The story continues from here. We continued our stumbling progress, taking photo after photo and not realizing that we were, in fact, going deeper and deeper into the desert (or rather, snowfield).
Which was a good thing, for having realized it, what were we going to do?
Promptly proceed to panic, of course. Which we did. But after a while, we decided that panicking was pointless, so we tried the following panic- control methods :
Method 1 : Think Positive
“The good news is, we brought the GPS.”
“Yes, we did. But I think we left it in the car.”
“Well, that’s the bad news.”
“Maybe the GPS wouldn’t have helped anyway. Maybe we would get lost with a GPS, like that Oregon couple.”
Method 2 : Lapse Into Philosophy
This always helps, when all else fails. So we asked ourselves deep philosophical questions –
“Are we going in the right direction ? Is this the way we are supposed to go? ”
Even more philosophical discussions followed – ” What exactly, is the trail? How do we recognize it?”
There was nothing much to go by, really, except for what seemed like a small gap in the snow between the plants. That was when the trail was feeling a little confident. At other times, when it meandered near the lips of canyons or seemed to fork confusedly, you were less sure of what the trail really was.
Method 3 : Show Scientific Curiosity
“Do birds alert humans if there is a Mountain Lion on the trail ahead of us?”
“Do you think the bears would be hibernating?”
“It is too cold for rattlesnakes and tarantulas, isn’t it?”
Scientific curiosity, we soon found, is not very good at panic control.
Method 4 : If All Else Fails, Ignore Logic
“I wouldn’t panic,” I say, “If you look closely, you can see the footprints of the couple who went before us. ”
“Yes, but how do we know they made it?”
“But we saw them coming back when we set off. ”
“What if they had turned back mid-way?” (The trail looped back at the end, so we couldn’t be sure if they had, in fact, completed the trail ).
“That’s possible, but they haven’t yet turned back. Look, we can still see their tracks. I won’t panic until the tracks stop. Then we can turn back.”
“But look, the visibility is coming down really fast. We can no longer see the mountains, or even 10 feet ahead. What if it starts snowing again and erases all their tracks and ours? Then we can’t go forward, or return.”
At this point, any rational person would have panicked, but I was following Method 4.
Then suddenly, as if to make sure we would the trail started descending into a canyon. That was when the plane started circling.
I wondered whether I should take off my jacket and wave at the pilot. It’s a good thing I didn’t, because :
(a) I would have gotten rather cold without the jacket,
(b) The jacket was black, hardly a bright contrast against the black and white terrain,
(c) Pilots don’t land in canyons anyway. He would have probably waved back at us and carried on.
So we plodded on, and soon came to what looked like the end of the trek – a clearing, and a signboard.
After the mandatory dancing and cheering, we came to the signboard and saw that it wasn’t the end – it was just where the trail branched off into two more trails.
Later, when we had finally reached the parking lot, we would sigh in relief and tell ourselves that this was the most beautiful hike we had ever been on.