One of my regrets this summer was that I never got to go camping. All summer, my heart has ached to go to the mountains. When the leaves started to change, my heart cried out, "I need to go there. I long to go there. Take me there."
So finally, last Sunday, I decided to go enjoy the fall colors. I had taken an intense class test the day before and just needed a break from school work. So after church, I decided to drive up to the mountains. I considered going to a place closer to home, but I'm not familiar with that area, Instead, I decided to go to my favorite place, Rock Creek.
My original plan was to hike the trail that goes up to the Stillwater Dam, but there was a family having a breakfast at the trail head and I didn't want to disturb them. Instead, I went to the Yellowpine campground. The gate was locked for the winter, so I parked in front if it and walked into the campground.
At this point, I was lost in the beauty, or maybe I would have thought this through better. Let me start by saying, no one knew where I was and all I had with me was my camera, a light jacket and a bottle of water.
Just past the bridge there is two trails, One is well marked and does a short loop. I can't remember, but I think its less than a mile long. If you go the other direction, there is another set of trails. One goes to the right to another campground. I've never been on that trail. The one to the left is a 4 mile trail that ends by the Stillwater Dam. I've never hiked the entire thing, but in the past, we had gone up the trail maybe a mile or so. I decided I knew that path well enough, I could take it.
I was a little worried that going here would be hard on my heart. That it would stir memories and make me cry. But it seemed to have the opposite effect. I remember thinking, "see, I don't need him. I can still do things I love by myself."
(Famous last words!)
I went until I reached the point where we had always turned around at. But it was still pretty early and I had tons of energy, so I decided to keep going. (I should also mention that I've been thinking of going to the Grand Canyon, next month, by myself.)
I probably went for another mile when I reach a cow gate. I decided that was a great place to turn around and head back.
Shortly after turning around, I came to a little clearing. I remember thinking "which way does the trail go?" I should have looked more closely at the other end of the clearing, but I didn't. It wasn't until a while later, I realized, I was lost. At the clearing, I should've went up, but instead I followed a deer trail down. I knew I was lost. I even knew that is where I got lost. But I had no idea how to get back to there.
After a short panic, I decided the best thing to do was to stick with the river. On the trail in, it actually turns away from the river for a while, but eventually, the trail goes back to the river. I knew if I stuck to the river, I would eventually go to the bridge that was near my car. At this point, I put my camera away, but it was just as pretty as the trail was.
I followed the river for quite a while. There were a few swampy parts I had to trudge through, so I was wet. And it was threatening to rain. Each time I would start to panic, I kept thinking, just stay with the river. Do not let it out of your sight. This worked for most of the way back, until the river run up against a sheer rock cliff. At this point, I had 2 choices. Cross the river, but I knew I would end up really wet and I don't know that side of the river at all. So instead, I backtracked about a tenth of a mile until I found a spot I could climb up the hill. I figured I'd just have to keep the river in my sight at that point.
At the top of the hill, I landed...right on the trail! Less than a quarter mile later, I was back to the bridge. So I was lost nearly the entire hike on my way back.
Luckily, I at least had the fore site to start my hike early in the day. At this point, there was still plenty of daylight left, so I decided to drive up to the dam and look around.
In years past, the boat dock has been closed, but this year, I was able to walk down it. Of course the lake was super low and the boat dock ended before I reached the lake, but it was still beautiful. And it was still threatening to storm, so I didn't want to get too far from my car.
After that, I decided to drive to the base of the trail I originally wanted to take. It was now late enough, I didn't venture up it, but it was still beautiful.
I think a piece of my heart will always live in these mountains. I hope I can continue to go there often.
As I was leaving, I saw a group of wild turkeys. It was pretty neat, because I had just walked to this gate a few minutes before and didn't see them. But when I left 5 minutes later, there they were. I also saw deer and elk on my drive home, but I wasn't able to get a picture of them.
A piece of a rainbow on my way home.
I learned a few things on this adventure. Always tell someone where I am going and don't go alone. I also know have a better appreciation of how you should prepare for a hike, even if you plan to be a few hours, its best to prepare for the worst. Had I not found my way out, I would have had no food, no way to start a fire and no way to stay dry and warm. With that lesson, I've decided I probably shouldn't go to the Grand Canyon alone.
I also learned that God never leaves me. Each time I started to panic, He would calm me. I also realized that I might not like being on my own, but I am slowly figuring it out. I spent a lot of time thinking about how far I have come the last few months. It has been hard, but I'm going to be okay.