Alaskan Trail Adventure – Part 3
Alaskan Trail Adventure – Part 2
I walked a few yards to another small clearing. In a clear voice I called out, “Dryads, Fairies, and Small Folk who are listening, I need your help. I wouldn’t ask, but my children are waiting for me. They need me to find help. Please guide me.”
I closed my eyes and breathed into the stillness of the forest. After a moment, I opened my eyes and saw a path about ten feet in front of me that wasn’t there before. “Thank you,” I whispered as I headed down it.
Soon the path was blocked by thick clusters of willows in front of me, yet forked left and right. I tried to listen to my instincts, or wait for a sign from the Fae, but I headed left and only took a few steps when I saw a moose skeleton. I knew instantly that I shouldn’t be there. The air felt heavy, and the light seemed to dim. I turned around and went the other way.
I only walked for another fifteen minutes or so when I found a 4-wheeling trail, stretching around corners to either side of me. It was quite wide and muddy, but I knew it had to lead somewhere and that, despite the growing shadows, people might still be on it. I was quite aware that it was getting late, and, being a Sunday, most people would be starting to head home. I didn’t have much time left to find help. I was prepared to hike the 22 miles back to the parking lot but hoped I didn’t have to.
I turned down the left-hand direction of the trail, mud squelching under my feet, when suddenly I felt I was going the wrong way. I peered through the dense willow branches to see that I was facing the mountain above the trucks, the one where the small avalanche had happened. I turned around again and kept going.
There were several small streams that crossed the trail. Some were so narrow that I could step or jump over them, but there were five that I had to wade across. I didn’t want to lose the trail by trying to find a narrower crossing. At each of the wider streams, I stopped and took off my shoes and socks before stepping into the water. The spring runoff was freezing from the mountain source, and soon my feet were numb despite that I had kept my shoes dry. After the third crossing, I knew that I had to wait a while before I could step into the water again. I was conscious of the dangers of hypothermia. At the next place where the stream crossed the path, I decided to follow the stream bank. I knew that the stream was one we crossed coming into the glacier.
“This has to lead out to the main area. I’m sure to run into someone.” Talking to myself made me sound even crazier than talking to fairies, but I was getting scared.
I followed the stream around a corner and another trail crossed my path. This one had more gravel on it, and I thought that meant I was closer to the main area. I followed it, talking to myself and singing and talking to the trees. I apologized to them if I broke a branch and asked to please let me through. Sometimes I swear that the trees actually parted just enough that I could squeeze between them.
As I was following this second trail, I heard voices and 4-wheeler engines. I started yelling.
“Hello! Hello! Help! Can you hear me? Hello!”
I began running down the path toward the noise. A family on six 4-wheelers appeared around a bend in the trail. They stopped as they got to me.
“What are you doing out here alone?” one older man asked.
“I’m not alone, not really. My family and I were out and the friends we were with got stuck, and then our truck broke, and I was sent to find help.” It all came out in a rush. I realized how exhausted and cold I was and how much I just wanted to go home.
“Wait, slow down. What’s your name? Where are they?” This time it was a younger man that asked. He resembled the older man, and I assumed they were father and son.
“Sorry, I’m just so glad to see you. My name is Amy.” I explained how I mentally marked the places on the mountains and said I had GPS coordinates. “If you can get me to where I have a cell signal, I can call my friends to come get us.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Ben. It’s getting dark.” This came from a dark-haired woman, who looked to be about my age.
“Yeah, how will your friends find your family in the dark?” Another woman, this one older, chimed in.
“Mom, she has the GPS coordinates. It’s not that hard,” the younger man said. “Maybe we can help them.”
“That’s a good idea, Matt.” The older man turned to me. “Let’s get you back to your family and see if we can get the truck out of the mud. You’re lucky we heard you. I don’t think there’s anyone else out here anymore. Climb on.”
I gave a small smile. Relief wound through my body as I climbed on the back of Ben’s four-wheeler. I wouldn’t have to walk back, and I was bringing help. I felt elated at having accomplished my mission. It was 6 p.m., but we would still be home by the kids’ bedtime.
Once I was on the machine, I lost all sense of direction. It took an hour to get back to the trucks using the trails instead of just trekking through the woods.
“Amy! Didn’t you hear us calling for you?” Brian hugged me as soon as I got off the four-wheeler, my joints stiff with cold.
“No, I never got service.”
“Not your phone. A few minutes after Tabitha came back, she got through to her dad. We started yelling for you to come back.”
“I must have been too far away by then. I was walking pretty fast at the beginning.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. And I’m happy you found someone to help us. I think we almost have it out. Why don’t you get cleaned up a bit? The kids were worried about you.”
I was filthy with mud and dust. My jeans were soaked with water and mud from the knees down. My sweatshirt was splattered with mud and my hands were caked from holding on to the back of the 4-wheeler. My sandals were covered with mud and my feet were freezing. I dug my socks out of my bag from the back of the Durango. After cleaning up as best I could with water and paper towels, I put them on and sighed in relief. I used a baby wipe on my hands before picking up the baby. It wasn’t until I got in the Durango that I realized how cold I was.
As I cuddled her and answered my older kids’ questions, I realized that Brian and Scout had been busy. There was a bed of branches over the mud and the truck was a quarter of the way turned around. Brian and Scout had a short conversation with my rescuers and then the four-wheeling family took off.
“Wait! Where are they going?” I called out.
Brian came over to the Durango. “They’re going to leave some markers on the way out for Tabitha’s family to find us. Her dad and brother are on the way already, but we want to make it easier for them to get here.”
“Oh, good. I need to go home. I’m freezing!”
Brian felt my hands. “You’re ice cold!” He rummaged around in his bag for a minute then handed me some clothes. “They’ll be big on you, but at least they’re dry.”
He took Abby from me, and I changed into his jeans and boots. He wrapped a towel around me as a shawl before passing Abby back to me.
“Thank you,” I smiled.
“This is quite an adventure, isn’t it? And it’s not even over yet.” He laughed. “We’ll be out of here soon.”
I wished I could share his outlook, but I was just too tired. I leaned my head against the headrest and watched as the men went back to work on turning the truck around.