When You’re Lost in a State Park, Accept a Ride from a Stranger

It’s been almost a week since I’ve posted to my blog, and now I finally have time to get back on track with things. Last week, I was busy teaching myself statistics only to most likely barely pass the test I took, writing Spanish compositions, and memorizing the differences between consumer and business marketing. To say I was only a little stressed would have been an understatement.

After a week from hell, I was finally able to enjoy myself this weekend. To kick off the new week and to get away from campus, two of my friends and I decided to go hiking yesterday in Allegany State Park located in Salamanca, NY. I had been itching to get off campus for quite a while now, and the last time I had gone on a hiking trip was over a year ago. It was long overdue for me to go spend a few hours outdoors.

The view from the top of Mount Colden
The view from the top of Mount Colden

I last hiked Mount Colden in the Adirondacks in August 2012, a 15-mile, 8-hour adventure that I still consider to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. The view at the top of the mountain was well worth the blood, sweat, and tears (no pun intended) that I experienced as I pretty much did parkour all the way to the top. I was hoping that this trip to Allegany State Park would be a little less intense, just a leisurely hike with a couple of good friends. I was wrong.

The trip started off smoothly enough. I packed my bag with the necessary water bottle and granola bars I would need to finish the hike out strong. I told myself I wasn’t going to be like Meredith Blake from The Parent Trap who despises everything about the outdoors. Although I consider myself more prone to the city life, I do occasionally like being outside. Plus, the fall foliage has reached its peak around here which was an added bonus.

All I could think about during the hike was Meredith Blake’s behavior during the camping scenes of The Parent Trap. “Can someone hand me my Evian?”
Image courtesy of hellogiggles.com

When I say the trip started off smoothly, I mean to say that we were fine for the first 20 minutes of the drive to the state park. Then all of a sudden, we found ourselves across the border and in Bradford, PA; we still don’t know how we managed to do that. After driving around and trying to figure out where we made our wrong turn, we found a man outside his house and asked for directions. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the state park anxious to get on the trail. Getting lost before we even got to the state park should have been our first clue that we were in for a little more than we bargained for.

We chose the “most difficult” trail called Snowsnake to hike, a 4.9-mile stretch that we figured would only take us two hours at most. This trail wasn’t even difficult. Four-wheelers could go through it without a problem. Only the occasional steep incline got us out of breath.

Before we got lost, we actually kind of enjoyed ourselves.
Before we got lost, we actually kind of enjoyed ourselves.

After a little over an hour of hiking, we came to a fork in the trails. One fork’s sign read “Snowsnake: 4.9 Miles” while the other fork boasted only a mile long trail. We assumed this was the connecting trail that would lead us back to where we parked our car. Little did we know that our hike was just beginning.

Now, this whole time that we’re hiking, an older man was walking about a quarter of a mile ahead of us. We saw him turn down this trail and figured we were heading in the right direction. We came to a dirt road and saw that the man had gotten into his parked car, but this was the only car in sight. Where the hell was the Land Rover? The man must have seen the confused looks on our faces because he rolled down his window and yelled out, “Want a ride?” Every horror movie we’ve ever seen caused us to graciously deny his offer. We watched him drive off, dirt flying up behind him. We set off on foot praying that this road would lead us to our parked car.

The view was well worth the pain we experienced.
The view was well worth the pain we experienced.

It was as if God was messing with us yesterday. That dirt road we walked for about 20 minutes only brought us out to a main road somewhere in the park. Thankfully one of my friends recognized where we were, and our hiking expedition went from walking on the trails to walking along the sides of main roads until we found our parked car. We were so out of the way of where we originally were that our presumed 4.9-mile hike turned into an over 10-mile expedition.

The beginning of the additional 6 miles we had to walk...
The beginning of the additional 6 miles we had to walk…

For the last 3 miles or so, we were walking at an incline. All of us were drenched in sweat, swatting away black flies and every other bug you could imagine, and just embracing our misery. Cars flew by, and I think one of us desperately put out her thumb in the hopes of being able to hitchhike. It didn’t work. We walked the whole damn way.

Finally, the Land Rover loomed into view, and I almost cried tears of joy at the sight of that stupid thing. My whole body ached from the constant motion of my legs for the past three hours that I collapsed out of exhaustion in the back seat. The only good thing about the trip was that according to my calorie-counter app, we all burned over 1,000 calories. If that doesn’t deserve a trip to McDonald’s, I don’t know what does.

As I write this blog post, I realize that I have been sitting/laying on my bed for over two hours, only to move about five feet to fetch my computer off my desk. My legs hurt so bad that it takes me about three times as long to make it up and down the four flights of stairs to and from my dorm room. I also have a giant black fly bite on the side of my neck that won’t stop itching, and I think my plantar fasciitus is back. I sound like Gilda Radner when she played Roseanne Roseannadanna on Saturday Night Live. And I’m okay with that.

As I think back to the gruesome hike we completed only a day ago, one thought keeps running through my mind. Why the hell did we not accept the ride from that stranger? Yes, I know that when we’re growing up, we are all told to not get into cars with people we don’t know. Horror movies and tragic news stories confirm this. But, we should have just gotten into the car anyways. The man didn’t seem threatening at all, and we had the advantage of three against one if anything did happen. It would have saved us from having to walk six extra miles. I might have even been able to move more than the five feet between my desk and my bed today and not look like a senior citizen who just got her hip replaced.

The moral of the story: Accept rides from strangers, but only when you’re lost and sweating miserably in state parks.

-Morgan

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