A few weeks ago, I went on another mountain adventure. Or should I say- misadventure? It may seem like mountains and I don’t quite get along, but I can assure you, we like each other very much. We just tend to have a lot of mishaps, together. (Read here about my last excursion.) This time though, might just take the cake, for being the mightiest misadventure yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
My sister had the day off and planned a hiking trip with a friend. It was supposed to be a hike to a ghost town. Since I had work, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go, but the prospect of seeing a real-live ghost town, was very enticing. So last minute, I was able to get the day off. Woohoo!
Unfortunately, my other sister wouldn’t be coming along due to a recent dental procedure, (I’ll spare you the details…). Though she kindly leant me her very expensive camera, to document the trip. Early the next morning, the three of us hopped in the car, and headed out to see this mysterious, ghost town.
We were told that the hike is considered to be ‘intermediate’ and would be about three and a half miles, round-trip. I thought it sounded like a fair match for my abilities. I brought lots of water, a first aid kit, and a few other, ‘just-incase’ items. When we arrived, it was still early morning and a bit chilly; I knew that would change later, so I enjoyed the cool air, while I could.
After only a few minutes in, we saw a serious issue ahead. The path forked. We had only seen one sign, (back in the parking lot) which had gotten us to where we were. Luckily, though, we had a book in our possession, with “directions” to our destination. An old book, with simplistic, if not primitive, instructions. It went something like, ‘After you pass this field, go right. And when you have passed that stream, go left.’ Clear and concise, right?
After an agonizing attempt at deciphering the directions, we did as the book suggested, and took the path to the right, though my gut was uneasy. Nonetheless, we forged ahead, even with our doubts and uncertainties. The path was pleasant and peaceful. We passed a camp ground and a small stream, just like the book said we would. But ever so slightly, and hardly noticeable at first, the trail began shrinking.
The terrain was getting more and more, rough. And at points, the trail would disappear altogether, and we’d have to wade through bushes, and ravines, to meet it again. The further we went, the more sure we were, that we had taken a wrong turn. So after climbing up a very steep hillside, and leaving the trail behind altogether, we decided we had to do something. GPS was finicky in the area, but after a few attempts, we got a signal.
Our suspicions were confirmed. We were definitely NOT on the right path. But we didn’t seem to be too far off, and thought, if we could just veer a bit to the west, we might bump into the correct trail. So we forged on, trekking uphill once more. When we checked the GPS again, we weren’t any closer. By this time we all agreed that our only option was to go back, and start again from the beginning. We had been traveling for over an hour in the wrong direction. Ouch.
With my energy level tanking, and several rough slides, and surfs down the mountain, I decided to employ the help of a sturdy stick, which was tremendously helpful in our slippery decent. We got plenty of scrapes and scratches, as thorns and twigs snagged at our skin and clothes along the way. Tired, grouchy, and by this time quite hot, we reached that cursed split in the trail, (another hour and a half later). After scouting around more throughly, we spotted a small map on the side of a tree, and we were shocked by what it showed. The path we had taken, was marked by a black line, snaking up the mountain. Black, indicated that the trail level was EXPERT!
I am proud to say, that I can now call myself an expert hiker, since I survived that trail. Just barely, though.
But the story isn’t over yet. With the help of our little friend, GPS, we started out once again, on the correct trail. It was hot, and we were tired and a bit discouraged, but we weren’t going to give up. We came here to see a ghost town and we weren’t leaving until we found it. The trail was definitely easier now, but still challenging. The path cut steadily upwards, and as we climbed higher, so did the temperature. Between the long stretches of burning hot sun, every small piece of shade felt like heaven. My dear old sister began walking at the pace of a prehistoric sloth. (I have no idea if such a thing existed, but if so, it probably would have walked faster than her.) Every fifty feet, she had to stop and take a break and would refuse to move, until I threatened to drag her behind me. Fortunately, these breaks did allow me to take some photographs. I myself, wanted to give up, but with my trusty stick in hand, I persevered. I imagined that I was Gandalf, leading the way through Mirkwood, with the help of my magical staff. That helped a little.
After another torturous two hours, of muscle twisting climbing, we saw the first actual hint that we were getting close. The “hint”, took the form of an ‘ancient red car’, as the book described. And the second hint, was an old wooden sign with the word, ‘hotel’ etched on it, and an arrow pointing ahead. With the teeny-tiny, bit of energy we had left, we forged on toward the abandoned ghost hotel. We noticed small remnants of civilization; just broken bits of debris, really. Despite the exhaustion, our hearts still stirred with some amount of excitement at the prospect of finding this ghost town. But then, we ran into another group of hikers, who were heading down the trail and, bluntly delivered the news. That pile of debris we had just passed, well… that was the so-called ‘town’. It couldn’t be.
An old car, and some old boards, was a ghost town? It seemed too cruel to be true. But alas, the truth really does hurt. (In the knees, especially.) We had hiked for four exhausting hours, and were rewarded with a pile of old sticks. Our only consolation, was that we need go no further. We could finally have our lunch, and have a well deserved rest. Before hiking another two hours back to the car, that is.
There you have it folks. If you thought this tale would have some kind of redeeming reward at the end, you are sure to be disappointed. But I can assure you, you won’t be nearly as disappointed as we were. The one small takeaway though, is that if you asked me beforehand, if I thought I could go on a nearly seven hour hike, I would answer with a resounding, no. But I surprised myself, and finished strong. And got some pretty good photos along the way. Yay me!
In hindsight, it was quite a spectacular adventure and I’m glad I took it; misadventure, though it was. (I hope it was a bit entertaining for you too!)
P.S. If you happen to hear about a ghost town in the mountains, don’t believe it.
Thanks for reading,