The posting on Facebook said St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Stoney Bayou Trail, 7 miles from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. I responded that I’d be there with bells (well, sneakers at least) on. Really, I just clicked the little “yes” in the response area, but I thought I’d embellish a little.
I noticed my friend Martha was also going. We do a lot of hikes together and it’s always a nice time. But the night before, I had trouble figuring out directions and thought it might be a good idea to carpool, since it was at least a half-hour drive to get there. I called Martha to see if she still planned to go.
Martha was on the fence. She wanted to go, but she had to leave by 1 because she had to get to a wedding.
“It says 10-1 on the invite,” I told her. “And it’s only 7 miles. I walk 7 miles in half that time, so even going slower than normal, we should be done long before 1.”
Based on that statement (and probably other things, but I think that helped the decision), Martha agreed to go. I’d head to her place at 9:15 and we’d head on down to meet the rest of the group (Tracy, Elaine, Lisa and Michael — and his dog Ember).
The fact that we drove several miles past the turn-off to the sanctuary should have been the first clue something was going to go wrong.
We got to the trailhead. Martha grabbed a map. We walked quite a bit faster than the rest of the group and ended up pretty far in front of them. Martha was very certain of where we needed to come back out to the main road. We got to the first lake/pond/whatever and looked at the map to figure out where we needed to go. It looked like it was shorter to get to the road than to walk back the way we came, so despite my recommendation to do so (because the map was quite confusing), we kept on going.
I wore my heart rate monitor, and estimate I burn about 100 calories per mile (give or take a few). When I hit 800 calories and we weren’t even close to our destination, I knew something wasn’t quite right. But we trekked on. And the time passed.
“As long as I’m home by 2, I should be fine. I need to leave my house by 3:30,” Martha said.
Optimism ruled the day.
Finally, the road. And to the left, we could see the lighthouse. It seemed awfully close. We hadn’t seen it before.
My phone rang, letting me know I had a voicemail. It was Tracy.
“We just got back. I see your car’s still here. Call me when you get this so I know you’re OK.”
I called. I told her we were just coming up on the road and I thought we’d walked farther than we should have, but all was well. I told her I could see the lighthouse.
“The lighthouse?” There was astonishment in Tracy’s voice. “You’re way up the road. Do you want me to come get you and drive you back?”
Still optimistic, I thought we couldn’t be that far from my car. But Martha had to be somewhere and I was getting kind of tired (my heart rate monitor read almost 1,000 calories burned) so I said yes to the offer.
Martha and I jogged the short distance up the last of the trail to the road and started walking north toward where I parked the car more than three hours earlier. It was closing in on 2 p.m.
“It can’t be that far up,” Martha said.
We’d walked a decent clip up the road when we saw Tracy’s car. She pulled over and we got in. She turned around.
It took at least five minutes (or possibly longer) to get from we parked. I don’t know how many miles that was, but it’s quite possible Martha and I would still be walking if she hadn’t come to get us.
Just call me Gilligan.