Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lost in the Woods Part 1

Fox Scavenger Hunt (or Mini Barkley), April 3rd, 10am

Last year My Runner completed a loop at Barkley, a crazy (even by crazy ultra running standards) race in the wilds of Tennessee.  To say it made an impression would be a gross understatement.  He didn't come back changed, exactly, but... mentally and emotionally expanded.  And inspired.

This year, in honor of this experience, My Runner organized a Mini Barkley (and I mean VERY mini) in Fox Forest.  He and Puma gathered about 15 books from the swap shop in Hboro for us to choose from.  The three of us divvied up the "hiding" of the books and writing of our directions.  Even just hiding my books I knew this was going to be a difficult adventure for me.  While I'm somewhat familiar with Fox's trails, I mostly just follow.  The whole point of this scavenger hunt was to go OFF trail... bushwack, use a map and a compass to take bearings, follow directions that use landmarks and little else to get you where you're going.
Fox Forest trail & topographical map.  The red line is our route.

This blogger challenges female ultra runners to try their hand at conquering the ACTUAL Barkley.  The way Kim writes it, I want to raise my running skirt high and give a HELL YEA!  Except that I am NOT the one to stand up for this challenge.  4-Leaf and Puma know the woods like crazy.  Hell, they've been living in Hboro for 10 years.  I was a little intimidated by my task to hide 2 of the 10 books.  Then I was a lot intimidated.  After a scouting session and a hiding session, I had to be satisfied with what I had done and the directions I wrote.  The three of us wrote up our directions, we read them as little as possible to proof-read, and drew up a map, then we put it all aside so we wouldn't have an unfair advantage.

On a sunny and relatively mild April morning we gathered at Puma's house (the forest is LITERALLY across the street) to start our adventures.  Gazelle and Moose were playing as a team, and Taps had joined us too.  We drew numbers to determine the order we'd leave in, chose our "race" numbers (ie, the page numbers we'd pull from the books to confirm we'd found them- mine was 37 of course) and we were off: 4-Leaf first, then me, then Gazelle and Moose, Taps, and Puma sweeping.
Taps, Gazelle, me, Moose, Puma, 4-Leaf

Since I'd hidden the first two books I was determined to close some of the 5 minute gap between My Runner and I.  The woods had other ideas.  (BTW- this will be a theme- Leea vs. the Woods)  There was a decent amount of snow on the ground and post-holing was not just likely but inevitable.  I trotted where the trail had a packed center, then my leg would sink up to my knee and I'd slow down.  I was out of breath by the first book, about half a mile in and not far off the trail.  I was turning off trail early so those behind me wouldn't follow my tracks in the snow.

Books 1 (Mischeif) and 2 (Titled Love Comes Softly)

Two books in, and now into the unknown- it wasn't long before a setback turned into a meltdown.  The second direction for book 3 was to take Gould Pond trail.  I've followed this trail at least half a dozen times over the last year and a half.  I'd found the trail head and the tree with three blazes.  I couldn't find any other blazes or the rest of the trail.  I'd wandered up and down the hill for 10, maybe 15 minutes- a long time when we're talking back and forth on about 150 yards of hill.  I started crying and swearing- if I can't find an effing trail, how the heck am I supposed to get past the ACTUAL challenges of the course?

I was out of control.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was panicking.  I wasn't lost because I knew where I was, but I didn't know where I was going.  The only reason I didn't give up and go home was the shame I felt when imagining others seeing my tear-stained face and only having two books.  Somehow, finally, I stumbled upon the trail.  I honestly don't remember how I did it, but I looked up and saw one white blaze after another, and wondered how I had missed it.

In hindsight, RIGHT HERE is where I should have thought about eating.  For those that know me, my mood and my blood sugar are closely linked.  While I don't NEED to have low blood sugar to go over the edge, the edge and I meet much faster if I haven't eaten well.  Unfortunately it would be another 30 minutes at least before I made this connection on the trail.

