When I was 25 I got lost while hiking. Like…legitimately lost. I will never forget this hike, as it was the catalyst to being more prepared when I venture into the woods. When I was 29 I got lost again. I embarked on a 20 mile hike from the east to the west of Yellowstone National Park. This time it was slightly less intense, but equally frightening. It was inevitable for this Yellowstone hike, the trail was not well trafficked (very few tourists show up to YNP wanting to hike 20 miles into the backcountry), and there were endless bison paths deviating from the actual trail.
It was a real mind game completing Mary Mountain.
The point of these two stories is that I don’t like getting lost. I don’t reckon anyone really enjoys getting lost, but I really, truly, hate it. I panic quickly and my mind goes to the worst possible scenarios. I recently went for a hike on the coast that I anticipated would be as chill as an ice cream fresh from the ice cream man. The trail was easy – 9 miles all together on flat terrain forming a triangle with 3 miles in the forest, 3 miles on the beach, and 3 miles back in the forest.
What could possibly go wrong?
My first mistake of the day was buying a coffee from Starbucks without the ability to control how strong it was. I have perfected the science of a proper coffee to water ratio in order to ensure my blood sugar and my anxiety are both kept under control. I thought asking the barista to cut the coffee with half water would be enough, but let me tell you…it was not.
4 miles into the hike my blood sugar plummeted so far down I’m convinced Hades felt it all the way in the underworld.
My second mistake was overdoing my physical activity the days prior to this hike. I was cocky and anticipated it would be incredibly easy, but my goodness, walking 3 miles on loose sand is unbelievably annoying. If it weren’t for my exceptional hiking partner I would have lost my marbles. Low blood sugar, fatigue from too much prior activity, and unstable terrain set the foundation for an inexorable panic when we missed the last corner connecting the triangle from the beach back into the forest towards the parking lot.
But wait, there’s more…
Mistake number three was not downloading a map ahead of time, and neither of us had cell reception. The 3 miles of beach were hard to quantify because our pace was so slow from the sand. There was no clear indication of where to enter back into the forest, so we continued on the beach despite the fact it felt like we were literally walking for hours. (Spoiler: we WERE walking for hours.)
By this time trepidation set in. My excess caffeine consumption had induced full blown anxiety that I tried to hide with my deafening silence.
Logically my brain knew my life was not in danger (which I cannot say the same for on the aforementioned hikes I was lost on.) The problem with getting “lost” on this hike was the idea of having to walk the entirety of the beach all over again, back to where we started. This thought literally made me want to cease to exist. #dramatic.
The tide was slowly starting to come back in, so naturally my mind envisioned being swept out to sea while on this endeavor to find the trail. We eventually took a moment to pause, eat something, and reevaluate where we might be. I had a divine intervention moment and decided to check my map app because I remembered that it still showed the blue dot location even without service. To my surprise I was also able to see the outline of the triangle and suddenly the heavens opened up.
My cortisol levels were still on high alert, until by the grace of God we found the trail. What was meant to be 9 miles, turned into 14.5, and what was meant to be a triangle turned into…a kite.
We had walked an extra 2.5 or so miles off track, away from the trail.
Once we found the trail it was smooth sailing. I had a pep in my step again, and the second half of the woods were just as beautiful as the first. I don’t know what it is about loosing the trail, but it instills a sense of control loss for me, and I am a control f r e a k. At the end of the day the hike was mostly enjoyable, the weather was perfect, and I developed an unexpected bond with my hiking partner.
Nothing brings two people together like fear. #dramaticagain
I probably won’t be doing this hike again…ever, but now that I am safe in the confines of my home I can say I had a good time. I cannot deny my crippling overthinking at times, but I will say my trust has gotten better as I have gotten older. In these moments of fear I pray like I’ve never prayed before, and somehow that helps.
Getting lost is sometimes inescapable. Whether it be on a hike, while driving around a new city, or while navigating life.
Morals of the story: always have a map for trails that are not well marked, trust your gut when you think you’ve walked too far, don’t aggravate your anxiety with stimulants, don’t hike with people whose name start with the letter D (all three of these hikes I got lost on I was with one other person whose name started with a D.)
Q: What’s your wildest “oh sh!t, I’m lost” story?? I can only hope I never have any crazier than this. I’ve been lost in other countries before, but somehow I don’t panic nearly as much as I do when I am lost in the woods.
