Lately I’ve taken to walking; I believe I’ve mentioned that before. My usual haunt is a lake that I walk around. Recently I purchased a new car. It wasn’t so much for the desire to have a new car as it was to be able to get a loan to start repairing my credit from years of abuse.
So, I traded in the old car and got a new one.
I’m not in the habit of buying a new car every year so I still worry about things like engine break-in and oil changes. So I follow the age old rule of changing up the speeds and whatever for the first five hundred miles. I find it quite tedious so I try and get it over with as soon as possible.
This morning I only had a few miles to go so I thought I would
take a long drive somewhere, maybe take a few pictures, get some walking in, and finally push the new vehicle over that five hundred mile mark.
I decided on the Bastrop State Park in Bastrop, TX. It’s about an hour away from me so I figured it would fit the bill nicely. As a bonus, there was supposed to be a road that goes through the park and it was described as a “roller coaster” ride. For bicycles, anyway.
Finding a suitable parking spot next to a trail entrance, I grabbed my camera, water bottle, and phone. I figured I would just walk a few steps in, snap some pictures, and then be on my merry way to Park Road 1C. A few steps in I found out that I had forgotten to put the memory card back in the camera. This annoyed me greatly and meant that I would need to use my phone for picture taking. As much as I like my phone, taking pictures with it causes some delays and, sometimes, lockups.
Lacking a proper camera and clothing I ventured into the forest. Now, I have known people who are not from Texas that would say there are no forests in Texas. That, in fact, Texas is essentially desert.
A few feet in I was surprised by the abundance of vegetation which included pine trees. The ground was littered with brown pine needles. Entranced, I moved forward, snapping
the odd photo with my very slow picture-taking phone.
Eventually I reached civilization in the shape of a camp ground. I turned back, walking back to the trail entrance. Or, at least, to the intersection where the path to the car intersected the path I was on. I was feeling all right. The day was overcast and somewhat cool. I opted to go on.
As I’ve mentioned, I usually go for a stroll around a lake. The circuit is just over three miles. On flat ground. The trails in Bastrop State Park are not quite as flat. I spent a lot of time climbing over tree roots and up hills. Feeling a bit winded by this I thought I would take the opportunity to check out the wildlife blind. This is a small building that you can hide in and hope that some kind of wildlife shows up. I took the detour and made my way to a small building. It was small, it looked really hot, and I decided it was probably full of spiders and other kinds of wildlife that should be on the outside.
I turned around, making my way back to the path and continued on. Let’s be honest here and say that I was getting winded. It was partially my fault, of course. I was expecting a drive not a walk so I was dressed in jeans, two shirts, and sneakers. It was a day I should have been wearing the hiking boots.
So I started back. I was also nearly out of water. I did find a map on a post and it showed a water fountain not too far away. I made my way over there, walked through the bushes and found a cairn, which I was sure was some kind of ancient monument. Perhaps a grave marker. It was old, covered in ancient leaves and pine needles. It had a water spout. It seemed that this ancient stone cairn was, in fact, a non-working water fountain.
I made my way back to the path and headed back to the map on a post. While it was good at pointing out where I was, it wasn’t good at showing what direction I was facing. This is my own fault since everyone that lives in Texas has some uncanny ability to know what direction is what; like they all have internal compasses.
To cut a long story short, I got lost. Lost in the forests of Bastrop. I meandered on and on, backtracking where I’d already been. Looking for a path I may have overlooked. Eventually I gave up. I found a place to camp and covered myself with leaves. I had been in the forest for almost an hour.
Laying there in my makeshift sleeping bag made of pine needles and leaves, with barely any water left, I cursed the day. I cursed the car that brought me there, my mother for giving birth to me for the sole purpose of expiring in a Texan forest. I cursed the maps that wouldn’t tell me what direction I was facing, my phone for not having a working compass for some reason, and even the tree molesters that had hammered bits of colored metal to the trees at eye height. Sure, these ancient giants would be the majestic end of me but that was no reason to tack metal plates to them.
Dehydrated and starving, I remembered that the routes on the maps were in different colors. I was on the red path. I needed to get to the grey path. But what good would that do me? The ground wasn’t colored. There were no street signs that directed
me to different paths. Or were there? My mind recalled the posts that were staked out every once in a while. The ones with the squares of color. I had assumed it was a warning to hikers. Green being easy, red being difficult, blue being… something. Who knew what blue could mean? And I had laughed because I was an unprepared hiker, hoofing it up and down a red marked trail!
Now it began to make sense. I threw off my blanket of rotting tree adornments and made way to the closest map. All I had to do was find a landmark. Something like a water fountain or a wildlife blind and then follow the sign posts until I found one that marked the grey trial. Heartened by this I struck out towards the wildlife blind. After long torturous minutes I found the sign that pointed to the blind. I walked further looking for the trail that should break off from there. Then I gave up because I knew it wasn’t where I was going. Maybe, I thought, the trail was hidden in one direction. I hiked back looking carefully until I came upon the signs for the blind again. Nothing. Panic began to set in.
Then I realized: these weren’t the signs that pointed to the wildlife blind! These were the signs that pointed to the sign that pointed to the wildlife blind! I rushed off in the direction of the other wildlife blind signs pointed. And there I saw it: a sign post. The one that would be my salvation by pointing the way to the grey trail; the trail that would lead me to my car and, blessedly, to the air conditioning. I crept up nearer to the sign, drenched in sweat. I looked at it. The colors had been scraped off of it. Two arrows pointed in two different directions, neither to indicate which led to which trail. I knew I had to go East. I consulted the sky and saw only tree tops and clouds. I tried my phone again. The compass was still wacky and then it crashed. I picked a direction and took it.
Down this path the tree molester had also traveled. Nailed in the trees were bits of metal, half blue and half bare metal. I thought back to the red path which had bits of red metal nailed to the trees. And the black metal badges attached to trees on the black path. Oh. I then decided that half blue/half metal meant grey. Somehow.
Finally, the trees broke. Rocky ground turned to asphalt. My car lurked across the street, ready for me. I wasted no time jumping in and getting that cool, cool air conditioning going over my hot and sweaty body. Almost an hour and a half had passed since I had left it. An hour and a half of terror!
When I had recovered sufficiently I tried to get my phone to plot a course back home. It said it was getting directions so I thought I would start down Park Road 1C while it was getting them.
Park Road 1C is eleven miles of twisty, winding, altitude changing road. It would be enormously fun to drive if the speed limit wasn’t set to 30MPH. Being full of blind corners and sharp topped hills, going over 30MPH isn’t recommended because people also ride bikes and walk along it. Not to mention a squirrel who must not have known there was a wildlife blind a few miles back. But it is a picturesque drive, if you like trees. There are a lot of trees.
Eventually I made my way to the exit, hopped on the highway, and made my way back. By the time I had gotten to Starbucks my phone still had not gotten directions on how to get home.