For many a moon I have shared my adventures here, but only the successes. As we all know from social media, the bad is usually left out. There has been many a failed excursion. When things go wrong (and they do), you should laugh them off, learn what you can, and spin good tales about them. I always leave myself an hour for Lost. Lost is one of my favorite things to get, as that’s often when you find the good stuff. I’ve learned to allot time for it so I can enjoy finding my way back rather than panicking.
One of my first mishaps occurred about ten years ago while hiking in the Hudson Highlands with a new friend on a picture-perfect autumn day. We were happily chatting along the trail for hours under a robin’s egg blue sky when we realized we were lost. We had veered off the leaf-strewn trail and wandered over the mountain, far from our car. Sounds fun. But it was almost time for pickup, we were 60 miles away from school, and we didn’t have a backup plan. Our phones were dying as we desperately tried to text a plea for help in the spotty coverage zone. Not fun. I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to have a Plan B.
Another outtake was locking my keys in my car in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter. Solo as usual, with no cell coverage, I decided to walk out and down to the nearest “town” about three miles away. Like Blanche Dubois, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I made a friend who phoned the police, who picked me up and drove me to my truck to jam the window open. Keys were in the ignition. (Plan B: Keep an extra key under your car. Join AAA.)
My most recent mishap occurred hiking solo up High Tor, an 810-foot peak just across the Hudson River. I had my guidebook (didn’t notice until too late that it was printed in 2006), but had forgotten I had unloaded all my gear from my truck at home. I had no hiking poles, bug spray, or sunscreen – all of which I needed. The trailhead was on a ridiculously busy two-lane mountain road full of angry, speeding lug heads who had no patience with my speed-limit abiding pace. Having gotten repeatedly dog-cussed and almost rear-ended, I finally found a parking spot, which required me to walk back to the “fourth phone pole on the right” with no shoulder. A death zone. I found the entry, but it was so overgrown I had to bushwhack in, only to find the trail swamped by recent torrential rains. Enveloped in a cloud of gnats and mosquitoes, I set my mind on completing the task of hiking straight up the scree-strewn mountain. Up I could do — slowly — but not without knowing I would have to descend the same trail without poles.
Rationalizing that a twisted ankle would be the worst outcome and that I had left a note on my car with my ETA and whereabouts, I trudged on. When I finally popped out up top, I plopped down to itch and scratch and take in the sights over lunch. That’s when I was engulfed in a Spotted Lanternfly invasion. They were all over me in a minute – jumping on my sandwich and in my backpack, and I nearly toppled off the peak trying to smash them. It was so hot up there on the bald basalt top that I gave up and began my pole-free descent. I ungracefully fell down the mountain to my truck and headed to check out the town of Haverstraw below. Just as I passed an asphalt plant on 9W, it erupted into flames. I barely avoided being run down by firetrucks. In the past, my knee-jerk reaction would have been to run toward the fire to help, but my calmer head prevailed. I left and let the professionals handle it. (Plan B: Know when to call it a day.)
But the mother of all bone-head moves was getting lost and stuck on a mountaintop on the Appalachian Trail with my dear traveling companion Lizanne. All the gear we needed was in my truck, rather than my pack. I had thought it would be an easy stroll. No flashlight, food, warm gear, compass, or cell coverage. Maps don’t help much when you’re trying to read them by the fading light of your dying phone. We made our way in the pitch black, slipping down rocky hills and through streams. We finally got out and were able to call the police, who picked us up….and drove us to my truck. Again. At least I had my keys. I’m amazed Lizanne still talks to me. Plan B: Pack your gear even if you don’t think you’ll need it.)
Yes, there have been other misadventures, all solo, with no Plan B. I’ve since created Bs.
Much to my chagrin, I admit I have:
• Run out of gas in my boat on the Hudson and swum to shore in my undies to siphon gas from a riding lawn mower. (Plan B: Always carry extra fuel. Join Seatow.)
• Had a flat tire on my trailer on the highway. (Plan B: Always carry a spare tire and tools and learn to use them. Join AAA.)
• Sweet-talked my way out of a ticket for trailering my boat on the Taconic. (Plan B: Study map and learn alternate backroads.)
• Veered off-trail and dumped out of the woods so far from my car I had to hitchhike back. (Plan B: Always carry cash for a cab.)
• Watched my trusty boat sink to the bottom of the Hudson. (Plan B: Renew Seatow membership or maybe just accept that God doesn’t want you to have a boat.)
Adventure is like pizza. Even when its bad, its pretty good. Mishaps occur, even if you’re doing everything right. Just “B” ready.