You never feel so alive as when you survive your dumb ass


I had a mind-blowing afternoon. Around 4:20 I decided to walk across the street to the development that has great climbs and great views. I had to beat the rain which according to TWC was coming around 7pm. But there was heavy cloud cover and with the sunset scheduled for 5:41 I didnt have a ton of light. I had with me a dog, a leash and nothing else. No water. No compass. No food. No rain gear. No cell phone. No flashlight. In other words, not a single thing on the "10 essentials for survival" list. I left the house for a walk I had done many many times and then made a series of compounding errors in judgement.

When I got to the place, I went up the other mountain I never go to because its posted property, and actually the highest peak and a longer walk. But I am trying to do harder and longer treks because Id like to hike the AT the next few years. I took the gravel road as far as it could go and then the trail; climbing climbing climbing. It was great exercise and I was delighted at how the padding of fallen leaves make it a little more difficult to get traction, making me work my core keeping my balance. At this point I still had Trout leashed. I got to the summit and took in the 360. I was surprised at how fast the weather was moving in and I have to say, it was a sight to behold. It was one of those moments where you feel really dazed and happy with physical exertion combined with a beautiful nature moment.

On the way up, I was so focused on getting to the top, I never noted any landmarks. I was not on any trail because I was looking for ways up that had the clearance for me and Trout. I came down and thought I was going to connect with the trail that leads to the gravel, that leads to the road home. But I didn't connect with it. Right then, I should have gone back to the summit and tried to get oriented correctly. Instead, I thought Id shag over a bit and catch it at the bottom. I didnt ever see it again. Shoulda turned back, but didnt because by now, it was raining, and it was getting dark the way it does in woods when its still daylight in a field. I let Trout off the leash as it was difficult to hike down on the wet leaves. When I failed to connect to the trail once again, I had my first thought of how stupid it was to go off trail this late in the day, knowing bad weather was coming and with no means of managing a night in the forest. I mean how bad could it be? I was in a development for Crissake.

Speaking of Christ, it was at about this point where I started asking for help from Him and my Mom. Something similar to "Jesus, Take the Wheel". I would walk on a ridge and could not believe I couldnt see a cabin or field or anything. If iI had been on the other side I would have recognized familiar landmarks but I was on the side I never go to! I was soaking wet. It occurred to me that a night in the low 40's when you are wet puts one in danger of hypothermia. I 've always thought that would be a good way to go but not tonight. I walked the ridges for a while, saw nothing and started contemplating what I would do if I had to stay. For one thing, I would have to get out of the wet clothes and lay in some leaves under some thick hemlocks or something. Im serious. At no time (well, briefly) did I consider whistling (I have a mega whistle) or yelling as I had been trespassing in the first place, and I still thought I would eventually figure it out and could avoid the epic embarrassment of getting lost in my own neighborhood. Trout was no help because her nose was to ground on prey and not at all looking like she was heading home. I went low to a creek bed and followed it until I found a trail. Eventually that trail lead to another trail; a maintained forest trail and I was relieved.

But it was almost dark. I started running which I never do because of all the hardware in my neck. (The compression is hard on a skeleton.) When the trail came up on a wilderness boundary line I paused in disbelief. I sure didnt expect that and yet I knew I was within a mile or two of a freaking neighborhood. The final decision was when the trail came to a fork and there was a sign tacked to a tree that simply read "pond". I took the other way. I admit at this point I had no clue where I was but I knew I would find a road to something eventually and have a possible long walk home. By now it WAS actually dark dark. When its this dark it doesnt matter if its 6 pm or 2 am - its edgy. It was raining even harder and my boots were now soaked through and my jeans were sagging and heavy. It was like a nightmare where your progress is seriously impeded and you cant move as fast as you need to.

Probably around 6:10 I came up on a cattle gate, climbed over and started walking. There was a barn and cows and an open field. Yes! Now I was out of danger of mortal embarrassment  and/or possible physical consequences. By 6:30 I realized where I was and was astonished that I could have gotten that turned around and that far. I knew it would be about 10-11 miles by the road to walk home and even though I now knew where I was and how to find the correct trail back, I could not even think of going back in the forest. So I had to suck it up, and knock on a strangers door.

