Blessed are those days when the election is over, the weekend is here, and there's a new trail to be discovered in my own personal Ozark backyard. I've been looking forward to finding a new lake to explore, and a facebook post from a friend this morning tipped me to Lake Sequoyah. The trail is called the King Fisher Trail. It's 3.2 miles out and back.
Faithful readers of this blog will remember my Lake Wilson adventure last December, where I narrowly escaped being stuck in the woods thanks to a river that was supposed to be a creek.
This adventure began much the same, with me delighting at being in nature, Sadie at my heels, enjoying the incredible fall foliage. I headed out just before 3:30 pm, thinking that 3.2 miles of a "nature trail" should be achievable before sunset at 5:16 (I checked). And when I started out, the trail looked like this:
Piece of cake, right?
Not so much. About 7 minutes in the trail turned, well, trail-ish, becoming narrower and flanked by thorny plants. Then it started to get rocky and a bit hilly. This photo doesn't really show it, but much of the trail is along a ledge looking down at a looooong, steep slope that dead-ends in the water. When you have a vivid imagination, it isn't too tough to picture yourself tumbling head-over-arse down a hill like this one, never to be seen again.
And here's the thing about hiking in the fall. There are leaves EVERYWHERE. The trail doesn't vanish, but each step is a little adventure in and of itself, because you don't know what's underneath it. Rock? Tree root? Chipmunk? For a gal with a bum left ankle, this creates a need to be ruthlessly focused on my footing. So I don't spend a lot of time looking at the pretty leaves that are still on the trees. The dead ones are the ones I care about.
The end result of all of this is that my pace got slower, and around the time I took the picture below, I was starting to think that I might not make it back to the car before the sun went down.
Remember when I said that you can still see the trail even when the leaves cover it? I lied. At what I think was the farthest point in the trail, supposedly a big loop that would head up the hill and then down, I stood in a glen of trees and looked at a forest floor completely blanketed by leaves. The trail was gone. I spotted a trail marker way up the hill, headed to it, found another, headed further up, then stopped and looked for another. By this time, it was 4:16. And a little bit of fear was starting to kick in.
I had water. I had layers. I had my cell phone, and my dog. But the idea of navigating this trail (or lack thereof) in the dusk/dark got my heart rate going. So I struck out down the hill, knowing that the trail was down there and I'd find it eventually.
I found it, and we headed back at a pace that, frankly, risked ankle-rolling. The shadows got longer, the dappled sunlight hitting the ground with less frequency. Sadie didn't have time to sniff every rock and tree; we were on a mission. I started to wonder if the flashlight ap on my phone would work if I needed to find my way out in the dark.
And then, suddenly, civilization appeared. A farm house, a county road, a car. The trail widened out and we were within sight of the trailhead.
It was 4:47pm. A whole 29 minutes before sunset.
Cue a giant sigh of relief, followed by a rush of feeling like an idiot. I could have absolutely taken more time to enjoy the trail, to have found those other trail markings, taken a few more pictures, and reduced my risk of ankle-rolling. Sigh.
As Sadie and I strolled back to the car, I tried to find the bright side to my paranoia. And I decided that that little edge of fear made me move faster, which got my heart rate up, which burned more calories.
Yeah. That's right. I did it all on purpose to get a better workout.
Next time, I might just bring a flashlight. Or hike in the morning. :)