So I set out last night around 6PM, heading south along the coastal cliffs from Muir Beach. I had on my one layer of Maxit tights and a rain parka tied around my waist. The storm was just starting.
By the time I got up to my lookout spot (a point of land projecting out into the ocean that feels very much like the bow of a ship), the wind in front of the storm was blowing at maybe 30-40 mph, and I put on the parka and faced into it, taking in the wind energy and the sweet smell of fresh storm air, leaning into the storm and it holding me up. The lights of San Francisco across the water.
As I headed up on a fire road inland, the rain started. It got foggy and pretty soon it was like being in a tunnel, darkness all around and a six-foot circle of misty light in front of me. These small owls (actually, I've been told they're not owls, but related to whippoorwills) fluttered up from the sides of the road as I ascended; I think they wait for mice to cross the road.
It was getting darker and rainier. I got to the top and started back down. I could hardly see. I was sending good thoughts to my Black Diamond headlamp, because I hadn't brought any backup light, and if I lost my light in this gloom, I'd be out there all night.
The road looked a little strange, but I kept going. After about a half hour I came to a paved road. Shit!
I'd taken a completely wrong turn and ended up in Tennessee Valley, miles away from where I should have been. Dumb fuck! I didn't know any of the trails out there, so took the one most familiar to me, Miwolk Trail (thank you, Park Service, for marking this trail!), and started climbing back up into the hills. I was getting cold, I was lost, and trying not to panic. I was on Miwolk Trail, but not sure I was going in the right direction. No one knew where I was, and if I lost my light, or got too far from my starting point, I'd have to figure out how to survive (and deal with hyperthermia), not to speak of boredom, for 10 hours on a cold, rainy, windy night—until dawn. Oh yes.
It was so dark and foggy that I had no sense of direction. Keep positive, don't panic. I slowed down from slow running to walking, getting ready for the long haul. At one point, going through eucalyptus trees with the wind howling, I was saying please branches, don't fall (as they are wont to do).
After maybe another hour, I came across a trail sign that said Middle Path Green Gulch, and rejoiced; I knew where I was. Although I'd been on this trail dozens of times, it seemed interminable as I descended. It wasn't over until it was over, I still needed light to get anywhere, and I used my hands and hood to shelter the headlamp from raindrops.
Now that the scare was over, I noticed that the rain drops falling in front of the headlamp looked like tendrils of sparkling diamonds.
When I got my bedraggled, muddy self back to the pub, two of my friends were just setting out in rain gear to try to find me, and were also about to call the search and rescue guys. I'd been out there three hours. Pretty soon one of them handed me a beer as I was struggling out of wet clothes in the now down pouring rain. Boy, was I happy!
Sometimes I feel like there's someone or some entity looking over my shoulder, and rescuing me from my own foolishness. Like some benevolent uncles. Maybe the Lords of Karma. And yes, yes, I'll be more careful in the future.
The aftermath: the beer, the camaraderie in the pub, Shirley and Lee singing "Let The Good Times Roll" on the way home in my truck, rain pelting down (and me out of it!), a hot bath, and blue skies this morning. Cmon baby let the good times roll.