20 August 2014

LOST. For Five Hours, aka Forever

August 2004. Ten years ago, almost to the very day and week, was when this story took place. I figured it was time to share.

My extended family were vacationing together on a small island in Lake Huron. It was the last day of the trip for my particular branch of the family, Mom and Dad had already made reservations for an afternoon ferry ride back to the mainland for us and our 15 passenger van. We were actually moving to Malaysia a few days after this vacation, but that's another story.

This is the cabin where we were staying when this adventure took place, but this photo is much more recent, from a 2011 trip.
We were pretty much all packed up and ready to go, so we decided to go on one last adventure before our vacation was done: a hike through the woods to visit a lighthouse. It wasn't a grueling hike, but a little on the long side, typically over an hour to get out to the lighthouse and the same amount of time to come back. Still, it wasn't serious hiking, so we didn't go out overly prepared: I was wearing swimming shoes, not hiking shoes, and we didn't carry much in the way of drinks. Only a small group went out--me, my parents, my aunt, and a couple of my siblings.

The way out to the lighthouse was uneventful. The lighthouse hasn't changed all that much over the years. We took pictures, scrambled around on the beach for a bit, and decided to head home.

But there was a slight problem.

You see, 2004 was the year of the Summer Olympics, and that's what caused this whole fiasco.

My aunt and I decided that we were going to be "Olympic hikers", and complete the return trip from the lighthouse to where the car was parked in a record time that would astound all of our friends and family. We set off on our speed-hiking adventure, and very quickly lost Mom and Dad and the kids in the woods far behind us.

However. We came to a fork in the path, and that stopped us in our tracks. We didn't remember a fork in the path. We didn't know which way to go, and we didn't want to wait for the slow hikers to catch up and tell us where to go, because it was the Olympics. In the hiking Olympics, you don't just wait around to make sure you are going in the right direction, you simply hike as fast as possible. After carefully studying the trail, we decided we ought to take the fork on the right. We kept hiking at a remarkable speed.

Lake Huron is big enough that it really should not be mistaken for a small inland lake.

Eventually, we started seeing glimpses of blue that looked like a lake. We had passed a a lake on the hike in, Lake Mary, a small inland lake on the island where we were staying. This lake seemed a little bigger (as it should, the lake we could see was Lake Huron), but we kept going. After an hour of speed hiking on this trail, we figured that we should have reached our cars a long time ago, but we kept going. We eventually started seeing landmarks (like a campground), which we knew were on a completely different part of the island than we'd been intending to return to, but we kept going.

Because we were in the Olympics, and we were going to win.

At this point, we definitely knew we were going the wrong direction, but for some reason we had decided not to turn around and go back. The thing about islands is, if you keep walking around them, you'll eventually get back to where you started, and that's the reasoning we used to keep heading in our current direction.

But unless the island you're on is really tiny, you will walk forever before you actually get back to where you're supposed to be. We got ourselves onto the main road that goes around the island and  realized that it was getting rather late in the afternoon. Not many cars go by, but we determined to hitch a ride from the first one going in our direction.

This was my first ever hitchhiking experience. I was 13.

Eventually, a man in a pick-up truck came by, called out the window, "You two don't really look happy to be where you're at!" and took us back to the place where our families were staying.

We were unaccounted for for a solid 5 hours. This was not before cell phones, but it was before people like me and my aunt had cellphones, and no one knew what had happened to us. Upon our arrival at the cabin, we were greeted by  a lot of upset relatives who we had apparently scared quite severely.

According to what I've heard, Mom and Dad arrived back at the car and were very shocked to find us not already there. They looked around the area, waited a while, and when we didn't show up, they drove off and contacted the rest of the family members to try to find out where we'd gone. They thought maybe another branch of the family had shown up and picked us up while they'd been finishing the trail. When that theory was confirmed to be false, they figured out that we probably took a wrong turn on the trail, so, logically, when we discovered we were going the wrong way, we'd turn around and go the right way, so Mom and Dad went back to the head of the trail and waited for us to show up.

Only, as you know, that's precisely what we didn't do.

Different family members in different vehicles were sent out in every direction on the island to look for us. The sheriff was alerted that 2 people had gone into the woods and hadn't come out when they were supposed to. Kidnapping theories were proposed. My Mom is quoted as saying, "I want helicopters, I want dogs, whatever it takes to find them, get it!"

Even our relatives who weren't currently staying on the island had been alerted to our disappearance. One of my uncles had already decided that if we hadn't been found by nightfall, he would drive up from another state to come and join the search party himself, because he knew every inch of the island we were staying on.

But we were never really lost. At least we never felt lost. Once we figured out we were in the wrong place, the main theme of our hiking conversation was, "Oh man, we are going to be in so much trouble when we get home!"

