I like to hike. Back in the day, my hikes were, well, hikes. Two or three days, sometimes more, combined with rugged camping and, dare I say, survival. The survival tended to be more accidental than not.
Before GPS and fancy locator beacons and the like, stupid decisions put me into dangerous situations. Most of these were due to having that feeling of invincibility that comes with youth.
Memorial Day weekend 1981 comes to mind.
Just my buddy Jim Colmey and me. Jim would be the first to tell you he’s no mountain man. He grew up working at his mom’s cheese shop in Connecticut. He made a mean fondue. But a campfire? Not so much. We headed from San Diego to some reservoir outside Yuma with nothing more than a cooler of beer, some very perishable food, and a few blankets and pillows. Everything but the cooler was stuffed in my Navy seabag.
At the reservoir, we parked, stashed the beer in the trunk (well, most of it), and took off for a hike. Nary a flare, map, or magnifying glass between us.
Several hours later we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere, knee deep in a swampy pond of some sort. Mosquitoes were draining our blood at about a pint a minute, and due to me using my seabag as a battering ram to knock down the increasingly thick bamboo-like reeds, our exit was blocked by punji sticks. We were out of water and ideas. Jim decided we’d die right there, and I was pretty much good with that.
In a last ditch attempt at escaping our watery grave, I climbed a way-too-skinny tree to see if I could scout an exit. About 15 feet up, the tree slowly began to snap. As it fell, it miraculously formed a makeshift bridge to dry land. True story.
These days, my hikes tend to resemble long walks on brightly lit paths.