Even though I'm getting older and wiser on a yearly basis, I still have to learn most lessons the hard way. You'd think that years of learning lessons the hard way would have taught me something by now but apparently not.
Two years ago the Oldest Island Boy and his scout troup placed a geocache in Point Washington State Forest.
Each boy was to bring something special to put in the cache and then the coordinates would be posted on the Boy Scouts Geocache page.
I gave the Oldest a REALLY cool large Pirate Coin that I attached to a brand new travel bug to put in the cache. I thought it would be cool for the Scouts to move it around.
But then the kid who was in charge of placing the cache never listed it with the Scout Cache site and then promptly lost the coordinates.
All the boy can remember is that it's hidden behind the #7 mile marker on the 10 mile trail.
Which means my cool Pirate Coin Travel Bug has been sitting in Point Washington for two years and will never be found.
I've been trying to get to it for over a year but something always came up.
Yesterday was a beautiful day and because all three of my kids are sick with horrible colds we wouldn't be having school.
Sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to go get my coin.
Except that I'm sick too. But I got it in my head that a walk in the woods would rejuvenate me and make me feel better.
What was I thinking? Another learn the hard way thing.
The Island King and I had an argument about me going. He felt I should stay home because I'm sick and he also felt like I should wait until he or the boys could go with me so I wouldn't be alone.
Which kind of pissed me off. I'm an adult, I've been to Point Washington many times and frankly I can handle myself in the woods.
So even though there was a nagging voice in my head telling me he was right - off I went.
Driving out there I came up with another of those lessons learned the hard way.
I decided that if I started at the end of the trail and worked my way backward I would only have to hike 3 miles to the 7 mile marker.
While this may sound like a great idea for some, it's not so great for the directionally challenged like myself.
I got to the Forest, ready to spend what I thought would be about 2 hours in the woods, alone with nature.
As soon as I entered the Forest I saw this.
I started down the trail, sure that this was going to be a wonderful 2 to 2 1/2 hours of solitude and since the kids weren't with me - being noisy - I might see some deer or maybe even a bear.
I've always wanted to see a bear in the wild. Not an up close, pissed off bear, but one off in the distance or up in a tree.
This is going to be glorious.
As I rounded a curve I saw this.
Soft sand and no shade.
About halfway down this trail I started feeling really bad. My chest hurt, my throat, nose and ears hurt and I felt like I'd already walked 5 miles.
I really should turn back. The Island King was right - hiking is not a good activity for sick people.
But I'm stubborn and decided that I was perfectly capable of hiking the three miles to the cache, resting a while and then hiking back to my car.
So onward I went.
Halfway down the sandy, no shade trail I see this.
Seriously? I've only come one mile?!
I'm feeling really, really bad by now but again, I'm stubborn, so I continued on.
I crossed a beautiful little creek,
And continued on through the woods.
I came across this little pond so I walked off the trail to have a better look.
When I got back on the trail I saw this.
It's no secret that I have a true phobia of snakes but I've been working pretty hard over the last few years to overcome that.
Not that I plan on touching one but being able to see one and not run away screaming in terror is what I'm striving for.
I stood there looking at the snake and then something miraculous happened.
I took a step closer. His head was pointed away from me and I wanted a closer picture so I took a step in his direction.
And then I took another one.
My little point and shoot camera doesn't have much of a zoom so I was standing shockingly close (for me) to this snake - and I wasn't scared!!
Then he turned his head and hissed at me so I took 4 giant steps back and he slithered off into the woods.
It wasn't until I got home and got a good look at the picture that I realized he was a Pygmy Rattlesnake.
I was so impressed with myself that I decided there was no way I was turning back.
I had a snake encounter and I was going to find my Pirate Coin.
Shortly after I came to this.
I've only come 2 miles? I still have to get to mile marker 7, the adrenaline from the snake has worn off and I feel terrible again.
This is really turning out to be a bad idea.
But, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.
A little later I came to a fork in the trail with this sign.
Marker 7 doesn't look that far away and I've come too far to turn back now.
Except that somehow I must have missed the trail marker and I ended up on this road.
These are big rocks and even though I have on thick soled hunting boots the rocks are killing my feet.
I have no idea how far I walked before I turned around and went back to the sign but it was a long way.
I tried another road (because I never saw a trail head here)
But ended up here.
And I haven't seen an orange trail marker for miles.
I stumbled upon this which gave me hope that I was on the trail again.
The bridge led me here and this looked like a trail so I continued on.
Then I ran into the 5 mile marker.
Where in the hell are 6 and 7?