A voice called "come in". I didn't. I was waterlogged and I had a wet dog too. A man eventually came to the door and I said "Hey. Uh, I know this is a little weird, but I got lost today and just got out of the woods, and wondered if you would give me a ride back to my house on ****" He said sure and that he was on his way to church anyway and we loaded Trout into the pickup bed and we headed out. The man (I know his name now) started laughing after a minute and I said something like "I know, what a doofus. You dont know how foolish I feel. I am truly humbled" and he said "No, I was just laughing because at church everyone has been telling me if I want to meet somebody I have to get out there. They said no lady is ever gonna come knocking on my door" Eventually we got to the part about me being married and all -and how he got lost once on his own acreage in Kentucky, and yes, its mortifying. He also mentioned that people had gotten lost that section of the Cohuttas before and that search and rescue usually has a good track record on finding people because of their cars being left or people wondering about their lost hikers. Of course I had neither of these. The first time V would start wondering about me is maybe tomorrow afternoon.

It took almost 10 minutes to get to my house.

The hens had loaded on their own. I left a glue gun plugged in at my studio. No outside lights were on. I came in and dried Trout off, fed her and started pulling the heavy wet clothing off. I had a really good anxiety relieving laugh. It is astonishing that things could go sideways so quickly but they did and it was because of lots of really bad decisions I made and in areas where I know better! Now I am in my flannel and having a cup of tea. It's like nothing happened, but I had a little miracle today; a little grace I didn't deserve. You never know how it will manifest. Yeah, I've already signed up for a survival orientation overnight course in March. I have more than physical training to do if I plan on walking the AT. But tonight, I feel good. Really really good and alive. Alert.



  1. That's quite the adventure you had. Glad you and Trout are ok. Snuggle with your flannel and enjoy your tea. Love you lots.

  2. Goodness! Glad you're safe and sound and warm. There is much to be said for the kindness of strangers, and the ability to laugh at oneself.

  3. Dang. This made my own stomach sink just reading it. Being lost in the wilderness is probably one of the top all time worst feelings in the world. It's way too easy to spin into a haze of hysteria and I'm glad you kept your cool. So freaky that you were that far from home. Even at a good walking clip, it would have taken you another three full hours to get home. Double dang.

    Glad you're home safe to tell the tale!

    Now, go buy yourself a CamelBak waist pack hydration system ( It holds 50 ounces of water, and I also get into mine 3 Gus, 3 power bars, keys, cell phone, compass, and one of those shiny insulated blanket thingees. Comfortable and doesn't impede movement. It's my pack of choice for long runs and hikes.

  4. I got lost in the woods at the Abbey at Gethsemani on my first day there. Maps were out of date, trails not maintained, markers long since burned down. Of course, at a Trappist monastery, the whole thing turned into a grand, significant metaphor for my spiritual confusion. More likely, and with the benefit of time, I realize I'm just a dumbass who got lost in the woods.

  5. Which isn't, I hasten to say, what I think of your story, Chickory. Not at all. And I can definitely relate to the final feeling you describe.

  6. Czar: grace isnt anything like religion. its more like in the movie Amadeus. there was poor ol pious and bitter Solieri in total amazement that the God he constantly petitioned seemed to gift the debauching Mozart with all the talent. you really cant earn it. Its a gift! whats that old saying about God protecting fools and little children? It worked out for me tonight, luck or grace. Hey at least you didnt get lost in your own neighborhood! grherha

    moi: who thinks they will need a pack to walk across the street? Youve seen it. I was way on the other side from where we went. Remember that trail we took to the other development? I was on the Cohutta side of that. insane that I was that off. I will never make that mistake again. If this had happened at 1 pm it would have been a pleasant adventure. But you are so right about that sinking feeling. I didnt freak out - but when I saw the wilderness boundary line I started talking out loud. grheha thanks for the pack tip -it sounds great.

    eggy: you know what? Ive come to realize its all laughing at ones self now. that one of the pluses of cronedom. thanks, friend. safe and warm aint too boring tonight. and look how chatty I am. grrrrrrhahahaa

    Roxanne: thank you. ive got sleepytime tea now cause Im all amped up. hee hee

  7. Somebody is going to sleep GOOD tonight, in her own bed, safe and warm.

    Praise Jah

    And next time, all I ask is you start earlier, like dawn. You know there will definitely be a next time.

