April 14th, a magnificent day. Warm and sunny, the last remaining patches of snow in the shady spots almost gone, and Jeannie, daughter #2, is visiting from West Hartford. We decided it was a perfect day to hike the Rail Trail. It was a last-minute idea and we really didn’t prepare for it, as we should have. I wore a winter jacket since at 10 am my thermometer read 41°. We didn’t bring water, thinking we’d be home by lunchtime. That was the first bad mistake!
The first leg of the trail was easy, and when we got to the end we both agreed to go on since we were full of the joy of spring and felt as if we could walk forever! “Follow the yellow markers” the sign said, and there was a warning of some uphill climbs that might be difficult. That was not going to deter us. The markers were clear and we were determined to go all the way. We took pictures of beautiful rock formations and of each other. Signs of spring were popping up almost as we watched and as the temperature rose. I removed my jacket but then had the annoyance of having to carry it. We were getting thirsty and realized it was dangerous to go on without water.
I was beginning to lose some of the joy that I’d started out with and Jeannie was a little worried that her mother might be too old for this adventure. She, used to taking long walks with her Standard Poodle every day, and being much younger than I, was doing well. We seemed to be getting to the end, when we saw the sign saying, “Depot” and “Loop”, with arrows pointing in opposite directions. It was confusing. We thought we should follow the markers toward Depot, where we’d started from, but that seemed to be where we were coming from, so we took the other route, which in fact did make a loop, and brought us right back to where we’d seen the sign.
“What now?” Jeannie said, “Mom, you sit here, in the shade. I’ll walk towards the sound of water and see if that takes us to the end of the trail.” It was 1:30. We were hot, tired and dehydrated. There were no more markers and we had no idea where we were. Jeannie walked away and I was alone, surrounded by just the woods and the big, blue sky above; not even a bird to break the silence. I sat there for 15 minutes, worrying that now we would both be lost in different places. I then started walking along the stone-wall on my left to find Jeannie. She was coming back towards me and shouted, “Mom, there’s a cabin up ahead. Let’s see if we can get help.” The cabin had a sign that read: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. It was unoccupied. On one side was a swiftly moving brook and on the other, a road. We decided to walk along the road, hoping it would lead out of the woods. It was now 3 pm. We came to another house and knocked on the door. Mr. Reynolds answered and explained how to get back to our car but didn’t offer us a ride; probably he thought we were enjoying our stroll! It would be a mile and a half of walking uphill. We had no choice but to go on. We came to an intersection but I could not go any further. “I’ll just sit on this rock until a car comes by. Someone’s bound to come soon and this time I’ll ask for a ride!” We were really worried by then. It seemed as if there was not a soul anywhere and we were too tired to go on when suddenly a car appeared. With my last bit of energy, I stood in the middle of the road to stop the car.
How lucky! The driver was one of our sheriffs and the passenger none other than George Ballantine, who recognized me from the library!
“We’re lost!” I cried out. “Our car is parked at the beginning of the Rail Trail. Could you please give us a ride?” They did, of course, and we were never happier than when, a few minutes later, we came upon our car, waiting patiently where we had left it!
The moral of the story: Never go unprepared on a long hike. Always carry water and dress in layers. It also helps to go with someone who has a sense of direction, but I will question the person responsible for signage!~