Not a Wilderness Expert

Photo via Rock Creek Park's Facebook

It's been so freakishly warm out, that yesterday I decided I needed to take advantage of this 70 degree December day and run outside. I live right near Rock Creek Park and there is a little trail near my house that I ran on a few times in the summer. I set out at 4 p.m. wearing shorts with only my keys and my Shuffle. I usually bring my phone, but I was only going to be gone for 30 minutes so why bother.

I got on the trail and noticed that the fallen leaves had obscured the path in some places. I must've gotten really engrossed my Cut Copy playlist, and taken a wrong turn. Suddenly the trail was headed through a ravine and fallen trees, which didn't seem right but I plunged ahead. I navigated down a giant hill, over fallen trees, then back up the other side, slipping in the leaves in running shoes. Then I realized this wasn't right at all. And the sun was starting to set.

I didn't want to be on the path at night, so I got off into a neighborhood in Cleveland Park, but I had no idea how to get back to the bridge I ran over. And no idea where I was. It made me realize how dependent I am on my iPhone map. I just ran for awhile until I bumped into a friendly dog walker who suggested I get back on the trail and it was just a few lefts back to Mount Pleasant. So I got back on the trail at dusk, which is exactly what I didn't want to do.

Stumbling through the brush, trying not to trip over branches and trying to ignore the sound of something else crashing through the leaves, I didn't feel any closer to getting home. Joe and I had just watched that documentary, Touching the Void, where a mountain climber is alone with a broken leg in a crevasse. I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of that. True, I was lost alone in a scrubby park in the middle of the city, and the climber was in the Andes in Peru, but still.

I ran by one bridge, but it wasn't the one I ran over, so I got back on the trail. Then I saw the bridge, but I was up above it, so I got off the trail and navigated down the hill, stumbling out of the forest onto Beach Drive like a confused Bigfoot in running clothes.

That bridge was still not the one I ran over, and now it was completely dark and panic was setting in. If anyone can get totally lost and fearing for her life in the middle of an urban park, it's me, apparently. But all was not lost!  I begged a girl walking with her bike for directions and she was so nice and walked with me out of the park. She was an angel! Somehow by the time I reached civilization, I ended up in upper 16th Street by all the churches, TWO HOURS later. I was lost for two hours. Egads.