  8. I think Trout was also lost, trust me, she got a heavy whiff of your worry pheromone, and got down to business using her 600 olfactory nodes (we only have 200) to find a familiar scent which would have taken you both home. Reading about her nose to the ground tells me she was helping in her very best, devoted dog way.

  9. Nina: Praise Jah indeed. While it was still light as I watched Trout she didnt seem to be on trail for us - especially when it ended up at a tree with her stretched up on it. But Im sure when I got a load of that boundary sign she got a big whiff of cortisol meltdown. But by then we were on the forest service road and it was just a race against pitch black.I would have been scared without her though. She seems more tired than me - wouldnt even go out for night re-con. Look at me! im still up.


    but...relief outweighs ire.

    snuggle in an say yore prayers.

  11. Oh. For a minute I thought you were linking to some site called crone dot com. But now I thank you for sharing a word - and a feeling - to match my age. I shall endeavor to embrace my inner crone.


  12. I'm reading this (horrified!! but at least I knew you were ok, because I was reading it) and I thought,

    "hooo-boy, Aunty is gonna be mad" because I know in the past she hasn't been happy with chickens on the dashboard, skinny dipping in the creek, etc.

    You went across the street up into the development? I can just picture it. Did you ever see Blair Witch, when they're walking around and around in the woods? That's what I was thinking when I read this.

    Despite not having any real survival things with you, you did manage to get back and I know you've learned a big lesson so all I say is;

    I'm so glad you're ok!!!!


  13. btw, I took the light rail back to my office from downtown on saturday and got turned around underground and nearly got on the Northbound train even though the signs said it was wrong. I was shocked at my confusion as to what direction I was headed, so don't feel bad.

  14. So grateful for the warmth and safety of yourself and Trout.

  15. Nothing like being warm and Dry in your own bed!....Love your Koby... Had my Mugsy...great dane and ridgeback...miss him alot ...glad you are safe...onelove

  16. OMG, girl! You had some clear-headed thinking going on and I am very impressed. It could happen to anyone when out of their element. I am glad the dog was with you! And that the guy in the house wasn't an axe-murderer. But maybe you know someone you can fix him up with because he sounds like a kind soul. Such a funny end to the story. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. A survival course ... great idea. Now THAT appeals to me, not nec. walking the AT, but survival course... hmmm.....

  17. Wow, what an amazing day, you had me gripping my chair as I was reading this, I don't think I've ever lived anywhere wild enough to be able to to get lost in the forest, I say it again and again, you american gals are made of stern stuff!
    so glad you got home safely, maybe Trout won't need a walk today!
    take care

  18. Following the waterway was exactly the best thing to do! That will almost always lead you to access out.

    Survival course: excellent idea!

    Make up a small survival kit to take with you on future walks.

  19. hmmmn. no compass, no cell phone, but a camera?

  20. Wow! I'm glad to have read this because it was brilliantly written but NOT glad you went through it.

    You closed with "I feel good. Really really good and alive. Alert."

    That's in your head and stress-related, I'd wager. Your body is NOT 100%. Take it easy and feed that body MORE than you think it needs for a few days. It's depleted.

  21. Wow! You don't do things by half measures do you! I'm just very very glad that I could read about your un anticipated survival trek... and that you made it home safe and despite being a little shaken and damp around the edges... soundly.

    What else does an intrepid explorer need other than a camera, a trusty hound and the kindness of a now "not so stranger"?

    Don't beat up on yourself too much Chick... Could have happened to any one of us!

    There but for the grace of God go I...

  22. Yeah, we were supposed to be out for 45 minutes and were gone for 2.5, I know, I know. Been there many times. And I still do it. My bravado about my own 'hood trails trips me up on occasion and often I'm just heading out "quickly." But if anything, Mother Nature just loves putting puny humans in their places.

