I'm pretty good at directions, and I can even navigate through Manhattan pretty well on my own. I have a "sense" about direction, as well, which typically bodes well for driving around new towns when I am on travel for work. I want to get that out there, as you likely won't believe it once I tell you my sad tale.
Several years ago, I had rented a cabin in North Carolina for a month while working on a book I was writing. My daily routine was to write all morning before taking L.N., our Labrador Retriever, out for a hike in the afternoon. We both loved it, even though we both missed Dave, who was still back at home in Florida, working. One day, L.N. and I set off as usual to a new trail. We parked the SUV and I double-checked the map at the trailhead. It said there was a 3 mile loop trail. Perfect, I thought. We would be finished in about an hour or so. Off we went, L.N. running out in front of me but always turning around to look back to make sure I was catching up. I wasn't, usually, so she would have to turn back and come fetch me. What a beautiful afternoon it was, with the sun peeking through the tops of the tall trees and the birds high above us, chattering away at L.N. and me. I'm not certain when it registered with me that it had been well over an hour since we had left the parking lot and we still weren't back around the loop. We kept walking, as it was a loop, right, so we would most certainly get back to the car in a matter of minutes. Until we didn't. And then, all of a sudden, the sunshine turned to dark clouds and the sweetly singing birds turned to evil-sounding crows. Okay, the last sentence is just a great work of fiction, but I will admit I started getting a tiny bit worried. L.N. turned to look at me like "What gives? Don't you know where we are going?" I looked at her and said aloud, "You are the one who has a super-snoop nose. Can't you sniff your way back to the car?" To which she answered,.... Oh please, she is a dog. You know she didn't "answer" anything, right?
I'm not sure how long I stood still, trying to figure out why we hadn't made it back around the loop, when I realized I should maybe try calling for help. I checked my phone, saw that I had a couple of bars, and dialed 911. I know, I know, it wasn't really an emergency but who else was I going to call? I got through to the local police department who, after not recognizing where I was, asked the name of the trail I was on. I told him the name of the loop before my cell phone lost connectivity. I tried to call back once I walked up to higher ground to no avail. I considered turning around but I was on a loop, right? So that didn't make sense. I would surely soon find my way back to the car if I just kept walking. I got through to the same guy at the police department one more time but lost him again 30 seconds into the call. After walking another 15 minutes more, I realized there was no way the loop was only 3 miles long. I don't know why I so much resisted turning around except that I felt I would be walking so much further. What if the parking lot was simply around the next bend or over the next hill? When L.N. and I finally did decide to turn around and go back the other way, we had been walking for over 3 hours! When we eventually made it near the parking lot, I heard loud voices calling my name and Basset Hounds baying for L.N. Apparently, they had sent a search party out for us when they couldn't get in touch with me via cell phone again. What we ultimately discovered is that somehow, L.N. and I had gotten off the loop trail and we were headed off on another trail, entirely. I asked, "So, if I would have kept walking, where would we have ended up?" The guy with the Bassets looked at me, cocked his head to the side, and said, "I would guess in another hour or so, you would have been in Georgia." What the what??? To say that L.N. and I slept well that night would be a massive understatement.
Fast forward to today, when Dave and I were up Pennsylvania for a work-related trip for me. We had taken today to go hike part of the Appalachian Trail, which I love to do whenever we are nearby a section of it. We decided to simply hike out one direction for about an hour and then head back an hour to the car. At one point in the hike, there is a by-pass that hooks back up with the AT a mile away, but it avoids a beautiful section called Wolf Rocks that is known for some gorgeous overlooks. Dave and I naturally took the beautiful route, which in Appalachian Trail language most certainly translates to "get ready---you are about to have to climb up 1000 feet of rocks". Halfway up the massive rock party, it began to rain on us, so the already difficult-to-traverse boulders were now slippery. What an adventure! When we got to what we thought was the top and did the cursory "Yes, this is pretty" look out at the vista, I asked, "Why don't we just keep going? This will most certainly hook up with that by-pass and we can go back along solid ground instead of hiking back down the rocks?" I cannot adequately describe the look Dave gave me, not only because I had rain in my eyes but also because it was a look of disgust. He asked, with his voice dripping with derision, "Did you not learn your lesson in North Carolina, I mean Georgia, a few years ago?" He definitely had a point---always take the known versus the unknown---but I couldn't tell him that as his sarcasm had made me stubborn. "It is totally up to you" I said. "We can go whatever way you want." I think he may have told me exactly which way he wanted me to go, but I wasn't certain I could hear over the thundering rain.
I guess the moral of my story is I certainly need to be reminded to keep in mind the lessons I have been taught. So many of those lessons come from our own silly (or not so silly at the time) past mistakes, but some come from the wisdom of people whom we trust unceasingly. I am grateful for those who have gone before me and taught me so much in life about love, faith, hope, and happiness. My hope is that you have those people in your life, as well.
I'd love to hear some of the best lessons you have learned in your life. For now, I am going to go dry out my hiking clothes and shoes!