Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Art of Getting Lost

As Douglas Adams said, "The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."  Translated into trail running, the knack lies in learning how to get lost while knowing where you are.  In the past few trail runs I've managed to get turned around, doubled back, and confused, and yet was never worried about getting back. Most of the places I run, the the Fells, Waldon Pond, and Great Brook Farms, are bounded by roads, rivers, or obvious barriers.  As long as I can determine which way to go when I hit the barrier I'm good. 

When Amy, Bonny, and I ran in Walden recently the started at the pond and that was pretty straightforward.  Well, except for AAA replacing Amy's car battery in the parking lot and Bonny locking her keys in her car, but that's another story. The first loop was simple, around the the pond and back to the restrooms.  We guessed at a few trail intersections but Rt 2 is a pretty big barrier to miss.  From there we went to trails none of us had been on but we had a map so what could go wrong?  Bonny's knee started hurting her so we figured out a route for her to head back along a road and we continued on.  At one point Amy recognized the road to the Gropius House so we turned that way and entered the woods again.  We came across some railroad tracks which were on the map and that led us back to the trail next to the road which we followed almost back to the car.  At the last minute we followed some trails we came in on and then missed a turn so we ended up climbing up the one hill on the map. 

When we hit the road on the other side of the hill we pulled out the man and realized that we had missed the turn we were looking for.  We knew exactly where we were, but it wasn't where we wanted to be.  So, back up over the hill turning our 6 mile run into a 7 mile run.  On the other side we got headed back the direction we wanted and chose to drop out to the road to avoid another additional section.  Back at the cars we took stock of the situation, Bonny was still locked out but we could handle that.  It was a long run, longer than we had planned but we had everything we need, and were never far from where we wanted to be, which is all you can ask from a run.

This morning I went to the Fells, the location of my one seriously lost episode.  I was trying a new area which would hopefully give me a shorter loop.  The parking area at Bellevue Pond was full so I parked just up the road and took a trail I'd never seen to the Mountain Bike Loop.  From there I ran on familiar trails, but in the opposite direction than I usually run. Fortunately, there are some unmistakeable landmarks to make sure I was in the right place.  But I ran a section of the Reservoir trail that I rarely use, and managed to get turned around enough that when I hit Molly's Spring Road I turned the wrong way.  Fortunately I saw a sign for a parking area that, to my mind, was pointing the wrong way so I followed it out to the road to check where I was, figured out my location on the map and headed back in the right direction.  It took all of 5 minutes to get back on the right path, but it was 5 minutes well spent.  The rest of the run was uneventful and I made it back right on schedule.

I enjoy getting lost occasionally.  It sharpens the mind, quickens the pulse, and keeps me engaged in an otherwise ordinary run.  In full daylight there's no real danger, but I'll try to avoid it near sunset.  On both of the runs described here I had everything I needed, food and water, cell phone, and a general idea of where I was. I'm not sure I would feel the same way if I was in a brand new area, but close to home it can't be beat.

1 comment:

  1. We used to get lost in the Fells ALL THE TIME. It was inconvenient, at times, explaining that I was late to work b/c I'd gotten lost on a trail run.

    Now I know the place much better....but I can still get turned around at times. I think it's part of the joy of trail running.