At this point the sun was just slipping behind the tree tops and I knew I only had about an hour of light left so I decided to end the mission.
I sat down under a tree and pulled out my GPS - because I did have the good sense to mark the location of the car in case I got lost.
I am 8.9 miles from my car!
I've read that the average person walks about 4 miles an hour and I realize that it's going to take me at least 2 hours to get back.
Then I realize that I seem to have wandered off the trail and have no idea where it is.
My car is to the North West of me so I look at the compass on my hiking stick and start off in that direction.
For about 100 yards.
Where I run smack into a swamp.
Knee high water, busted logs, no obvious way around it kind of swamp.
I took one last step forward and my boot sunk in the muck up past my ankle - which stopped my body immediately. Too bad the forward momentum that I was using to move ahead didn't stop too.
I realized that in about 1 second I was going to be face down in the swamp.
So I reached out with one arm and caught a tree behind me.
Which torqued my leg and I felt a searing pain right where my leg connects to my pelvis.
At the same time my shoulder twists in the opposite direction which causes a searing pain in my shoulder.
I extricated myself from the bog and stumbled back up onto some higher ground.
And realized that walking is almost impossible.
I limped to a clearing and sat down. The sun is just above the horizon but it's dark in the woods, I can't find a damn trail, my leg and shoulder are killing me, my cold is making me feel weak and horrible, I'm cold and don't have a jacket, hungry and almost out of water.
But obviously I need to get moving. I started limping through the woods and after about 20 minutes I stumbled onto a road.
This was good news. The car was still over 8 miles away but at least I knew I could get to my car if I followed the road.
I was limping along at a snail's pace when my phone rang. The Island Girl wanted to know when I would be home.
I told her I would be there as soon as I got to my car.
I guess she could tell by my voice that something was wrong but I assured her everything was fine and that I'd be home soon.
Which was a lie and I knew it. She did too.
But I kept telling myself that I can handle myself and don't need to be rescued.
I Am Woman - Hear Me Roar and all that jazz.
About 1 minute later the phone rang again and it was the Island King.
He said "Where are you and what's wrong?" and I lost it.
I started crying and telling him that I didn't know where I was, my leg and shoulder were hurt and that I was finally on a road but that I couldn't lift my leg and I kept tripping on the rocks.
I Am Woman - Hear Me Fall Apart seems to be more like it.
He asked how bad I was hurt so I told him about my leg and that I could barely walk and that according to my GPS I was still almost 9 miles from my car.
He tells me to give him my GPS coordinates and that he will be there as fast as he can.
I had a flashlight and a lighter and there was plenty of kindling around so I debated making a small fire on the side of the road and sitting there until help arrived.
It occurred to me that there's probably a ginormous fine for starting a fire in a State Forest and as I debated this I kept limping along.
It's completely dark by now and the noises in the woods were starting to freak me out a little. Now is probably when I'll see a bear because of that whole 'be careful what you wish for' thing.
I normally love the woods at night but I've never been out in them alone, unprepared and hurt before either.
I'm trying to remain calm because I know my husband is coming for me and that if he has trouble finding me he'll call the Sheriff's Department and someone will find me before morning.
I know I won't starve to death, die of dehydration or hypothermia but for some reason I was pretty scared.
And hurting like you wouldn't believe. Every step was agony.
About 30 minutes (we live at least 45 minutes away)later I heard the Island King's truck and a wave of relief hit me like a ton of bricks.
He stopped the truck and when he got out I literally fell into his arms, sobbing.
He let me cry for a little bit and then helped me into the truck and headed for my van.
The Island Girl was with him so she could drive my van home. Which was a good thing because it's my right leg that's hurt and I honestly don't think I could have worked the acclerator or the brake.
And the Island King has not said "I told you so" one time! Amazing.
I did ask him not to tell his brother because I'll never hear the end of this if he knows but the Island King tells me that this is just too good not to share but that he'll wait a few days so it's not as painful when my BIL teases me.
We got home and found out that my BIL called while the Island King was on his way to get me and the Youngest Island Boy told him that Mom was lost in the woods and Dad had to go save her.
I'm sure I'll hear from him first thing in the morning because I will never live this one down.
But, the good news is that I learned a VERY important lesson tonight.
NEVER GO HIKING ALONE!
I suppose for some people it's fine but when you're as directionally challenged as I am it's not a good idea.
We looked at my breadcrumbs trail earlier and I managed to walk almost 22 miles today.
22 miles of wandering around lost in a Forest.
And I never did find my Pirate Coin.
But, now that it's over and I'm home I can say that it was one hell of an adventure!