    Also, Troll is right. You were operating of the kind adrenaline that allows some people to lift VW buses in emergencies. Drink a lot of water today and STAY HOME :o)

  23. aunty: dont worry I have some cuts. On top of everything else, i had on my "studio jeans" with the holes in the knees. Ive been switched my mother nature.

    Eggy: classically a crone is like a wise woodswoman (ha!) who gives good advice and/or magic to a wayfarer. Like a hag -but maybe a bit better.

    boxer: thank you friend!! I was very motivated by the potential for the embarrassment of dying in the woods behind a development. are you joking? Worst case scenario was I would have to hole up because walking off trail after dark opens you up to a variety of pitfalls. I would have gotten back in the morning but I did NOT like that option. I ran at least a mile yesterday and I havent done that in at least a decade. Im getting a GPS gizmo with the Cohutta loaded in. I got lost up on Dolly Gap years ago with Eva. That one was truly terrifying because i had an old dog with me who couldnt get up the mountain.

    su: thank you!! An adventure will surely assist in ones appreciation of the little things. xo

    terrance: welcome. I love that RHodesian! great breed - I bet your Mugsy was huge! thanks so much for the love

    Pam: i knew the guy would be alright - he had to be. FOr all I know a little woman couldve come to the door. or a crone. grrhahahaha. It could happen to anyone, but it shuldnt have happened to me. I do know better.

    sharon: hey there!! thanks for stopping by. Well - Ive had a few wilderness adventures but never one so close to my own home. This was crazy how thick it got so fast. Im sure the ghosts of Cherokees were laughing their asses off.

    Von Lx: yes yes and yes. I little kit is now going to be a part of my walks. LIke I said, I intended to just do the usual. I wanted to watch the storm blow in from the summit and I did get the money view but oh what a price. I figured if i go low to the creek If I have to hole up Ill have water and more warmth. it was the only wise choice left to a fool.

    Anon: those are last years photos. I didnt have a camera either. The views in the photos are from the other side I know much better.

    Troll: thank you! My neck hurts today. I crashed a few times coming down the mountain on the wet leaves. Ive got a pretty good slide technique but one hit jarred me pretty good. My sciatic is tight. And of course today I have a more sober recollection of the event -less weeeeeeeeee I made it and more like, wow that was close.

    Princess: thank you for this kindness. I hope this never happens again, but if it does, I will have some kind of gear with me. Just a whole bunch of dumb rolled into one afternoon.

    moi: you know it. Remember Gilligans Island? The were just out for a three hour tour. grhahahahaha I wish I could rest today - I have a trunk show with a home interior shop and I am crazy busy. Things I shouldve done last night didnt get done. for some reason when I got home I didnt feel like working. just sogging in front of top chef in my jammies. grherhaha

  24. J.T. is gonna join Aunty B. and give you a whoopin!!!! But you kept your wits about you and kept walking, which is exactly what I would have imagined you'd do. Tough Chick-ory. I am reminded of the movie "The Edge" with Anthony Hopkins. He asks why most people die in the wilderness when they get lost - the answer is "shame". Praises for the grace that was extended to you - I am so thankful that you made it back safe. And what a great story! (Can't get over how far out you had gotten!!)

  25. I'm always reading about Alzheimer patients that get lost for days and eventually turn up very close to their house. And I always think to myself, "that could be me one day". Sucks getting old.

    Glad you made it back and learned a valuable lesson.

    Blanche DuBois: ...I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.


    You would be insane not to enter this one.

  27. yikes ... my heart was pounding, edge of my seat the whole way.

    Reminded me of one early October when I had to wade and then swim out into the ocean fully clothed (and heavily so) to get my beloved Jake who was swimming out farther and farther into the straight after a group of seals. The water was very rough, choppy & cold I thought - we're both going to die. Winnie & Emma Jane, of course, swimming along beside me. It's the most frightened I've ever been. I was so sure my dog was going to swim out to sea, drown & I'd never even find his body. When I finally landed back on the beach, soaked & cold, and with all three of my tribe. I flung myself onto the sand and wailed and cried like a banshee. Thank you, thank you, thank you God.

