“The trailhead should be right here.”
I slowed the car, and followed Kim’s gaze to the wood fence.
“That looks like an entrance to a ranch.”
“But the map says it’s there.” Kim pointed to the USGS Topo map on her cell phone’s GPS application. The arrow indicating our location was only a few feet away from the waypoint indicating the trailhead.
“Maybe we missed it?” I cranked my head back to scan the dirt road we’d just traveled.
“Yeah, let’s circle back.”
We slithered along with our eyes pinned to the sloping grass hill, but saw no sign of a path.
“I don’t get it. This is supposed to be a really popular trail.” Kim shook her head.
“Weird. And I totally forgot to throw in my paper map.”
“Forgot mine too.”
Not only had I come without a map, I hadn’t researched the route. I don’t think I even knew what mountain we were planning to climb. It was some 13,000-foot peak with a letter like T and a number like 10 in its name. I’d been distracted lately with work and a relationship I didn’t want to admit was failing. I was unprepared and preoccupied—exactly the kind of partner I avoided in the backcountry. But for better or worse, Kim forgave my shortcomings.
“Maybe that wasn’t a ranch entrance, maybe it was a road?”
It’s funny the things we tell ourselves to fit cubes into circular holes. We stack one fib on top another fib until we’ve molded reality to our expectations. That’s especially true when our expectations are based on what we deem to be superior data. (GPS technology couldn’t possibly be wrong—the app mustknow more than I do!)
With some hesitation, we assembled our packs and set out for the hike comforted by the day’s first fib—the gate’s open, it must be a road, nota private driveway. The pullout across from the gate (public parking for the trail, we reasoned) bolstered our confidence.
As we walked through the gate, we paused at a “NO TRESPASSSING” sign on the fence. The sign probably referred to the field on either side of the road, notthe road itself, we reasoned, and walked on.
Our second fib was soon tested when we came to a path leading into one of those fields.
“Looks like that’s the trail.” Kim showed me the map. Sure enough, the trail on the map curved to the east, exactly where the path went. Plus, the arrow was right where we stood at the edge of the road and the path.
“Looks like it.”
Maybe there’s an easement through this part of the property. I’m sure we’ll be on public land again soon, we told ourselves.
We then crested a grassy slope that led to a well-worn trail that gave us just enough reassurance to stay in our state of denial. It also gave us time to slip into our usual modus operandi—swapping stories, scrutinizing our life choices, and laughing. It was why I loved venturing out with Kim. Not just for her capability (she would never show up unprepared), but also for her conversation. That day, we were discussing ultra-runner, Scott Jurek’s book. But before we could resolve whether Jurek was pronounced with a silent J, the trail vanished under fallen trees.