Friday, December 29, 2017

Death By A Thousand Cuts

There was a moment standing suffocated by vines, prodded by sharp branches, clothes grabbed by thorns, arms bleeding and the fear of skin rashes from poison wood that I had a thought.  Which thought forced its way into my  mind  causing me to ponder the notion that possibly this dog walk may not have been worth my effort. Rusty was of a different mind. He came and went from view, sliding through around and under obstacles like a hairy snake totally at home in its environment.I wasn't sure if he was checking up on me or mocking my abysmal progress but because I like him I preferred to think of him as my companion in this madness, not my agent provocateur (which he was).
 The day started well enough even though yesterday's sunrise in an almost cloudless sky was not spectacular. The strip of clouds hanging low on the horizon smothered the sun rather than giving it a colorful filter but temperatures were in the low 70s so it was fresh enough to encourage walking. Rusty started the morning exercise by being perverse, he turned back from my planned amble along a well surfaced fire road and he doubled back to sniff hurricane debris piled along the paved part of the road. His time his walk his choice so I followed amiably along. By the top of the road before we reached the highway I took Rusty down a side road I hadn't explored since Cheyenne's hiking days about three years ago. Something new excited the little tyke so we ventured out along the path through the mangroves.
 It was classic back country scenery, low bushes, saltwater and a few houses in the distance. Off to the west I could see a cluster of RVs parked in rows in a trailer park but Rusty and I were alone. He ran off the end of the trail and I thought to myself, and this is where I went completely wrong, there could be a short cut there back to the car which was about dead due east of us through a  few bushes. Rusty set off ahead of me and I clumped after him. Well, I figured after I get through this low lying inundated wet clay things will ease up underfoot and they did. My feet were wet and slippery inside my greasy Crocs and I was ready for dry land which eventually I found. Only thing was lots of stuff grows out of the dry ground. I was still in time to be sensible and turn back. If I had done that this wouldn't be worth writing.
Well I figured all I have to do is walk east for a bit and I'll hit the road. Did I take out my compass app on my phone and check? Of course not! If I had...etc etc...I plunged into the undergrowth as did Rusty not far away. His pleasure in these antics spurred me on. It was rough going let me tell you. After about half an hour of crashing and plunging I paused and finally checked my GPS.Naturally I discovered that yes I had made progress but I had moved south, parallel to the road, not towards it. Bugger. I turned left and kept plunging.  This wasn't walking in any meaningful sense, it was an assault course. Saplings leaned over and blocked my path. Thorns grew up around them making them scratchy to move. Cobwebs draped everywhere.  At first I tried to avoid the black splotchy trunks of poison wood trees but pretty soon I lost track of them. Gumbo limbos, dogwoods, buttonwoods, thorns poisonwoods they all jumbled into one. It was hot slow work. And I poked myself in the forehead. How clever of me.
 I kept feeling my phone in my pocket as I was afraid of dropping it as I leaned over, crawled jumped and struggled. My arms started bleeding, my legs were crisscrossed with cuts. In the screenshot below our starting point was the fancifully named Adams Road to the left. The idea was to walk smartly dead due east from the end of the road and come out just north of the house alongside the old state road and step into the car. The blue dot shows how far south we wandered, around the brown spot which was a pond, a place that encouraged the growth of razor sharp reeds that hurt like...well never mind they hurt a lot when they cut you.
Finally I got the sun in my eyes and could see nothing. That was the course I had to walk to get out of this nightmare and I pushed and struggled my way into the sunlight. I had long since turned off my radio app to save battery power lest I really need it so my struggle was more or less in silence punctuated only by my heaving gasping breath and a long string of senseless oaths in turn truncated by squeals of pain as one more thorn penetrated my skin.  I knew there was nothing for it but to keep going, rather in the manner of some major explorer caught in a wilderness somewhere meaningful. This was idiotic but I was stuck with it and there was no great revelation at the end, no Machu Picchu to be discovered, no Angkor Wat to be explored, no studious reports to be transmitted home to the Geographical Society. Just me and my stupidity blundering about in a giant thorn forest.
Somehow I came face to face with a blue ribbon on a tree. Civilization! Mosquito Control or someone monitoring wildlife or something in the happy days before Irma must have come by this place. Whatever trail there used to be was not discernible but like Hansel and the breadcrumbs I staggered from ribbon to ribbon as best as I could and I did notice I got less torn up this way. There must have been a trail here of some sort before the hurricane. Probably to trap mosquitoes or film raccoons or something. Whatever it was I got such a boost I finally felt capable of finishing the worst walk ever. 
Then I knew I was where I needed to be as trash appeared on the ground. The ubiquitous beer can. Finally through the thinning tree line I saw the brown smear of the fire road Rusty had rejected over two hours ago as a suitable walk. I staggered into the open, caught my breath and turned toward the car a quarter mile away. 
He had a blast so all was well, it is after all he who matters. Half way through the Struggle I was congratulating myself on being physically strong enough to handle adverse conditions, and I was muttering to myself thank god for broga and all that sweating and posturing that built up my muscles. Then I had another think and I started to blame my exercise regimen for giving me the confidence to get myself into this pickle in the first place.
Well, that was an adventure. A proper adventure as the outcome was in doubt there for a bit. One thing I did learn was that no matter how tight the undergrowth looks you can actually find a way through even without a machete. But I also learned its not actually walking, it's blundering.
Rusty and I spent the next eight hours, all day in fact snoring before he got up for dinner and I went to work. That was an exercise regimen all right.