Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Once Was Lost, But Now I'm Found

I'm working in Medford again. On Monday I was hiking a 3-mile stretch of the Rogue River National Forest, when all of a sudden I realized that my coworker was no longer within an earshot of me. I called his phone, but it went directly to voicemail. Great. His phone was either off, out of batteries, or out of range.

How did this happen? He had been on the centerline route, and I was walking the edge of the survey corridor 200 feet off the line. Evidently, instead of going parallel to the slope, I had been slowly veering downhill.

He had the GPS, which was the only compass we had between the two of us, but I had the maps (an aerial photo and a 30-year-old topographic map with no road names). I walked for a bit and found a road.

I was faced with the obvious choice of going right or left. My gut tells me if I go left I'm sure to find the centerline that will lead me directly to my car in like, a quarter mile. I go to the left and after about 500 feet the road completely peters out. Fuck. I know that the exact wrong thing to do is try to find my way through the woods, so I turn around and walk down the road the other way.

I walk for about a half hour (maybe a mile and a half?) and I come to another road. The road has no signs on it, but I see a sign for the road that I had been on that says '200'. Where the fuck am I? I call the office in desperation and ask someone to please grab the Gazetteer and tell me where I am. "I'm somewhere SW of Robinson Butte at a 'T' in the road. The road behind me is '200'. Which road am I facing?" Stacy tells me I'm on Grizzly Creek Road and that if I go left I'll be going toward where I left my car. So I go left. It's about 2:00 pm.

After about an hour and a half (3 or 4 more miles?) there's another T in the road. This time the road is labeled '3730' with a sign that has an arrow pointing left that says 'County Rd 37 4 miles' and an arrow pointing right that says 'S Fk Little Butte Ck Rd 5 miles'. I call the office again. This time I talk to Shane, who grew up about 15 miles from here. He tells me "3730 is South Fork Little Butte Creek road." This does not help me. I tell him, "okay, I am heading in what I believe to be a westerly direction, toward South Fork Little Butte Creek Road". By now it was about 4 in the afternoon and I figured the sun was pointing west, and based where I thought I was on the map I figured I had about another 3 or 4 miles before I'd get to the road my car was on. I took a right.

Two hours later I am still walking down 3730 when I get my first clue as to where on earth I actually am. I find a tree with a small metal tag on it labeled "Section Corner." Thank god! I read the sign and learn that I am approximately 5 miles SW of where I should be. Fuck. This section corner is not even on my map. Do I walk back (uphill) and start over or continue since I at least know where I am? I continue walking west down 3730, figuring I have at least 3 or 4 hours of sunlight left before I need to worry. This was evidently my third stupid decision of the afternoon.

Walking walking walking. I have 3 cigarettes left, a granola bar, and a few sips of water in my bottle. My legs and feet are starting to ache. Reality sinks in. I need to call other people. I call Scott and let him know that if he doesn't hear from me later it's because I'm lost and that my phone might go out. I tell him what road I'm on, which direction I'm heading, and that I'm calling for help. I call the field office (read: the CLIENT) and tell them where I am and ask if anyone is in this neck of the woods. No one is nearby, but someone can come pick me up if I'm totally fucked. I laugh it off, say "it's cool" and keep walking. By now everyone except my project manager knows the situation. Then my phone rings.

"Hey Heather, have you talked to Olmsted?" Oh fuck. "Oh, hi Chris! No, we got separated a little while ago. I think his phone is turned off. " "He's back at the car and has been waiting for a few hours. Where are you?" I'm just thinking "why did he call Chris first and not me??"

So I get in touch with Olmsted and he's on his way. I just keep walking toward where I think he'll come from until I realize I've walked somewhere between 12 and 15 miles, not counting the 3 I already hiked earlier. I see a sign that says 'Now Leaving Rogue River National Forest'. I sit down on the road and tell Olmsted where I am. It's now 6:45pm and the mosquitos are coming out.

Twenty minutes later he shows up. By the time I get to the hotel it's 9:00. If I had taken a left on 3730 I would've walked only 3 miles to my car. Instead I walked nearly 20 miles that day. In steel-toed Frye biker boots. My ass, legs, ankles and feet are still killing me two day later and I have a wicked sunburn.

But I did find these little gems: Porcini (Boletus edulis)

Morel (Morchella esculenta)