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Getting Lost in our own Backyard

March 14, 2012

The sprawling ridges and draws around here seem straightforward. You climb up a ridge, see magnificent views, trod over signs of elk herds and coyote, and glimpse the animals themselves if you’re lucky. Tim and I walk between three and ten miles a day out there, although we discuss our hikes in terms of how many hours we want to put in, so we are quite familiar with the lay of the land outside our gate. Add in my on extensive horseback riding into these hills, running miles and miles along the myriad of dirt roads and one could say I feel darn comfortable with where I am at all times.

Night before last, we decided to drive a few miles down Bartlett Point Rd to the Grant Creek area to commence our hike from a new spot, just for fun. Our goal: A simple two-hour hike into a new draw that looked inviting. We didn’t think twice about starting our journey about 4:30 pm. The clocks have just changed, so we had scads of daylight. Our hike began as any other, up a rocky dirt road until a game or cow trail catches our fancy. We decided to head up what looked like the left fork of Grant Creek to check out the stand of trees nestled in the draw and then climb up the dry side of a baby peak to get a look. When we arrived at the trees, a much larger stand than it appears from far below, our coon hound Zephyr gave the big game signal. She howled all the way over two ridges and her voice disappeared into the wind. Although we missed a visual on the animals again, the fresh mud tracks were exciting. Given that our dog was gone for who knows how long, we decided to abandon our plans to continue up the mountain.

We turned to head back, and after stepping through muddy tracks and ankle-deep snow on the north side of a ridge, we veered toward the far south side that looked nice and dry. As we crossed over the head of the treed draw, Tim turned into the leafless stand and I picked my way down a gully and up toward the far side. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t see Tim until at least and hour later. We often take different tracks through the sage, wind and meet up in five or ten minutes, so I wasn’t worried, not until I veered back toward the tree stand, yelled my head off, started back up, waited some more and still saw no sign of him. It was getting later, the wind was howling and our vehicle was miles away. After wandering around and waiting for another 15 minutes or so, I started down the ridge, sure that he must be just on the other side of the creek bed. I stayed high. Surely he could see my golden jacket. It wasn’t until I was well along the creek that I realized that it must have split. I was following a completely different draw and at best I was two ridges over. I corrected my tack with landmarks and began the up and down journey toward the ridge we ascended. Fear wormed into my mind and heart. What if he fell and hit his head on the ice in the trees? I made a plan. I would get down to the road, run the four miles home (he had the keys), get some help and flashlights. I was hungry and my voice was hoarse from yelling. Zephyr had found me, but still there was no sign of Tim or Chief. As the days light faded, I heard a fragment of sound in the wind. It wasn’t anything recognizable, but Zephyr heard it too. We stopped and listened. Nothing. But then it came again. We walked in that direction, away from the direction home. Soon I saw a black spec in the distance. I waved my shiny golden arms, yelled and picked it up to a run. The black spec grew and I knew it was Tim. I had to drop below the ridge line in order to get closer, knowing he couldn’t see me, but as I huffed my tired way up the crest, there he was in the distance. We came together in a great hug. He had been looking the opposite direction from where I was.  As we drove home, I showed him the ridge I was on and we both shook our heads. It was a matter of 20 yards that made the difference between the vast variance in our paths. This land always surprises me by its hidden complexity. What looks like a few rolling hills and trees, is really an intricate system of springs, creeks, draws and ridges, all perfectly capable of hiding not only herds of elk, but one little old hiking woman like me.

View from the top of our little hike.

A simple hike up this draw!

Missed them again. Last year’s picture

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Cesar Padilla permalink
    March 16, 2012 1:48 am

    Scary venturing into the wilderness alone. Best to keep dog close by.

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