In 1995 I was a member of the King's Canyon Roaring River Trail Crew through AmeriCorps, one of the truly most wonderful things I have ever done, where I lasted 3 months living out of my tent doing trail work. That winter had been a deluge in Northern California, and we actually spent the 4th of July camped out on 3 feet of snow at 9,000 feet. Things had not melted. It was awesome.
A ridiculous number of trees had fallen because of so much snow, seemingly across every hundred yards or so of trail, and I found myself as part of a spike crew with the task of clearing a 20 mile section of impediments. We separated from the main trail crew, four of us, and went "camping, with tools" out on our own. When I think of all the hiking, over passes, 80 pounds of gear in my pack, plus water, plus a 6 foot bar chain saw over a shoulder, all done with a perverted body, I wonder how much damage, how much engrained, incorrect, muscle memory, was created or strengthened in those 3 months.
Anyways, after just the first day, we realized we did not bring nearly enough gasoline. I was the fastest hiker, so I would set back to the horse corral for gas the next morning, fast as I could, to get the gas we would need to cut through the downed trees.
As you can guess, I got lost. Kinda. I had managed to miss a switch-back coming down one of the passes. I realized it when I was suddenly in the middle of a meadow. None of the trails out had gone through a meadow. I was on a cattle or deer trail.
I did not want to back track. I knew the general direction I needed to go. I also knew I would eventually hit a stream to my left, which would get me to a trail I knew, or back on the trail I had left somewhere to my right. So, I just started walking, certain I'd hit one of the two sooner or later.
Later came, and so did doubts. I never actually got afraid, but I got close. While the worst case scenario was bad, I had never stopped believing I would hit one of the two ways back to where I was going. I had left all my gear at the spike camp - having an empty pack for the needed gas and some water. I didn't have much with me.
But I did begin to have doubts.
I didn't like that feeling. I knew I had not crossed a stream and that the trail I had left was to my right. There was just no way I was lost, not lost lost. I was just kinda sorta lost, and I had walked easily 4-5 miles without regaining my bearings, which did not really fit, unfortunately. Again, I did not have fear, but I could feel fear coming around the bend if I didn't find my way soon.
* * * * *
That's how I feel now. I'm having intense new sensations, every day. I even did full on backstroke in the pool today. At one point during the swim, my right shoulder felt like it was in the right spot for a short time. Yet, there is so much pain, and I seem to move wrong, the way my muscles want me to move, the way they have always moved, in ways that cause pain, every moment I let my gaurd down, and I am exausted.
The progress is there, though, so it is much like knowing I am not lost lost. However, I am unable to keep my bearings. I can't make a plan, or remember one once made, and I keep hurting myself by just standing up. So, I have doubts. I'm just kinda sorta lost.
* * * * *
Well, I am hopeful it turns out like my hike to the horse corral to get gas did. As you can guess, I made it back. It turned out my "guess" as to which direction to walk was spot on, and I was walking parallel to the trail I had left, so it was a long time until I was back on it.
Worth telling, I reached the corral, got the gas, and loaded up my pack. When I started to put the backpack on, the mule packer (one salty SOB - loved that guy), said, "What the hell are you doing?"
"I've got to get back out there, they'll be out of gas soon," I replied, ready to haul ass the 15 miles to where I left my co-workers.
"I know," the packer said. "I'll pack you out."
"I never rode a horse," I pointed out, meekly. I was a fast hiker, and was about to say I'd just go on my own when he cut me off.
"You will today."
And that was how I ended up having my only ride upon a horse, a large pale male named Dick. We went 12 of the 15 miles before he dropped me off. We crossed three streams and several snow drifts (one of the streams was covered with snow and ice). I only pissed Dick off a couple times, not leaning forward enough at certain moments. The views were amazing, having a new perspective 6 feet above what I was so used to, in some or the Sierra's best.
An unforgettable moment, one of the packer's dogs was bugging one of the pack mules, directly in front of me. The mule did a sideways kick that sent the dog flying, literally 15 feet, up the side of an embankment. "Dammit, [dog name]," said the packer, "will you ever learn?"
I've never wanted to ride a horse again. There is just no way it could top that memory.
I'm hoping a similarly incredible payoff is awaiting me when regain my bearings with regards to my rehabilitation.
But for now . . .