The road less traveled…

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911. To call or not to call… – July 10ish

This story is one best told by Kat, as she is the one that truly experienced the difficulties of the day. However I will share with you my side of the story so you can have a small insight into my emotional roller-coaster of the day.

The day began simple enough, even had some trail magic ice cream in the morning. Our plan was to make it as far as we could that day, and Kat was going to Blue-blaze up the big mountain, meaning she was going to take the shorter easier trail instead of the A.T. I told her that I would wait for her on top of the mountain, which had a fire wardens cabin and fire tower. When I got to the top of the mountain, I knew that I would probably be waiting for Kat for at least an hour or two because I am faster than her at climbing. So I had some lunch with other hikers who were there and once they left I decided I was going to lay out my sleeping mat and take a little siesta.

When I woke, Kat had still not arrived. I was not yet worried at this point because I figured she stopped somewhere and had lunch halfway up the mountain. So I finally motivated myself to filter some water, which was a really long walk away and required scooping little by little out of tiny puddles. Lets just say it wasn’t the best water source on the trail, but I figured Kat would need some by the time she got there. Another hour passed, and then another. I kept asking all the NOBO hikers if they had seen her, and they hadn’t, so I figured she was still on the blue-blazed trail. And then I started thinking that maybe she completely passed by the cabin while I was sleeping. But when I asked the SOBOs (southbounders) if they had seen her, they hadn’t. It got to the point that every time I heard someone walking up the trail I jumped up to see if it was Kat. This is how I met Blue Fox.

I explained to Blue Fox what was going on and told him I was at the point of worrying. He offered to hike back to the blue trail with me and see if we could find her, thinking that maybe she fell and hurt herself on this random trail that not many people use daily. We ran into another hiker on the way down and he joined us on our search and rescue mission as well. We walked all the way back down the mountain on this blue-blazed trail and found nothing. Blue Fox and I turned around and took the blue trail back up while the other hiker, Inchworm, circled back and took the A.T. back up, just to make sure we didn’t miss her.

At this point of the day I am completely freaked out and seconds away from tears. I have lost my friend. And it made no sense as to where she could be. When we got back to the top of the mountain, walking an additional 9 miles in less then 3 hours, Blue Fox and I grabbed our cell phones and climbed the fire tower, hoping to get some sort of signal from up there. If we weren’t able to reach her by phone, then ultimately we would need to report her missing. And if we weren’t able to get any signal we were going to grab our gear and hike down the mountain in the dark to get help. Signal was going in and out on our phones and we were not able to get a call to go thru. There was another hiker up there and he started trying with his phone as well. So three of us have our cell phones and are continuously hitting redial for about 20-30 minutes when finally one of them got the beautiful sounds of a phone dialing, and Kat answered!!

She’s ALIVE! Those were my first thoughts. The first words out of my mouth however were “WHERE ARE YOU”?!! She had just reached a campsite area farther north on the trail and was safe and sound, so before I lost cell signal I told her not to move a muscle and I would get to her the following day. The relief I felt was overpowering. I was so emotionally/physically drained from the events of the day that I was hardly able to eat before I fell into an exhausted sleep.

The next day I quickly hiked the 12 miles north on the A.T. to get to Kat, and this is when I heard her side of the story, which is so crazy, long and complicated that I will try to simplify it the best I can. If Kat wants to add any comments, she can.

KAT’s STORY:
So apparently Kat did take the blue-blaze trail, but it was poorly marked so she did a lot of backtracking to make sure that she was indeed on the right trail still. She made it at least halfway on the trail when the blazes completely stopped and she was not feeling comfortable. So she turned around and went back to the road where the A.T. and this blue-blazed trail started to climb the mountain. At this point she was most likely a couple of hours behind me and did not count on me waiting for her at the top of the mountain, (even though I told her I would) so she decided to just meet me at the campsite that we were planning on staying at that evening. I had given her my map so she used that to figure out how to yellow-blaze around the mountain. Yellow-blazing is taking the roads.
So she had this map and followed this road, pretty sure it was called Dorchester road. 😉 Basically she was going to keep walking this road, maybe hitch a little, and get to a spot where she could just hike a couple miles south to meet up with me. This whole plan was based on getting a message to me, which she did manage to finally send from her phone at one point, but my phone was getting a typical ‘fire tower’ signal, meaning it wasn’t getting anything at all.
Some people in a truck said she was going the right way, and then she came to a dead end. So she started walking up to all these houses, with really long driveways, to ask for directions. Most of these houses were empty summer houses, until she finally found one with vehicles parked outside. She knocked on the door and dealt with, hmm, I don’t really know the right adjectives to describe the people she spoke with. But one of them was making a bacon sandwich, and one of them was practically passed out on the couch, but apparently looked like Zac Effron, so that was a bonus. It was obvious that they were recuperating from a rough evening of drinking and were not going to offer Kat a ride anywhere.

One of them took a look at her map and talked her through where she needed to go, which involved taking the road that was “closed” and walking on that for a while, and going over a fence, and through the woods to Grandmothers house…. So she left and followed his directions. At this point in her journey she still had not had signal on her phone to send a message to me, so she kept checking her phone for signal and kept walking. Miraculously hours later she found signal and was able to send a message, which turned out being useless to me as I didn’t receive it for another 3-4 days.
Now remember that during all of this I am on a search and rescue mission on a mountain that Kat isn’t remotely close to anymore, completely freaking out and thinking that my friend is dead.

So Kat is standing there, with signal on her phone, realizing that she is never going to make it to the campsite she needs to be at, not even sure where she is, so she calls 911. Eventually after patching her through to Forest Parks & Service she is able to describe how she got to where she was standing and the Park Ranger said he would be there in an hour to get her. Turns out she was on a HUGE chunk of private property that is completely void of any houses or people and she would have been walking for a VERY long time to get to the road she needed to get to.

So this Park Ranger guy took her to a convenience store so she could get some water and then dropped her off at the A.T. trailhead that was farthur north. All she had to do was hike 2 miles to the campsite and this is when I called her from the fire tower and she told me where she was. Alive and well, and no longer walking on this so-called Dorchester rd. THE END.

This is a VERY simplified version of the story, trust me, the full version could possibly be made into a novel. But truthfully it was my WORST day on the trail because I was completely sick with worry. Thankfully everything worked out and I’m so happy Kat would never hesitate to call 911, (not her first time needing to do so, but thats another story). Our reunion was bittersweet and I refused to let her out of my sight again while we were hiking. I’m so thankful for Blue Fox and Inchworm for helping me on Smarts Mountain. Not only with the searching and hiking an additional 9 miles that day, but also for the emotional support and helping me to stay calm when on the inside I was a basket case. So on a good note, I gained some great friends through the experience.

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August 29, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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