krikketgirl: (Clean Dirt)
Life is full of annoyances large and small. Sometimes, these annoyances come seemingly unbidden: we were walking along, making good time, following the signs, and then WHAM! Suddenly, we're in the middle of nowhere, the map seems to be completely wrong, and the GPS coordinates just say, "You're in the middle of a forest. Proceed to the nearest road." What happened?

Something similar happened to us while we were in Alaska. In our apparent repeated attempts to prove that we are completely out of shape, we had decided to hike up this mountain at the edge of Skagway. Now, we're used to park trails that are clearly marked, so initially we thought we needn't bother with a trail map. I wavered and grabbed one at the last minute--why not? So we were on our way.

The first part of the hike was miserable. It was up a steep "unmaintained road," with rocks jutting out of loose dirt. In the middle of the road, there was loose fill of rocks and dirt that was treacherous--it might hold your foot, you might slide. So we hiked and hiked, thinking that surely it would get better soon. And eventually, it did level off and enter the forested part of the slope.

With the first stretch having been more difficult than we had thought, we decided that we wanted to take a right-hand turn onto a trail that would lead us around a lake and then back to town, rather than taking the left-hand trail and walking up to a lake that was another mile away. Accordingly, we came to what seemed to be a fork in the road, although there was not clear signage. We looked at the trails. We looked at our map. This looked like the place, so we turned to the right.

After walking for quite some ways, I mentioned that this trail--while as wide and flat as the other--didn't seem so well maintained...and it didn't seem to quite match up with what we expected. Further on, a small tree had fallen across the trail and hadn't been removed, and this seemed to be a sign that this--which was supposed to be a maintained trail--wasn't maintained at all. After another examination of the map, we decided to press on just a little further, and then turn around if we didn't come to a landmark soon.

Just then, a young blond woman came from up ahead and panted, "You don't want to go down that trail...there's a great view, but it's a dead end! The trail doesn't go on." We walked down to where she had been, and she was correct: a spectacular view of the town, but no trail. So we retraced our steps and heard her story.

She had spent the day at the lake we were trying to get to, and when she left had had been uncertain of how to get back to town. She had followed the directions another hiker had given her. Only somehow she had lost her way, and had now been walking for some time, trying to figure out how to get back to town. She was hot and tired and lost, and seemed glad of company at last.

We finally figured out that the trail we had been on was not an official trail, though a poorly-drawn map and inadequate signage had led us astray. We found our way to the lake after quite a walk, and then she realized where she had made her initial wrong turn; it had been back at the lake itself, so she had been on the wrong trail for a long time, headed in the wrong direction.

We found our way back to town, laughing together at mutual stories of making wrong turns. As we parted, she said, "Thank you so much for coming along. I would have found my way back eventually, but I would have been crying and scared. I was so glad to hear you come down that trail."

And that's my point. Sometimes, we're in the wrong place through no real fault of our own...and sometimes, the reason we're there is so that we can help someone else find the trail out.

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krikketgirl

June 2015

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