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Lost in the ADK Woods

I  never really thought of what it would be like to be lost  in the middle of a snowy, isolated woods until my experience this past Saturday.  We were out in the Adirrondacks for a weekend camping, hiking and ice climbing (not me).  The second day of our trip, I hiked with John and his climbing partner to the ice climbing site, Pharaoh.  I wanted to view the ice face, take some photos, and then go back to our camping site. We reached the climb site after a long hike. I stayed until John had reached first pitch of the climb. 

On the way back, I followed a different trail which was clearer than the one we had taken going up.  What happened next was I missed the first turn and followed a wrong trail; instead of turning left, I turned right.  Since the path of trail was more visible and walked, my mind decided to take it to get back to our camping site faster. On the way, I saw a hiker and I said to myself, "OK, this is good.  I'm taking the right way."  I walked and walked; down and down, until I reached a lake.  Then, I thought, "Wow! I got to our site so fast."  Our camping site was near Pharaoh Lake which I thought was the one I was at. "Cool." 

Pharaoh Route MapI walked and reached the side of the iced lake. As I was about to walk on it, I saw that there were several foot-, snow shoe-marks;  I didn't know which ones to follow.   Finally, I decided to take the one with more steps and crossed the lake admiring the panoramic view of the open space.  "It was beautiful, " I thought. I had to "pinch" myself and say, "Margaret, wake up. you're lost.  Look for the way out.  No time to be poetic here."   When I reached the other side, the foot marks faded and there was no way of knowing where the rest of the steps went.  I was probably there for about ten minutes or more figuring out the best way.  I followed one; there was a little bit of trail, but the powdered snow was really deep to walk.  I walked more and more. 

On the way, I saw a big faded red canoe parked sideways; I passed by it and walked more.  In between, I ate more ice to avoid being dehydrated.   I was really getting tired.  After some time, I stopped walking; I thought I was going farther and farther away from the mountain side where Pharaoh was; had a strong feeling that it wasn't right. From that point, I knew that I was really lost.  Nowhere. So I retraced my steps and reached the lake again.  This time, I followed another path, but when I was almost at the other side, a portion of water was coming to my view, so I quickly turned back.  As I reached the middle part of the lake, I heard a loud sound, a similar sound when we were up Mount Shasta in California.  Then I looked down and I noticed thin lines of ice cracks.  "Whoa, not good," I said to myself.  I hastily walked to the original end start of the lake.  I still thought it was the same lake.  The reason why I didn't think of retracing my trail back to the base climb.

John finally found me through radio, footsteps and voices. I was in contact with my husband on the hand-held radio.   He also followed my shoe marks which helped a lot.  Our voices were all over the air.  He shouted my name; I shouted his name, followed by "I'm over here! By the lake."  The vocal communication probably went back and forth intermittently for about five, ten minutes.  Finally, he reached me and we walked back together retracing both our footsteps.  I'll end my story here.  Our way back to the camp site is another story to tell...I was just so happy:-) to see my husband after being in the woods all by myself :-(

March 20, 2003

*Please note that this brief journal came from my, perhaps, overly thoughtful sense of what happened, may it be interpreted as not having a common sense and a navigational literacy;congratulate yourself  for having the two.
Going outdoors will always be unpredictable in my case:-) But I can always go back to my notes to avoid unnecessary mishaps in future hikes.



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