The next section was following a bearing through what My Runner (affectionately, I think) calls The Gauntlet. His trail went straight through a grove of towering red pines filled with young growth pines and pucker brush all between 4' and 6' high.  It was like going through those rotating brushes at the car wash, except the brushes were hard and you are soft.  Needless to say, my mood did not improve, though my curses had now become varied and quite colorful.  I have my theatre training and vast knowledge of Shakespeare to thank.  (It's a syphilis joke!!!)
See those trees straight ahead?  Yeah, go through those.  Not around- through.

After making it through the gauntlet, finding the stone wall (and there's like, literally a thousand stone walls in this forest), loosing it, finding it again, I came upon book 3 hidden in the rocks in the middle of a stream.  Oh, the stream?  Yeah, now I'm wet too.  Now is when I think, you know what?  I'm back on track, I'm making good time, why do I still hate everything?  Oh, I should eat!  I, quite literally, inhale a 100 calorie pack of almonds and keep going.  Yes, yes, I know that wasn't really enough, but at the time that's all I had the patience for.  As I said, I was far gone.
Book 3, Cold as Ice.  Had to tape this one back together to scan it.... was a weee bit frustrated...

I made my way up the beside river, trying to find the path with the least amount of snow and therefore the least unseen hazards.  The snow was still deep enough to hide rocks, fallen trees, and stumps, so when your leg went through it might go up to your thigh and scrape along a granite boulder on the way.  Another stone wall and a bearing West I find book 4 in the nook of a tree with no issues.  The rational part of my brain has a stronger grip now, but I'm still swearing it up whenever I post hole or run into a direction that's less than direct.  My map is balled up in my hand in frustration, and as much as I tell myself that my attitude is counter-productive, I can't wholly climb out of my downward spiral.
Book 4, The Revelation of John Vol. 2.  See how much the food helped? No rage tearing.

I come to Geary's Cemetary and I'm back to a familiar part of the forest.  Ooh, more trail, yay!  There's still some snow on the trails, but it's generally a bit more packed and the going is easier.  I follow Ridge Trail south per the directions.  After about 300 yards I see the cursed river I'd been following upstream off-trail... checking the map I see this is NOT the right direction.  True, I followed Ridge Trail south, but I'd really needed to follow Ridge Trail SSE as it ran along with Concord End Road.

A few choice curse words later (I don't *really* think those things about your heritage, baby, I swear) and I was back on the trail.  A fine section of runnable trail helped perk me up a bit before what I knew was coming- a steep climb straight up a hill- no trail, just a bearing and a prayer.  My compass chose this moment to be the shit and not give an accurate reading- it was showing just about every way was north.  Looking at the map and directions, the book was pretty much at the summit of the hill.  Eff it, I just started climbing.  I'd either find it or curse and cry more.

The climb was a bit theraputic.  The cursing was, well, cursory at best.  I wasn't teetering on the edge of tears- more strolling along the banks of the possibility of crying.  I found book 5 easier than I would have thought at the top of a Triforce of boulders.
Book 5, Touch the Horizon.  Appropriate for the climb, I would say.

I took my next bearing, only now discovering that (herp derp) my compass *couldn't* give an accurate reading that close to the magnetic clip on my water pack.  ::sigh:: Well, at least now the curses were directed at mysel- GASP!

"Hellooo!"  I heard through the woods.  Good thing I'd cried all my moisture out or I would have pee'd my pants.  After an hour plus alone in the woods with only the trees and squirrels to hear my tantrum, Taps was waving at me through the trees.  "Is the book over here?"  He was about 100 yards north of where the book was.  I pointed him in the right direction then sped down the hill.  I wasn't sure I was ready for civilized company, never mind the unending positivity of Taps.

To Be Continued.....

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  • At 11:52 AM , Blogger "Sherpa" John Lacroix said...

    Really sad i wasn't invited to this...

  • At 2:26 PM , Blogger Heather said...

    Re: your blood sugar sensitivities- Remember the Manhattan milkshake meltdown of 2001? Heh.

  • At 3:38 PM , Blogger leeapeea said...

    haha! Heather, I didn't remember that until you mentioned it... It wasn't the first and I'm sure it won't be the last. :-)

  • At 8:03 AM , Blogger Kim said...

    This is great!
    It's amazing what inhaling ENOUGH calories can do for the mood swings! Off to read Part 2!!


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