First my mind wandered and then my feet did, too. Suddenly I had no idea where I was. Well, some idea. The Ma-l’el dunes, a couple miles north of my house. The ocean was that way and the highway somewhere over there. But the trail I’d been spacing out on just sort of faded into brush without delivering me to the parking lot where I’d left my car.
This wasn’t a completely unprecendented twist. Much as I start out determined to live in the moment and observe the minute details of the wilderness, my brain tends to untether. Admiring the sea rocket and goldenrod gives way to daydreams. The ocean’s expanse sends me mentally adrift.
Until the realization I don’t know where I am smacks me back into reality. Oops. At least I’m not deep in the woods. The weather’s pleasant, mild. I won’t have to eat tree bark or dig a hole to survive. I just need to get back to my car.
I tip-toed over the native plants until another path opened up. I considered scaling a dune, figuring the higher ground would reveal my location. But I didn’t want to trample anything and besides, now that I was on a trail again, I felt as if I couldn’t abandon it. I pressed on.
Around a corner, the dunes opened up revealing an expanse of beach grass and a stretch of 255. Great. I cut across to the chain link fence dividing me from the road. Oh, good — someone had cut out a human-sized hole, allowing me to clamber through without catching my clothes. (I’m no good at fence-hopping, either.) Looked right to see the sign for Stamps, which meant I was south of Vance, which meant I could either trek back through the dunes or walk up the highway and around to the BLM parking lot. I opted for the highway, figuring I’d better not chance losing my way again.
So there I was, hoodied out, wearing sweats and battered sneakers, an old bag slung over my shoulder, striding up 255 with an old beach bag slung over my shoulder, deeply aware that I was not, in fact, emanating the highly competent professional image I strive for. No, what I looked like was all the other unfortunate people who don’t have a way to get from the peninsula to town other than walking or thumbing. At least they have an excuse: poverty, drug addiction, illness… Me, I was just dumb. But at least no longer lost.