"This is really stupid," I kept thinking.
Really, really stupid. Of all the places we've been. Of all the snow swept peaks we've made it back down, all the winding trails we've figured out with no map and this is where we would be spending our first unexpected night.
After a long day of hiking in nearby Point Reyes National Seashore, we pitched a tent in a nearly deserted state park just to the north. It was the off-season for California, which really means it is the to-go season if you come from New England like we do. April is cold for Californians as my west coast living brother informed us.
We pitched our lonely tent and decided to visit the dunes before we made our dinner and before the sun set. I grabbed my camera and we headed up the dunes. The trails wove all over, with frequent trail intersections every four to five feet. I thought I was paying attention to the direction we had been heading. I stopped and looked back at each intersection like I always do.
Picture from before we realized that we were lost
We took some photos before the sun set and turned back to have our dinner. We quickly lost track of our rights and lefts. Seriously, every intersection looked exactly the same, grass and sand- grass and sand- more grass and sand.
"Cute," I thought. Not only do we not have a headlamp, but we hadn't eaten and no one knew where we were. While we eventually made it to our tent that night- we had made a ton of classic mistakes. Like tell someone where you are going, when you'll be back, bring food, water and extra clothing, know your route--- the list goes on.
A friend of mine had a similar almost-situation when she and her husband decided to explore a trail in their backyard. Yes, their backyard. While they are quite experienced hikers, they soon became lost and it started to rain. Soaked and exhausted they finally made it home nearly five hours later.
It's those incredibly easy outings that perhaps are the most threatening. I always figured the first time that I would get really lost would be out in the woods somewhere. Not in some random network of dunes in California.