And we were. Because they love us so very much. The only one who was visibly happy to see us was my grandma, who asked if we wanted some supper. Everyone else scolded us quite harshly for going off and getting ourselves lost. My family missed the ferry ride that they'd already reserved because I was still lost at the time when the boat left. I secretly hoped that that meant we'd have to stay on the island another night...but no, we just took the night ferry instead.

The moral to this story is: ONLY initiate Olympic speed hiking competitions when you are very sure that you know which trail you are supposed to take. And don't hike for 6+ hours in swimming shoes because the blisters that result won't be fun.
Meg said...

Oh man. I bet your family was upset!!! And I read your quote from the driver in a creepy voice in my head... I've seen too many Criminal Minds episodes!

Bekah Loves Blog said...

ohhhh man! hilarious but there isn't much worse than making loved ones worry.

The Lady Okie said...

I've had this kind of thing happen before! Haha. Good story that I'm sure you all laugh about now, though at the time I'm sure it wasn't very funny.

AwesomelyOZ said...

Yikes - the blisters must have sucked big time!! Glad you guys were OK and that you had enough people that were aware so they could've sent help or searched for you in time.. It's scarier when no one knows you're missing - at least a team of people thought you were and care more than enough to hunt you two down :) It's good to be loved right? Thank goodness you two were OK and din't feel lost as sometimes that feeling in itself can be devastating... Have a great one Rachel and thanks for sharing your story! -Iva

Debbie Stinedurf said...

You have the absolute best stories!

Martha Hokenson said...

You have the best stories! I bet your family was super-mad. But I could see myself getting into this sort of scrape too--after all, it's an island! How "lost" can you really get, right? :)

Elegance and Mommyhood said...

Being lost (especially for 5 hours) sucks but having people that care about you is truly awesome!!

Suzanne said...

What a story!

I have a similar one. My husband and I hiked up a mountain in Kananaskis park Alberta. We were prepared with a picnic lunch in a backpack/cooler, hiking boots and gear should it start to snow once we got up to higher elevation.

We hiked long and hard up that mountain. Once we arrived at what I claimed was the peak my husband climbed up even further and looked over the edge...false peak he declared. He was determined to reach the "real" peak and set off on his own across the shale and rocks while I sat and waited with the food.

An hour passed.

Then two hours.

Finally the sun was starting to go down over 3 hours had passed and I knew if I didn't get down the mountain before dark that it would be impossible for me to get down. It was a tough decision. I struggled with it for a long time. I kept thinking that my husband had fallen off the mountain. Finally I decided that I would leave the food and water, should he manage to make his way back in the night and literally ran down the mountain as fast as I could trying my best to avoid falling and breaking my neck. I knew no one would find me if I fell. Well other than a bear probably.

I managed to get down before sunset, ran to the park ranger's station and was talking to him about my lost husband. He had just radioed for helicopters to come and search when down the road I saw my husband walking towards me.

He had never reached the peak. It would have been impossible without ropes and climbing gear. He got lost and went straight down the face of the mountain, shale and all. He was very lucky he didn't kill himself.

He found a stream and walked down close to the water. A fisherman spotted him, gave him some food and a drink and pointed him in the right direction.

Needless to say I was SICK with worry.

The next day we had to hike all the way back up that dang mountain to retrieve our gear.

Someone had helped themselves to the food and put a large hole in our mini-cooler. There was a big bite taken out.

To this day we still don't know if it was a goat, wolf, or bear that got at it.

We never did go up that mountain again.


Paige @ Reasons to Come Home said...

Typical "Mom" response but I probably would have been saying the same thing!

Kari said...

Man! Your feet must have been so sore! What did we do before cell phones were so common? It's amazing we ever made it back home in one piece. Glad you guys were ok, and I bet you did give your family quite a scare.

Anonymous said...

Aww, your poor family! It's good to know you'll have a small army searching for you if you ever get lost again.

Charlene Maugeri said...

Oh my goodness! I am so glad you were only lost and nothing worse. It's a funny story now though, right? Does your family laugh at it or do they still get mad?

Inge Jane said...

Oh my! I bet it wasn't at all funny at the time, but this is a fantastic story! I'll admit, your reasoning to keep going makes sense to me!

Cramer Coffee and Jesus said...

thats quite funny...i get a little paranoid when it comes to stuff like that so i seriously would've been freaking out...especially the hitchhiker. on a different note, i have a blog question: can you tell me how to get the "you also might like...." at the bottom of posts? if its too much trouble perhaps you know of a tutorial?

Mrs. Cheerio said...

"I want helicopters, I want dogs, whatever it takes to find them, get it!"

That would be me, angry, afraid and determined to find the lost ones! What a crazy story!!!

Janna Renee said...

Oh man! What a crazy impromptu adventure!