“What hath God wrought?” Those were the first words sent across a telegraph line by Samuel FB Morse back in 1844. They were also the words that came to mind when I saw the first cell phone tower in Crandall Hollow in my sleepy little corner of Potter County a few years ago. Both signified that big changes were coming.
Cell coverage at camp! No longer would I need to climb a tree on the tallest hill to get a single “signal bar” to get out a successful text message. No more excuses for not calling home to check in. No more deterrence to keep younger generations at home. Now millennials, GEN X/Ys and whatevers can update their social media pages from camp.
But gone too is a rite of passage for every young hunter or hiker, no more getting lost in the woods.
Unless you are a “hollow-hunter” and stay within sight of your car (like my buddy, Backwater Eddie), we’ve all been lost a time or two. Some won’t admit it, they’ll say words like “Oh, I got a little turned around” … translation, “I was lost as heck, wondering aimlessly and deep down, sweating bullets.”
But getting lost, especially after sunset can be a great character-builder. Your logical brain knows that you’re at or near the top of the food chain, so there’s nothing really to worry about. But the challenge is convincing your illogical, irrational, emotional brain of the same.
Decades ago, I turned getting lost into an art form. My internal compass must be out of calibration. How else could I face a simple left turn/right turn scenario, a 50/50 proposition, and be wrong 90% of the time?
Our camp road runs pretty much south to north, so you start out in the morning heading west, and at the end of the day, just head east. Nothing could be easier (if I had only packed a compass).
But I really logged some miles on this particular day, crossed a ridge or two, hiked up and down some side hollows, but when the time came to head back to camp, I thought, “Just head down this long hollow and I’ll end up somewhere along the camp road.”
The first indication that “I got a little turned around” was that stream that materialized out of nowhere. It wasn’t there this morning. And there’s a dirt road, but it’s not the camp road.
Fortunately getting lost in Pennsylvania isn’t typically a life-threatening situation. You’re not in the Alaskan wilderness or the back woods of Maine. If you walk long enough in one general direction, you’ll eventually hit a road. I knew where I was, so I was not really lost, right? I just had to decide whether to head back into the dark forest (if only I had packed a flashlight), or take the long roundabout way, and stay on the road. Needless to say, I chose the road.
Unfortunately, this great character-building experience could never happen today. I could just pull out my handy-dandy smart phone, call up Google maps or use the compass app, and I would know exactly where I was (if only I had charged the battery).
My long walk back to camp that night was cut short. A couple of hunters in a pick-up truck stopped to offer me a ride. I guess they figured that anybody walking that road after sunset must need help.
But Potter County is great. Where else could you be walking along a road, with a high-powered rifle, after dark, and someone offers you a ride? Maybe I should try it next with a hockey mask and a chainsaw?
I finally stumbled into camp, a couple hours after sunset, and Uncle Bud says, “Where ya been? Did you get lost?” I replied, “Nah, I didn’t get lost, I just got turned around a little bit.”