Friday, August 10, 2012

Flashback: Lost in the woods

Photo: Adam Pap


It's the anniversary  today of the day that Brian left for Calgary. Foolish boy; we'd been friends for about a year at that point, and for whatever hairbrained reason, he chose to tell me he loved me the night before he left. I don't think he expected me to say it back.

But leave he did, and I spent that first week in utter despair. I had had an entire summer with him, on the back of his bike, riding around until all hours of the night. I was addicted to motorcycles and I was missing my friend...and someone I wanted to be more. I found solace in long drives in MJ's car, chain-smoking, and angsty music. Behold, I am a teenager still. 


About a week after Brian left, I was out for one of my drives along the Ottawa River Parkway. I should probably mention that I was a very new driver at this time (I was older than most when I got my licence for the first time), so driving was still a novelty and my driving skills were still novice. As I approached the turn where I could either head home or head out to the Gatineau Hills, I made a snap decision: I would head to the Hills, where Brian had so often taken me up to Champlain Lookout. I would sit there, breathe the lush air of the forest, and pine for my love.

I stopped at the entrance to the Hills at a convenience store and bought a map of the area, just in case. Then I headed up into the hills, playing Arcade Fire and smoking away. I had never driven up here on my own, but as far as I could recall from the back of Brian's bike, there was just one long road winding up-up-up to the summit. Nothing to be afraid of.


After about twenty minutes of driving, I found myself--you guessed it--on some unfamiliar road. I pulled over when I saw a giant map, figuring I could locate myself with the handy YOU ARE HERE arrow: no luck. The map had no YOU ARE HERE arrow, and to this day I don't understand how that could be. Anyway, I pulled out my pre-purchased map and realized that I probably should have opened it first, because turns out, the Gatineau Hills are simply coloured in with green--no roads are indicated at all. I sighed and got back in my car, and headed aimlessly out. I figured I would either find my familiar piece of road, or discover that I was driving back towards home.

I was wrong.

Several kilometers of confused driving later, I finally pulled over in the parking area of an unfamiliar lookout. I picked up my phone, and dialed MJ. As she answered, and I said, "Hey, MJ; I think I'm lost," the sun sank abruptly below the tree line and I was plunged into utter forested darkness. Then my cell signal faded and dropped the call.


The next hour is a terrified blur. I remember driving from one parking area to another, aimlessly driving to picnic areas, hiking trails, and lookouts. I remember repeatedly calling MJ back and getting about 30 seconds of airtime before the signal would fade again. She was searching a giant map of the Hills on her laptop, trying to locate me, and somehow she was always one stop behind me. She implored me to stop driving, and I finally did, tucking my car into a velvety black gravel lot where I was surrounded by trees and the only sign of civilization was a hut on the edge of the clearing. 

I hunkered down low in my car, holding my phone tightly and listening to MJ's attempts to calm me down. All I could think of was that I was lost in an ginormous uncharted national park, in the pitch black, by myself. In a shaking voice I told MJ where I was, and that I had a granola bar, a half-pack of smokes, and a bottle of water to get me through the night. MJ reassured me that I wouldn't be stuck overnight, and suddenly had a great idea: call Andrea, our police officer friend. I agreed with this plan; Andrea had been my confidante through much of my grieving for Brian, and would know exactly where I'd been trying to drive to. MJ hung up on me to call Andrea, then called back to let me know that Andrea had just got off duty, knew exactly where I was, and was headed up to save me. 

It was all over but the waiting.

But waiting is the hardest part.

As I huddled low in my seat, I looked out at the deep black forest and started to freak myself out. I'd been reading a lot of vampire and werewolf books lately--no, not Twilight--and suddenly all those silly mythical monsters didn't seem so mythical. The wood hut, in particular, seemed to be a likely hiding place for a horrible monster that would surely drag me off into the woods and devour my entrails. I faced that terrible dilemma: hide my head under my hood so I couldn't see the looming woods, thereby allowing the ghouls and goblins to sneak up to my car unnoticed; or keep peering around, maintaining a manic vigil on the forest. It was a lose-lose scenario. 


As my panic was just reaching its highest point, and my bladder was screaming for me to get out of the car for a pee, there were headlights lighting up the road. I recognized the silhouette of our dear, sweet, heroic Andrea in her car. She pulled up to my driver's side window in a lazy loop, rolled down her window, and in a slow drawl said, "Feeling nostalgic, were we?" 

Andrea guided me home, and I will forever be indebted to her for the rescue. I eventually admitted to Brian what I had done out of my overwhelming grief at losing him. He wasn't nearly as impressed or sympathetic as he should have been. 

I'm so very, very happy that my sweet boy came home to me. The first thing we did upon his return was head to the Gatineau Hills...with Brian navigating, of course.


  1. Yikes! (I hate it when that happens. I have no sense of direction and use my fingers to tell the difference between left and right...)
    You certainly got lucky in the rescue and romance departments! : )

  2. silly, the first rule of thumb when you get lost is to stay put so that people who are trying to find you can trace your steps.