started to climb. I cussed him every inch of the way until I hit the tree. When I stepped on solid ground again, I hugged and kissed him. I climbed a rope in the rain, sloshing in mud, with a fully loaded pack, by myself! I was ecstatic! We hiked up the rest of the unmarked trail as the rain slacked off pointing out familiar logs and rocks to help calm my panic. About a half mile more and we found our good friend the turtle painted on a tree perfectly in front of our faces. I could have kissed it! Darwin had simply looked to the right instead of the left, saw trail and started hiking down. We could clearly see the difference in trails now and couldn’t believe that we had hiked almost a mile on such an overgrown path thinking we were still on course.
We set out on a rock enjoying the now clear sky and sun while drying out. Darwin then admitted to being a little shaken up until he saw the rope tied to the tree. Thankfully for us, someone had made our same mistake but was prepared and had a rope which they then left for other hikers. We could only thank our lucky stars.
Moral Of The Story: Be Prepared! Don’t Make These Same Mistakes, We Could Have Really Been In Danger/Trouble!
Check Out This List Of Ten Essential Items To Take With You No Matter What Type of Hike You Are Doing from The American Hiking Society (AHS).
The “Turtle” I Longed To See When We Were Lost
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