Angry Youth! Blog

March 5, 2008

Bold Explorers

Filed under: Life — mikeyc252 @ 2:02 am

The forecast was cold and rainy but I was going hiking. We were traveling to Hoosier National Forest for a weekend during Christmas break. This was special because no scout leaders were supervising us.
My mom, being a woman, naturally objected but my dad insisted it would be a good experience. I spend $50 the night before on granola bars, handwarmers, Cheez-Its, pretzels, gloves, a backpack-mounted water bottle, a dehydrated spaghetti meal and sunflower seeds. My dad’s offer of his Christmas candy touched me but I managed to recover some Hersheys from the pantry.
The next morning I woke up too early and continued packing-I couldn’t decide whether to bring a large inflatable mat. My packing motto is what doesn’t kill you on the trip there makes you more comfortable when you break camp. I regretted the decision about 30 seconds later.
The first thing we did on arrival was head to the firetower to plan our route. It was at least twenty stories tall. As I scaled the tower I ran my gloved hands up the damp for support. By the time I got down the $20 Dri-Fit gloves were soaking wet.
We finally decided on a route that took us several miles to Lake Monroe and then back. I don’t remember how many miles it was supposed to be. For those who are slow: This is an obvious foreshadowing that the trip didn’t go as planned.
We passed a small group as we started nonchalantly down the trail. It’s a strange feeling going down a secluded trail-you’ve got the whole trail in front of you but nothing to the side of you. The trail slowly narrowed. It was very damp and pine needles covered the untread areas.
Although the trip wasn’t sponsored by our troop, it began as though it was-wet, and with me losing or almost losing one of my possessions. This time it was a knife and maglite I wittingly strapped through my backpack belt loop. A little later I regretted overdressing. My friends donned sleek North Face jackets while I had brought a sweatshirt and coat, both which I currently wore.
Trouble started brewing when we encountered an open field. The trail had narrowed to nothing at all. For 30 minutes we stood and worried while Ross searched for a trail. Eventually he found a “trail” that went in the general direction we had started. Half of us veteran Boy Scouts had a compass on us but using it never crossed our mind.
We progressed up and down hills as the trail got smaller and smaller. At times when we lost the trail, we would simply find a spot with less leaves than the other spots and claim it was a “trail.” We even encountered a useful sign that simply said “trail.” We didn’t seem to be heading towards a lake. We didn’t know how far we had gone or in which direction.
“Are you sure these trails aren’t dry creek beds?”
“Uh I don’t know.”
“Maybe this is a game trail.”
“Yeah maybe.”
My coat was soaking wet, my phone had no service, and my pack was too heavy. I entertained myself during this dark period by eating sunflower seeds. I had a blast spitting them out. I imagined us dying in this forsaken forest and the search teams finding our remains by the trail of sunflower seeds I had left.
Finally at 1:30 we had to make a decision. We had been walking for about 3 hours in a direction we didn’t know. It would get dark at about 5. We still had to set up camp and eat dinner. We finally picked an appetizingly steep hill to scale and stay for the night. First thing I did was set up Ross’s Lilliputian hiking tent that I’d be sharing with him.
As soon as the tent was up I was in my sleeping bag eating junk food. The intrepid explorer Ross decided to look for the lake himself. By himself. I hope none of my scout leaders ever read this-sending one person to look for a possibly non-existent lake from an unknown location isn’t the most responsible idea.
I continued to eat junk food and feel sorry for myself when Ross got back. He had found the lake. Meanwhile two other group members were trying to start a fire to get cook their dehydrated meals. They cut down a live tree, which was a blast to watch. Emergencies call for emergency measures. I never even opened my dehydrated meal.
The next morning I didn’t get out of my tent until about nine. Since I crawled into my sleeping bag at about three, I had spent eighteen hours cramped in a tent. Now we had a decision to make-should we try to backtrack and then plan a new route? Or try to find the lake (Ross said he could “probably” find it) and then take a normal route back?
My survival rests on our decision to do the former. We made good time, I ate more junk food.
As the trail widened, the source of our mishaps became clear. The metal bar we had unwittingly gone past when we started. Another wider trail to the side, in the exact direction of the trail going from the fire tower. A sign indicating hiking and camping on the wider side trail.
Of course we couldn’t find ourselves on the map-we weren’t on a marked trail. Half the time we were on game trails and half the time we were most likely following creek beds. We judged by the distance to the lake that we didn’t cover more than five miles.
I blame this on everyone but me-I was in the back. Our wonderful leader Ross should’ve seen the sign. We drove to the bathroom and discussed whether we should go home or try another trail. We made that decision in about three seconds. We drove home through IU and got lost there too. Luckily Ross had an invaluable asset-his alumni parents. We made it out.
My gloves still weren’t dry by the time I got home. The Cheez-Its remained unopened. That weekend had turned me into a man, or at least a boy with common sense enough to use a compass.


1 Comment »

  1. This made me laugh, I am so sorry but you have to admit the way you write gives it a very funny edge. I have only ever been camping once many years ago. I was pregnant and four of us, plus camping equipment got into a mini and went to Stonehenge. The only place to camp was behind a pub, in a dip, it rained. The tent floated away, we slept in the car. I have never been since, I am too old now, well that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.

    Comment by Little old me — June 23, 2008 @ 6:02 am

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