Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Trails

I mentioned my little Sunday hike on FaceBook and how I got lost........well, not lost, lost. It's just that the Tim Ernst hiking trails guidebook I took with me (and left in my car) is 17 years old, and during those 17 years, it seems the green trail (as opposed to the red, blue & white trails that criss-cross it) has expanded from a 5 mile loop to a 10 mile loop, and about the time I thought I should be returning to my car, I wasn't even close, so I wandered around for a while, never feeling scared or panicky, just irritated with myself. I had never gone hiking alone before. There's a group of (mostly) ladies called The Happy Hikers that I hike with sometimes in the fall, winter and early spring. They range in ages from 30-something through 80, but don't let the age fool you. The older ones who started the club can often out-hike the newbies. Anyway, this experience has left me contrite and convinced me that I should hike with the ladies, even though they tromp through the woods faster than I would and don't take photo breaks, so half the time I'm running to catch up after I've snapped a couple of quick pics, and the highlight of their day is not being in the woods nearly so much as the lunch afterwards at some nearby diner. But I digress.

I'll have to say here that my family has told me not to go hiking alone, too many America's Most Wanted stories of deranged madmen hacking up unsuspecting females on lonely park trails. This Sunday, though, I thought, I'm 61, and I can do as I darn well please, but as I got out of my car at 11:50, put on my hiking boots, got my water bottles, etc., I did feel very alone. Luckily I still had the old mace gun in my pack, and I took it out to see if it still worked. No spray, just a dribble. I decided if I got attacked by a deranged madman, I'd have to ask him to kneel and look up so I could dribble mace in his eyes.

But on my own, I had plenty of time to examine every leaf. (That's what Jim says I do. He won't go with me hiking. He has bad knees. I think men have specialized pain receptors so that they only hurt when they're asked to do something they don't like doing. He goes to hunting camp several weeks out of the year, and he always comes home with tall tales and yarns about the fun he and his buddies had building stands, riding 4-wheelers, and stalking defenseless animals. He never says, "I sat in the cabin the whole time because my knees hurt.")

I had a lovely day, for the first 2 hours, till about the time I thought I should have reached the trail head, and I ran out of water, and my little pocket camera's battery pack died, and the Pterodactyl mosquitoes discovered me. I had my cell phone, and I could have called Jim, but what would I tell him? "Uh, honey, I'm lost in the woods near the wild grapes and just after I passed a clump of red fungus"? But it wasn't as if I were a thousand miles from Nowhere. From a bluff I could see the Arkansas State Capitol building in the distance. If worse came to worst, I could have swum the river, gone shopping, and then taken a cab back to my car. At 3:30, I gave up on the trail, went to down to the highway and made my way back to my car on asphalt, not the ending I had envisioned, but 5 more minutes in the shadowy depths, and I'd have been a goner, anyway, sucked dry by those blood-thirsty mosquitoes.

The best photo ops always come after the battery dies, and so I didn't get the covered bridge, the pool of lily pads, the waterfall, etc.; I've posted a few of mine, but I'm not a nature photographer, and I rarely can resist the urge to paint or at least run a couple of filters on them. My favorite photographer is Dave Finley ;my second favorite would be Tim Ernst Tim is more famous, but I don't know him personally. Dave is my son. Check out all their sites for some gorgeous wildflower photography. I guess I'll have to be content with chasing the Happy Hikers through the woods.

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