Stupid-crazy-skillful-lucky. Take your pick. I hit up Halcott, solo, and the first thing I did was lose my compass.
To backtrack a little: I have been hankering for a rainy day and a solo hike for a while. Red Cloud, my foster dogson, has been destroying my socks and my sanity with relentless and swift determination. I needed a break. Tom, sensing this and valuing our marriage, sent me out alone, just me and “my” dogs to bag Halcott and Rusk and get some of that sologirl mojo flowing.
I was still in the driveway when I realized I didn’t have my cell phone. Whatever, I thought, I won’t have signal anyway. Arriving at the Route 42 trailhead, I let the girls out and took a few photos of the waterfall, and got organized. I took my time taking a bearing and studied the map. Navigationally fairly straightforward – walk south and up. Can’t miss it.
Maybe ten minutes later, I heard the second stream rushing away to my left as I climbed up. Stopping to strip a layer, I must have stuck the compass in an unzipped pocket or some such thing. It was out in my hand… and then it was gone. I stood still for a long moment and really thought about it. I should turn around. Just go straight back to the car. This hike is over. That’s what I kept trying to tell myself. Stupid-crazy to continue without a compass.
Sigh. Stupid-crazy won. I continued, pretending I was walking in exactly the same direction the compass had indicated when I had it. After maybe 5 minutes, I saw a tree with an odd lateral branch maybe 30 feet up. Take note, I told myself. That’s a landmark. I tried to burn the tree into my memory, and climbed up the slope above it so that I could get a visual on what it would look like when I’m coming down. In five minutes or less, I couldn’t see it at all anymore. Crap.
I stayed out of the drainage, and clambered up to the height of land too far north and west of where I should have been. The last time I attempted Halcott from this approach (circa 2007 with Tom) we failed miserably, by making the same mistake. So at least I’m consistent. I knew that if I repeated the next step from the Tom 2007 hike, I would need to wander around aimlessly for a while and then give up and head back down, preferably maximizing intercourse with blackberries and nettles. This shall be different, I silently decreed. I scanned, shrugged, and then followed Iske, who is smarter than me.
East, according to the sun that kept ducking behind clouds that kept me fully rinsed, preventing any sweat from accumulating, and ensuring that my legs and feet were fully sodden. East. Ok. I turned left, away from the dense beech thickets, and walked up, following Iske and Lily. This approach is gentle and pleasant. The woods, full of dead nettles and live blackberries, are open and easily walkable. Halcott ain’t so bad.
I just kept following my dogs, scanning for more up. Eventually, I could see some sky and then a ledge. Well, I decided, I’m here. This is good enough for me. I may not be at The Top, and I might not find the can, but I’m satisfied. There isn’t any more up that I can see. Then I looked over at the tree to my right: yup. The can.
A few photos, a yummy bar and I’m outta there. Iske and Lily flushed a snowshoe hare, who gave them a merry chase before I put the kibosh on that. No harassing the natives. I tried to aim for a more direct route back, but since I was just guessing, who knows. I saw my landmark tree, got all delighted and psyched, and then five minutes later saw another one. I laughed at myself, and then another hundred feet down, I saw another one. Ok, either I’m walking in circles, or these woods are full of them! I slipped and slid on steep slippery slopes, thinking alliterative thoughts all the way down. I stayed out of the drainage, listened to the stream, passed it and listened for the waterfall and aimed for it.
Out of the car at 8:40, back at the car at 11:26, with lots of photo stops. Shoulda woulda coulda done Rusk too, but not without my compass. So if you happen to find a compass, or a gray “sweatshirt” style fleece… yeah. Lost one of those, too. It was more than good to be out, all alone in the woods. It was soulfood. Thank you, Halcott, for being gentle with me.