A couple of weekends ago, when the weather wasn't awful, I decided to go on a nature hike. I found a neat-looking path online, and drove up in the afternoon to walk around it. It's a 4.6 mile path, so I figured it would take an hour and a half, since I walk pretty fast.
Finding the trailhead proved far more difficult than I had planned, though, so I got started sort of late (4.15ish). Once I found it, though, I started my hike. It was through a pretty, if somewhat dense forest — though it had some really neat views. There wasn't much snow on the ground, and the first half of my hike went pretty well.
After an hour and a half, though, it was starting to get dark, and the weather had shifted from cloudy to cloudy and misting. Worse still, the trail appeared to be under considerable constrctuion / maintenance, and I realized that I didn't really know where I was, or how far I had left. I walked past a sign that said "2.5 miles," though it gave no indication of if that was 2.5 miles completed or 2.5 miles left. I could hear the voices of all my old Boy Scout leaders lecturing me about not being prepared as it became increasingly likely I was going to be stuck in the middle of a forest at night (potentially in the rain!) with no equipment.
The trail I was on eventually crossed a road, though, and I decided to take it — even though I was sure the trail was about to finish up and put me back at my car, the chance that it wouldn't was too great. After walking around the road that cuts through the park for another 20-30 minutes, I got my bearings and found my car. There was a map at the trailhead, however it appeared to be outdated, and I couldn't really make heads or tails of where I had hiked, or how much trail I had left before I called it quits and walked back on the road.
As I drove back, I decided there were three "take aways" from my trip:
- Don't start hikes on trails you haven't been on two hours before sundown.
- Try and get a map of the area ahead of time, and know where you are
- Think about getting a hiking GPS unit