Submitted May 23, 2009

We brought nothing with us!

Our family used to always go primitive camping for 2 weeks in the summer. We had a trailer, but we'd go somewhere that didn't have electricity or running water. Our favorite campground was Blind Sucker No.1 in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It had great pike fishing, surrounded buy blueberry fields and in the absolute middle of nowhere and just a short hike to Lake Superior.

This particular summer, my dad had broke his ankle and was pretty much confined to the campsite. One day, my mom, my brother and I decided to go for a hike. I was 13, my brother was 16 and my mom was 47. On one end of the campground there was one of those familiar DNR wooden maps of a hiking trail. It showed a trail that looped in the woods and came back to its original start. In fact there was a trail that went left and right. So far so good. We started out about 1-2 p.m. and figured we be back by 4 maybe 5 the latest. I don't know if other state DNR do it the same, but here in Michigan, they tag a trail by painting red dots on trees. Follow the dots and you'll be fine.

We followed the dots and followed the dots and followed the dots .... we got to a point where we didn't know if you should turn back or keep going on the trail. I mean, we could be almost at the end by now! We kept going. We knew we were in trouble when we came up on a hill and directly in front of us was Lake Superior! The trail map showed the trail no where near Lake Superior. We all knew that we stayed on the dot trail.

Now at this point it started to rain and it was probably about 6 p.m. The storm clouds were rolling in and it became dark. We brought nothing with us! I had a knife, but with my skill level at age 13, it was about useless to me. I did know now that since we were at Lake Superior, we were now facing north. The problem was that since we knew now that the trail map was wrong, even if we decided to hike along Lake Superior, we had no idea if we should go east or west. We knew that there was a campground in one of the directions, but at this point if we chose the wrong direction, we knew we'd be spending the night in the woods!

We decided to go back on the trail we came from. Unfortunately we knew at this point how long we had been hiking and now we had to do it over again, but do it faster! Mom knew dad would be worried sick at this point. Dad has been coming up to this area camping with his dad before the Mackinaw bridge was even built! He knew all to much of the inherent dangers of black bears and we were cautioned from the very beginning of camping to stay clear of them.

While walking back down the trail, my mom and I decided it was best to have my brother, who was older, start jogging down the trail so that he could get back to the campground faster and let poor old dad know. Mom made him (brother) vow to stay on the red dot trail and DO NOT take any short cuts. We passed many logging trails along the way, but had enough experience with them to know that many just dead end. My brother started jogging and my mom and I kept walking.

We were going down a hill and my moms knee got twisted and it became apparent that progress was going to be painful and slow now. Mom had her arm around my neck and I had my arm around her waist. This is how we walked, with mom being supported by me. My brother made it back and so did we eventually....at about 10 p.m.! That was 8-9 hours walking and with half of that in the pouring rain.

The next day my mother wrote a last and nasty letter to the DNR and inserted it into the payment post for camping. The DNR showed up that day to collect monies for camping and read the note. They came over to talk to us and after mom told the story over again, they asked if they could show the letter to their superiors....mom of course said yes.

Apparently what happened was this ... the trail map we were looking at in the beginning of the hike, that trail wasn't completed yet. Unfortunately it did connect to the North Country Trail system. We were going on that trail system because our trail didn't exist yet! Why on earth would they put up a map to a trail that didn't exist is beyond all of us. We were told because of budget cuts, the trail couldn't be completed and they just never took the sign down. They took the sign down right then and there! A bit too late for us, but maybe it would prevent some other people to go through what we went through.

The next year we went back and to our surprise, a new sign had been put up. I guess our letter to the DNR did some good.

What I learned from that day forward is that no matter how innocent your intentions are, that there are other forces working against you that you have no control over. In our case it was a trail map that was wrong. I learned that you must ALWAYS be prepared for the unexpected and even the uncontrolled. We had no map, no compass, no matches, no water.......totally unprepared! This story could of had a terribly ending, thankfully it didn't.

Since then, I have made a BOB that this always with me. It stays in my truck and comes with me where ever I go. With it, I can mend myself, purify water, eat energy bars, start a fire and find my way. Of course I can also spend the night too with some marginal comfort.

I am glad this walk in the woods happened to us, because it really opened my eyes to how even the very innocent of things can go very bad at the hands of others!

Mark

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