37 thoughts on “Ozette Triangle Loop”
I used to get lost every time I came to Manhattan from the Bronx. if I ever go hiking like that I’m bringing an elaborate survival kit so I can use getting lost as a prompt to set up camp and brave the wilderness with my primal instincts…
That was the other thing, we didn’t have any of our ten essentials/camping stuff. ROOKIE MISTAKES. Smart of you to know to bring that.
I’ve always wanted to go on a hiking adventure where I had to use survival skills to survive the wilderness. Maybe make a hilarious video of me ‘getting lost’ and having to put on my war paint to fight off the mysterious creatures lurking down yonder…
I’d watch that video. 🤪
As scary as that sounds, you did well and kept calmer than many would in a similar situation. I did keep waiting for you sit down and eat something though….
I’ve been lost in other countries, and lost hiking and running but nothing evokes the terror that you elicit here. At least, not in retrospect.
As always your pictures are stunning my friend. Happy to have you bring these beauties back to civilization, along with yourself.
I’m super dramatic, and in hindsight it wasn’t as scary as the other two hikes I shared, but I still HATE being lost!!! Always happy to see the car at the end of a hike.
I get worried when I’m out and weather rolls in. I’m often way up a trail and here in NM, there isn’t much cover unless you are in the treeline.
So yes, happy to hurry back to the car.
Do you not hike with food for blood sugar emergencies? I learned the hard way about that in the summer of 2010 when my endocrine system was due to blow a few months later (became severely hypoglycemic in Nov.). I went hiking with 3 young guys up in the Pecos wilderness. Our goal was a very high elevation lake. Everything was fine and it was a gorgeous day. But, despite drinking water, I wasn’t hungry even though we were hiking higher and higher for many miles so I wasn’t eating anything. There was no cell reception and the nearest hospital was FAR away. All of a sudden when we got to 10,000 feet, BAM, I got super sick. I didn’t know what was wrong at first…altitude sickness or my blood sugar? (I think it was a little of both.) Two of the guys continued up to the lake that was at about 12,000 feet but one stayed with me who had candy, thank God. I was in super bad shape, shaking really bad, couldn’t walk, was about to pass out. I threw candy in my mouth hoping it would help, and within minutes I started to come out of the attack. Up to that point, it seemed the 3 guys were going to have to carry me off the mountain. But, I was able to walk well enough that we took a shorter, but much more rugged, path back down to where our cars were. Then, of course, my car had a nail in its tire! Thankfully, the tire held enough hair that I could make it back to Santa Fe to get it repaired, but it was a nervous drive back to town.
Noooo, I definitely had food! I did stop when my blood sugar FELL and ate an apple. It helped. Your story reminds me of the time I hiked one of the highest peaks in Yellowstone with 3 guys. I thought I was going to pass out the higher we got, and I almost didn’t finish. Amazing what a little rest and some food can do! I’m glad you made it out!
This is why I never go hiking
“…don’t hike with people whose name start with the letter D…”
Made me chuckle. But don’t worry, I won’t be going on any long hikes any time soon. On one of the longest hikes I’ve done, 20 plus years ago, it was with two guys and one of them had a name that also started with the letter D. I don’t even remember the details, other than we started in the morning and got back to the car close to sundown. I think we added about a third of the planned hike just being lost. I only went on short hikes after that.
Thankfully you made it back before it got dark. Silver linings?
We were a group of four young Americans touring Old Delhi by foot, having missed our tour bus because we ate like kings at lunch and the bus left without us. After a full day of hiking around the streets, the sun was setting. We walked downhill through an open air market with all its sights and smells and liquids. We realized that we had absolutely no idea how to get back to the guest house where we were staying. No clue!
As we reached the bottom of the hill we found ourselves in the middle of a crazy rush hour with a disorienting cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. Traffic was increasing, horns were being honked, and it seemed as if the cars and carts and rickshaws and trucks were swarming us like a mass of oversized bees.
Out of the chaos a very tall Indian man approached us. He was saying something to us that we could not understand for all the background noise and his accent. Oh, great, now we have this jerk to deal with!
What will we do!!!!!
Then we heard the tall man say a name. Kochhar. Are you kidding me? We were in Dehli as guests of the Kochhar wedding party. He was the Kochhars’ next door neighbor!!! He flagged down a taxi and we rode back to the guest house.
