Last week we had the great pleasure of visiting two of my dearest friends (and their adorable son and puppy) en route to my brother’s wedding. Naturally, this got me thinking of my many hiking adventures with dear Erica over the years. For friends who only lived in the same location for a grand total of two months roughly 15 years ago, it is remarkable the number of hikes we’ve done together.
One stands out for me, though, and that is the hike on which I was certain that I lost Erica. This all occurred on the fourth day of a whirlwind visit and hiking extravaganza that, I’m fairly certain, nearly killed poor Erica despite her ambitious spirit and determination to hike each day of her visit.
Alas, let us recap the calamity so that anyone reading can immediately and logically conclude that should they hike with me, I may lose them.
Imagine that you have just hiked three days in a row, on hikes ranging from a mere 10km to 26km. Imagine that you are from sea level, and have had no time to acclimate to mountain elevation. Imagine that you also haven’t hiked since the last time you visited me, which was likely a year prior. Imagine after all of this, I suggest a 14 km return hike with 1060m of elevation gain to round out your vacation. Would you be surprised to hear that Erica didn’t want to continue to the summit of Cirque Peak after reaching Helen Lake, about 5.5 km into the hike? I wasn’t.
Champ that she is, she suggested that I keep going while she returned down the trail to the car (perhaps for a much needed nap). Well, the summit turned out farther than we anticipated, so I also failed to make the summit that day. I feared if I kept going towards the peak and took hours to return to the car, poor Erica would be bored out of her mind and never visit me again. And so, I left my other friends to their quest for the summit and (literally) ran down the trail looking for Erica.
I assumed I would run into her while she was still on her way down. After all, I was hauling ass downhill and, in my head, it seemed as though it hadn’t taken me all that long to go part way to the summit (not surprisingly, it had actually been a considerable amount of time). But as I got closer and closer to the trailhead, I still hadn’t seen Erica. I wondered if perhaps she had stopped to rest along the way and I had run right past her. It just didn’t seem right that she would still be ahead of me.
Then I got to the car and she wasn’t there either. I checked the outhouse. I wandered around the parking lot. I backtracked up the trail for a while. Still, there was no sign of her. I had a horrible, anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. Could she have veered off course? Had she misunderstood and thought that she should wait for me at Helen Lake? Then, just as I was agonizing over the thought of re-hiking 5.5 km on extremely tired legs, Erica calmly sauntered into the parking lot.
In response to my confusion and anxiety, she merely said “I left a note.”
As an aside, back in Banff (where I lived at the time), someone (I never figured out who) was always leaving strategically placed items on my car. Sometimes it was bags full of McDonald’s wrappers. Sometimes it was random pieces of paper. Once it was a fairly substantial tree limb (delicately placed so as to cause no damage).
Back to present day, as I had walked past my car in the trailhead parking lot that afternoon, I had noticed an Excel gum box tucked under my windshield wipers, very low down so you could barely see it from inside. But, since I was always finding random garbage on my car, I assumed it had been there the entire drive to the trailhead. Alas, it was actually the note from Erica, kindly informing me that she had gone across the highway to the Crowfoot Glacier pull out.
Amidst all the weaving story lines here, let the true moral of this story not be lost: if you hike with me, I may just lose you.*
* It’s true. It’s happened more than once. Maybe next week I’ll write about the time I lost Caleb…