Total Miles: 1,540.5
Gördalen – September 11, 2016
I stare at my GPS. The little arrow marking my position is off. I shake it like that will somehow reset the satellites arcing overhead and teleport me back to the trail.
I start the conversation in my head where I try to convince myself that the GPS is wrong, that the lines on the map are in the wrong place, that the hill runs this way and not that way, but I know better. I entertain it for a moment then push it aside. I’ve listened enough to know that forcing the world to fit your mistake is just a second mistake stacked on the first. I take out my compass and it confirms all. The dirt road is going in the wrong direction even if I did walk two miles on it.
I stare up at the trees all around me. It’s hard to navigate in the forest. Mountains make it easy, they let you place yourself, they give you a reference point that can last for days as you watch a peak come and go. Trees all look the same after a while and any you notice pass too fast to help for more than a few steps.
I look at my GPS again. There’s no good way back to the trail and I hate retracing steps. I find a road that will reconnect me, but it’s four miles away through the forests and bogs.
“This was supposed to be an easy day,” I mutter as I set my compass and step into the woods.
My mind doesn’t drift like it does on a trail. I pick out trees and move from one to the next in a rough line. I feel the sun off my right shoulder, the warmth on my cheek, and keep it there as I skirt around grassy bogs and splash through muddy fields. I make noise and sing a bit, hoping no hunter confuses me for a moose.
And I check my compass every few minutes, turning to point in the right direction as the curves and folds of the land shift me back and forth to try and turn me sideways.
There’s magic in that spinning magnetic arrow, even if science long ago figured it out. I feel it in the palm of my hand as it holds steady. I watch it with my eyes. I trust it as it guides me forward.
The road comes as both a surprise and an inevitability. I knew it was there but am stunned at how close I get before I see it, how a road can hide in the brush. Sometimes I almost have to step on them before I realize they are there.
I walk onto it, brushing away leaves and branches that I crashed through on the way. My shoes and pants are wet with mud, my feet tired of unsure steps, my mind ready to drift off again as I turn down the road, following it toward the trail, and keep walking forward.