Tuesday, June 10, 2014

LOST

            It’s only a little after nine in the morning, and I am already lost. I am lost in thick woods that I have never been in before. I’m not going to panic however, even though I have never before been lost. I pull a four foot by six foot waterproof green nylon tarp out of my day pack and spread it on the damp ground.  Fortunately I also have a closed cell sleeping pad strapped to the bottom of my Kelty pack.  I unstrap it and unroll it flat on top of the tarp.  I have water and food and am now ready to stay where I am until found, so I sit down on the pad and tarp to wait.
One of my rescuers approaches

            Not long after I am down I realize that the mosquitoes are ferocious and that I forgot my insect repellent at home.  I pull a mosquito net head covering from my pack and put it on over my head. I drag the sleeping pad off the tarp, lay the pad back on the bare ground, and drape the tarp over my body to keep the dozens of mosquitoes from biting me.  I am beginning to wish I had worn longs pants and a long sleeve shirt rather than the t-shirt and hiking shorts I am wearing.
            An hour has now passed, and I crawl out from underneath the tarp, locate my water bottle, and take a long drink as hundreds of mosquitoes swarm upon my bare legs and arms in search of blood.  Crawling back under the tarp I wonder how long I can keep this up.  The mosquitos and I repeat this dance on what seems like an hourly schedule.
            It is now three hours since I became lost, and I am starting to feel a little hungry. After all, I have not eaten in over four and half hours.  I locate the Cliff Bar in my pack, unwrap it, and discover it is peanut butter, (yum), one of my favorite flavors.  As I devour it, I wonder if mosquitoes have a sense of taste and what the thousands of them nearby think about the flavor of my blood. I am also beginning to wonder if I will ever be found by anything other than these ferocious vampires of the woods that hover above the netting covering my face .  I have not heard a barking dog or a human voice all morning; although if I allow my imagination to run wild, the mosquitoes buzzing near my ears sound an a lot like distant human voices.
At Base Camp
            Eventually, after nearly five long hours, I start hearing what I think are real human voices rather than the whine, hum and buzz of the mosquitoes, but I do not hear any dogs barking.  The voices seem to be getting closer. I hear twigs snapping and branches breaking and then footfalls.  Now I see my rescuers walking through the dense foilage. Thank heavens I am found.  My three rescuers tell me that they have been searching for me over two and half hours but that they had a large search area to cover.  I later learn that the dogs had been recalled because it was too hot for them to follow a scent.
           Back at base camp, the organizers of the event, members of the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group, thank me for being “lost” for their mock Search and Rescue.  They apologize that I was in the mosquito infested woods for nearly six hours, and that sometimes victims are found in less than an hour, and sometimes it takes a lot longer. As I drive away, I wonder who the mosquitoes are feeding on now.

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