Long Runs are Longer When You’re Lost.

Today’s run was supposed to be a long one. I was shooting for 8 or 9 miles in the Harbison State Forest. The good news is that I succeeded in making the distance. The bad news is that my route was nothing like what I had planned. I was lost, several times, in the woods, alone.

Still on the right trail

At this point, I really thought I was safe for the day.

The plan was for Cara to take Dublin (our pug) to the forest for a while and pick me up later. I had things planned out pretty well. I had a color printout of the official trail map, my Garmin GPS watch, my iPhone and a bottle of water. Things were pretty good for a while, and I even tweeted happily about where I was.

The problem with a first-time trail run is that you’re just not familiar with the area. It’s the woods, after all. Things are marked pretty well, but it’s not a perfect system. I started on the Firebreak Trail, which is about 4.2 miles in a loop. I’ve been around that twice, so no worries. The idea was to take a connector trail to the Stewardship Trail and make it all one big, giant loop. This, of course, is where I got into trouble. I thought I was lost, but I wasn’t. Then I came to a turn and thought I was lost again, but used my trusty map to make the right choice. Still good. During this process I found myself almost worshiping a trail sign. (See the photo above.)

Things seemed a little better when I found the River Rest Stop. It’s about 100 yards off of the Stewardship Trail. There are some benches, and if you’re willing to walk through a little brush then you can get to the Broad River. I walked down to a nice flat rock and sat down on a log to do some tweeting and send a few pics to Flickr and post a vid on YouTube about the area.

Found the river

Sitting on a log, taking pics and posting them to the Internet. Easily the best part of my day.

When I was ready and I had soaked up enough beauty, I decided to get back on the trail. I was good for a while, but… well, why not let the tweets speak for themselves? Here they are, from the top:

The Stewardship Trail in Harbison State Forest.” (Photo Tweet) – I was only about 2 miles into the trail at this point.

Thank God. For a few minutes I thought I was on the wrong trail!” (Photo Tweet) – Still good. This was solid confirmation that I was on course.
Found the river.” (Photo Tweet) – Still optimistic, even though the signs weren’t as helpful as they should have been.
Shouldn’t take this. I never saw Spiderwoman one.” (Photo Tweet) – Still on course, and making jokes about a sign for the “Spiderwoman II” trail.

Might be lost. But I THINK I should take a right.” – I was indeed lost, and no, I shouldn’t have taken that right. I had checked my iPhone map for help, but the entire forest is one big, green blob. But hey, I knew that I was in the park and which direction North was, so at least that didn’t help in the slightest way.

Another hiker confirmed that I’m on the correct trail. Plus, I just recognized the area. Whew!” (Photo Tweet) -No I did not recognize the area. It was just a road crossing that looks like the other road crossings I’ve seen in the forest. But I was optimistic enough to text Cara for my ride home, claiming that I just had two miles to go.

Yeah, the WRONG part of the correct trail. Thank God for helpful bicyclists and then this map!” (Photo Tweet) – Things looked weird, so I asked a passing bicyclist for help. I was in the middle of the damned park. I texted Cara for more time, but she was already headed to the forest by now. She turned it into Dublin’s second field trip, so they were okay. I was out of water and pretty much beat. And sweaty.

Home safe and cleaned up. Before my shower, I had the best glass of orange juice EVER. (Plus bunches of water.)” – I finally wound up backtracking the first part of the Firebreak trail, but I made it to the entrance. Cara took me home to clean up, and we went out for some Starbucks. Well, after a banana and a bunch of cold fluids.

The moral of this story is simple. iPhone maps aren’t all that useful in the middle of the damned woods. Just use a paper map, look at signs and ask people for directions like we all used to do in the Olden Days.