I wanted to feel the thrill of the wild zinging through my teeth, so I pulled up fragments of survival into a backpack, enough to keep Sequoia hospitable for a week. And set off backpacking with a group of four, towards the Alpine zone. The deeper we receded into the woods the harder it got staying on the trail. The storms the week before had done a nasty job of hiding the trails.
I must have failed to keep pace with the rest of the pack, for I found myself farther and farther away until the distant heads vanished into the thickness of foliage. Before long instead of following a team of four, I found myself breaking trail through un-trampled greens. The map no longer fit the terrain, the trails were completely disguised with the havoc the storm had caused and there were fallen trees everywhere. As the sun dimmed its intensity, my hurried footsteps got more and more confused. One wrong turn led to another, and before I knew it, I was lost.
Night in the woods descends like a mighty eagle with its wings outstretched. Darkness is sudden and complete. There is no comforting light peering through embroidered curtains, or a mechanical buzz from the kitchen fridge, a sprinkler sputtering off at night, friendly chatter of the TV in the background, or the familiar clatter of silver ware and plates at dinner time. Instead there is the loud rhythmic thump of your heart beating against your ear drums. There are other disturbing noises intensified by the silence of the night. Like the rustling of leaves nearby, a sudden cry that resembles a baby shrieking except it is not, a howl, a hoot and an unnerving pair of yellow eyes watching from the distance…
A small shaking flashlight in hand and a poor job of a tent later I find myself strangely secure. It occurs to me that a human’s most fetal need is the need for security no matter how frail the promise of security may be. Thankfully, the fatigue from the day wraps its sleep laden hands around my neck and drowns me into deep slumber. For two days I hike senselessly around the green corridors of tall trees losing my way constantly. Until several miles, an abandoned baby stroller, broken shards of beer bottles, disbanded backpacks, and several cairns later I am convinced that I am well on the road to discovery.
The search team must have been thick on its trail, for it isn’t long before I hear myself scream, hands flailing like turbines in the wind. As two distant flashes of light glimmer like twin candles in the thick of the night swiftly growing in size.