It started as an average Bonnie-and-Meghan hike: Bonnie brought hand written directions. I insisted we follow Google Maps. Bonnie had hiked it before. I had not. Bonnie wore layers and packed snacks. I forgot my mittens, but managed to find a half-eaten cliff bar at the bottom of my purse. The only change from the usual was the addition of a new hiking companion:
This is Eto’o Warren. Why does he look so confused? Well the truth is he’s not really into hiking at all. All he wants to do is drag tree limbs and logs out of the bush and onto the trail in the off chance that a human will throw them. For Eto’o, hiking is a string of experiences that prevent his successful finding and fetching of sticks. These inconveniences include: invasive sniffing from strange dogs, deep trail conversations that distract humans from throwing duties, and worst of all—forced selfies with hipsters:
It’s not long after these picture perfect summit moments that our trail experience went off script. As Bonnie and I chatted about our latest forays into organic deodorant, we lost track of the trail beneath our feet. At one point we realized we were likely wandering a creek bed rather than a designated path, but a little bush whacking brought us back to the main trail…what a relief.
It wasn’t until the first shadows of twilight began striking the snowy moss that we noticed a downed tree blocking the trail.
“This wasn’t here on our way up.”
“Or was it?”
“It couldn’t have been.”
“I was wondering why nothing looked familiar,” Bonnie admitted, glancing around the dense forest.
I hadn’t noticed. The road block was my first indication of unfamiliarity.
“How far off the trail could we really be?” reasoned Bonnie, “we left the summit on the same side we came from, so we must be going in the right direction.”
We continued down the path, but our conversation slowed and the stick fetching ceased, while we each calculated our survival chances. Our gear included: one chuck-it (ball was lost), a couple liters of water, trail mix, car keys, a fashionable blanket scarf, and probably a first aid kit (knowing Bonnie). No head lamp or matches…well that decides it, we’re not spending the night up here. We picked up our pace and hoped that the narrow path wouldn’t disappear into a deer trail.
Not long after, we reached a fork and paused to consider our options. Bonnie shrieked and pointed toward the ground.
“A trail marker!”
Indeed it was. But not indicating a hiking path. It turns out we were on a mountain bike trail. Jellyroll to be exact (why didn’t I bring more snacks?).
I’ve watched enough survival movies to know that if no one knows where you are, you will eventually slide over a cliff face, stumble into a waterfall, or wake up concussed in a ravine. So obviously I immediately called Jakob.
“Bonnie and I are in a little bit of trouble.”
“We hiked down the wrong side of Mount Work.”
“Ya we just figured someone should know where we are.”
“The trail is called Jelly Roll.”
“Yup Hartland Mountain Bike Trails.”
“The plan is to hitchhike back to our car.”
I half hoped Jakob would be compelled by pity and fear to meet us at the bottom and shuttle us back to our car. But with a brief reminder to “not get in with any crazy people” he left us to our trail blazing.
By now it was 4:00, the sky was dark, the clouds were threatening rain, and the switchbacks were long. Rustling up on the hillside caught our attention.
“It’s a biker!”
We stared eagerly as the mountain biker made her way down the rocky trail.
“Um, hi,” we called out, “can you tell us how to get back to the parking lot.”
The biker looked a bit surprised to see two tightly bundled and slightly bewildered hikers in her way.
We gathered the necessary intel, reassured Eto’o that he would live to fetch another stick, and started cutting corners on the meandering switchbacks. It was time to hike up our big girl pants and hike down Lumpy Pants. Yes I will never understand trail naming conventions.
Bonnie was the first to spot the Regional trail up ahead! Signage!! Only 1.5kms to our car?! We weren’t as lost as we thought after all. But of course that was no surprise at all to two very capable, perceptive, level-headed, and resourceful wilderness women.