After I got home, I drew the map.
I don't want to establish a beaten path to one of my favorite hide outs, so I cut off the trail just a little bit (labeled A) before my normal turn off, labeled B.
The purple line marks my usual route. The blue is the creek which can be heard from halfway down.
I knew I'd have to head south cross country to compensate, and so I did. Yet, I should have passed some of my familiar landmarks, like the huge bolder with small logs leaning against it, labeled 1 on the map below. That's one of the ways I create memorable land marks: by laying natural woodland materials in certain ways.
I did not see any other marks, or trees of note, that I normally pass. In my head I was following the Yellow line marked on this map, trying to get back on the purple route. So, I continued to compensate, and still did not see any land marks. I've been down this 700 foot descending slope so many times, this made me wonder. The green depressions marked on the map were irregular. Something was wrong. I headed straight to the creek which is easily heard once the MP3 player is turned off.
I continued to walk along the creek, first one direction, then another. I knew I should be looking across to the old cave, but the landscape was growing more level and the creek much calmer than the waterfall by my campsite (marked 3) and crossing point . Even in winter, the foliage is thick with rhododendron leaves, pine needles, and dead falls.
I stopped, and knew I must throw out all preconceived notions. In my head I was above the cave, north of where I should be. Yet, the landscape and landmarks disagreed.
It occurred to me that I must not head up the hill which I'd just descended. In these parts, the terrain is like a crumpled tissue, with hallars and hills taking all sorts of directions. Being my morning walk, I didn't bring anything. Spending the night didn't worry me. I would not leave the creek. It was my certain landmark, and an abundance of water. The plentiful ground cover would provide a shelter.
The one thing I wished I had was a way to make fire.
Sure, I'd survive without a fire, but I'd miss the signal, the companionship, the added warmth.
After I threw out my previous notions of where I was, I looked around and realized I must head upstream. By watching for the over hang, marked 2 on the map, I finally found my bearings. The red line indicates my actual route of travel on my "lost" adventure.
From now on,even on innocent morning walks, I always carry a Bic lighter in my pocket. A fire starter has been added, all in this tiny plastic bag.