    Jesus took my wheel. I'm still grateful, grateful, grateful.

    xo current tribe (S, Missy D, Samuel avec les Chats trois)

  28. aaaaack! ya scared me! it's so easy to get lost in these mountains!
    and i can get lost in a heartbeat ..

  29. What a totally frightening adventure you had! Being lost in the woods is one thing, but at night in the rain makes for a very spooky time.

    Love the anecdote about your neighbor's waiting for a "lady to come knocking on his door"... while laughing at that, chills ran down my spine thinking how awful it all could have turned out. So glad that your angel accompanied you, and brought you back my dearest ande!

  30. So glad you're ok, that Trout's ok, that the girls are ok. It would truly suck to come here and read something worse had happened. Mother Nature will mess with your head.

  31. Holy $hit, girl, that was a close one! But I can totally relate...being a curious gal who likes to wander and discover. But I watch too many of those "I survived!" shows and it's always the little bad decisions we make that mess people up! I LOVE the story of the gent neighbor, "don't expect a woman to come knocking at your door!" HA! How funny is that?! Thank goodness you found him, would have been a miserable night if you'd have made it through. Glad you're safe and now thinking a bit more before you go wandering off! We need a few more chicky pieces of art first! xo

  32. Thank Jesus (and mom!) you are Really really good and alive! I can't bear to think of you ANY other way! hugs ♥

  33. blogger just ate my lengthy comments to each of you. dont hate me - im just going to say - thank you - love you all and so glad to be rolling again. oh yeah -went up to the mountain today and figured it all out. I see what happened.

  34. I am simply pleased to have you back, safe and sound, to tell the tale. Don't do that again woman! The world needs people like you too much. Though, if I may... grats on the "just doing it" side of things. You certainly have some spit. *grinning ear to ear*

  35. doom: that is high praise coming from you.thank you!

  36. I get lost all the time. People bet on me getting lost. For some reason I never bring my GPS when I'm alone. I won't even admit to myself I lost till I get in deep for a long time. Once I had my dog Poppy with me and it started snowing and the wind blew like crazy. We got in a hollow with a lean to I made. I dragged Poppy on top of me and wrapped a space blanket around us. Almost lost an ear from her licking but I was nice and warm and she was pretty happy. I'm so glad it turned well for you.
    One thing I always, always do is bring warm clothes, powerbars and extra socks. But then I'm in Co. It's always cold in the mountains.

  37. I had a similar, but not quite so scary incident with my dog in a park of all places! Its a few hundred acres, and we got turned around on the trails. Had my cell phone but was embarassed to call for help. I too, found a creek and followed it out. The next day I bought a little knapsack, and put a whistle, compass, first aid kit, dog kibbles and water bottle in it. After reading your story I'm gonna add some granola bars and some kind of lightweight tarp. I take it on every hike now. Hubby laughs at me, but my new motto is 'be prepared!'

  38. curmudgeon: now that really is edgy! I was kind of thinking about getting a GPS that I can download the entire cohutta onto and then mark my known locations. While I was lost i was shocked (often) at how it was possible to get that far off what I thought was right there. It has really made an impression on me. Was that an overnight you did with Poppy? Were you hunting?

    Deborah: we truly are sisters from a different mister. Did you hear about that couple that got lost in a corn maze and dialed 911 for help? grherhahaha

  39. Yes, happens fast. Now you know better. Next time, do not run.

  40. I could feel the ice creeping up my veins as I read your account of an afternoon dog walk. Have you read Bill Bryson's "A walk in the woods". It's hilarious account of walking the AT with an old high school friend. He does the AT in parts and on a day trip he forgets his windbreaker and the mountains teach him a lesson about hypothermia. It's a really good read.

    I'm very glad that you are OK.

  41. Good morning Chickory,

    Well now, that sounds like fun. Good to read of the positive outcome. Moi has a right equipment list. I would add a map and a rain poncho. Marking your path is a good habit to get into. a stick in the ground or an arrow made the ground cover.

    GPS is a good idea, however keep in mind. The unit needs to see the satellites. They work well on mountaintops not so good in valleys. And anything electric needs juice to run. A cell phone or a GPS with dead batteries is just extra weight.

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