Because I am spontaneously drawn to the woods for solace and restoration, I tend to be a solo hiker.

I’ve occasionally extended last-minute invites to friends but the timing is rarely right. When I need to be in the woods, I can’t wait until it’s convenient for someone to join me.

It’s not the recommended way to enjoy nature but I take precautions, of course. I carry plenty of water and food rations. My pack has enough supplies to deal with basic emergencies.

Most importantly, someone knows where I am. I have a handful of friends that often get text messages along the lines of, “Hey, I’m headed into the woods. I’m taking whichever trail. I expect to be out by whenever.”

A cairn on Reed Brook in Kingfield. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

always prepare. Except for the time I didn’t.

Off the cuff, I decided to stop at a local waterfall one day on my way home from work. My phone was nearing the end of its charged life and without a charger, it was useless.

I wasn’t prepared for the mile or so walk from the road to the base of the waterfall … but I went anyway. It was a trip I’d made many times and I felt pretty comfortable with my decision … initially.

A short way from the trailhead my foot slipped in fresh mud. That’s when the nagging voice in the back of my head started. “Did you tell anyone where you are?”

The voice has a name: Staci. Years ago, my friend impressed on me the importance of leaving trip details with someone. She made me promise I would tell her whenever I was headed out. At first, I was not a fan of telling her where I was going. It’s way easier to feel solitude if you are the only person in the world who knows where you are.

But, leaving my itinerary with someone quickly became second nature. It really is the smart way to do business.

Meanwhile, back on the waterfall trail, I stood with a foot encased in mud while Staci yammered in my head that I really should turn around.

I didn’t.

About halfway to the waterfall, the trail crosses a brook. Typically, I can identify the rocks used to cross but inches of fresh rain flooded the waterway, leaving the rocks underwater. At some point in the last 50 years or so, someone placed a board across the brook a little further upstream from my usual crossing. I never before considered using the plank to cross but on this day, I did.

As I contemplated crossing the plank, Staci started in on me again. “Does anyone know where you are?”

I stepped onto the old, weathered plank. It was slick with moisture and, after a few steps, my unmuddied foot slid off the plank and into the brook. The resulting tumble was way less than graceful and I’m glad no one was around to witness it!

Thankfully, it wasn’t a big deal … but it easily could have been.

I decided I wasn’t going for three strikes. I turned around and walked the half-mile or so back to my car, water- and mud-soaked shoes squishing out a chorus while Staci repeated audibly in my head, “I told you so.”

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