To this day the memory of that moment of being utterly lost in Delhi gives me anxiety.
At least something good came of it. I have so much empathy for foreign tourists in DC. Any time I see someone who looks disoriented I stop and ask if they need help.
Your story, brings an anxiety to my soul I never knew I could feel. I cannot even imagine this. Thank God you weren’t alone, and your Americanness allowed you to stick out for that man to find you.
But the real question, was your king like meal worth missing the bus?
BURB. Totally. Afterward we didn’t walk , we waddled. We had a map and could easily waddle to all the sites the bus was going to.
Boots on the Trail
Not long after we were married, we went on a short hike with friends in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just a short hike to a waterfall. But I still managed to get us lost. No waterfall and no idea where the car was. It’s bad enough getting lost when you’re alone, but with witnesses it’s worse. After some wandering, I found the main trail and we were saved! I guess because none of our names start with “D”. But one witness in particular never forgot this incident, not ever. So every hike with her for the last 30+ years has included queries about having a map, a compass, a GPS, etc. 🙂
You traumatized her. Must ask all the important questions, haha! I’m glad you guys found your way back. Happens to the best of us. Truthfully I’d rather get lost in a group than alone.
Really enjoyed this post.
Thank you. 🙂
So on a trip to Brighton UK I went to visit a friend in a village not too far away, I had only been to the home once but new it had an orange tiled roof. So I arrived but dusk was beginning to happen and as I walked to what I thought was the street the street lights came on and they were a soft amber glow, I looked up and tried to find my friends home but the lights distorted the roof colors and after a bit of time and wandering, even asking a stranger on the street as they got out of their car I gave up(before I owned cell phone) I went back to my bus stop and ate my pb&j that I always carried and waited for the return bus ride…..I felt absolutely lost and realized that nightfall changes landscape orientation and now if I don’t know my way Really Well I don’t go in the dark.
And now Thanks to technology it has been made much easier to go in dark but I still try to avoid…..😔
Oh my goodness! Did you go the next day to find them? Or was it meant to be a day trip? Dark traveling is a no go for me!
Had to return stateside next day so left it for another time, we had a good laugh for sure…..
I managed to get lost in ‘the bush’… in the city of Auckland! It was a rather unplanned attempt at walking through far more trees than I realised there were to get to the beach. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before I stumbled back onto the residential street that I’d entered from. Still briefly worrying though when I couldn’t see the markers on the trees.
Oh boy, that does sound worrisome. Any kind of deviation from the city when unplanned is unnerving.
I was thinking that your hike ended up looking like a victory flag instead of a triangle! 🚩 I definitely qualify as a control freak too… And I hate getting lost. But… At least I basically know Disneyland like the back of my hand, so whenever we meet up and go there together, we won’t have any chance of getting lost!! 😉
BAHA, you know how to speak to my soul with Disneyland. I also love that you saw a flag instead of the kite, that’s way better!
I like your kite haha. I don’t know if I’ve told you my lost moment. I’m fairly familiar with the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, but my friend was driving a group of 4 of us on a college retreat. Somehow we got lost in the mountains, high up in elevation on a dirt road with drop offs on both sides in a little Honda Civic. At one point we drove up to an old abandoned mountain cemetery for miners. All cell reception was gone. Some lone hiker who looked like he limped straight out of a backwoods horror movie approached our car in an effort to help. Eventually we found a ranger station to give us a map and lead us to safety. Needless to say our college pastor kept a tight rope on us the rest of the trip, after being lost for 4 hours. We were in a car though so I wasn’t nearly as panicked.
Hey, getting lost in a car is still super scary! Especially driving around somewhere like this. 😂😂 I’m glad y’all made it out before the mountain children captured you.
Living in South Korea I took a hike on my own. Not a good idea. It got late and I took a shortcut. Got lost, but got the last train home barely.
Oh boy. That sounds scary. Thank goodness you caught the last train!
Hikers rule #1 Don’t hike alone.
I really enjoy your writing style 😃 and the photography is beautiful as well!
Thank you, that’s so kind!
I got lost on a hike once. I was probably 13 in Angel Fire, New Mexico. Obviously, I found my way back. #frightening and I got hives.
Noooo, not the hives! That’s awful.