Yesterday, Black Friday, Opt-Outside Friday, or whatever you want to call it, we got lost. Despite extensive research (okay, ten minutes on Google Earth) and years of hiking experience in the area, we ended up nowhere near where we thought we were going. It was cool. Here’s a look:
Leslie was more surprised than I was (mainly because it was her plan; not that I think she’s a bad planner — quite the opposite, actually — but that she takes more pride than I do in knowing where the hell we are and where we’re going). I really didn’t care where we went as long as it looked plausible we’d find birds, and I knew we were going to try someplace we’d never hunted, which I’m always up for, as are — of course — the dogs.
Dogs have no concept of reflexive competence or ineptitude, which is what everyone always says makes them so freaking lovable. So getting lost is a totally human experience, which makes it, yes, cool. Last year, Angus got really lost (to us), and it was very stressful (to us; who knows what he was thinking — probably: “Birds… birds… birds… hill… birds…”) because we knew he was lost while also knowing that he had no idea he was lost; having an Alpha to track him helped us find and re-collect him but when we did he, one, didn’t express any awareness that anything had been amiss, and, two, certainly did not show any gratitude to me for rescuing him, despite the fact that it nearly killed me (really).
The weird thing, I think for both of us, was that we didn’t realize we weren’t where we thought we were for a long time. This was partly because, after 3.5 miles and 1500 feet in elevation gained, we finally found birds and focused on that. The other reason is that it was a wee blizzard. This brings weather and motion into the equation, and goals, too, and maybe even shooting percentage: how can you aim for something and think you’re on track only to find out after the fact that you mistook the path? You’re working muscles, brain cells, patience, foot- and hand-eye coordination, navigational “skill” (we now know this isn’t what it’s cracked up to be) for literally hour upon hour and then you find you are way off track. Also, when you don’t know you’re wrong, you can’t know you’re wrong. It’s impossible. And, in a way, it’s the greatest thing ever because it’s the physical parallel to the metaphysical reason hunting is the best thing anyone can do to feel human and nonexistent simultaneously, which is perfection.
So I need to remember this. And Leslie needs to think about it and get comfier with the idea. We got lost, and it was great. It’s like Norman Maclean said: “Eventually, all things merge into one and a river runs through it.” In chukar country, there’s always a river, or at least a creek, or at least evidence of one from sometime in the last ten millennia, so you can always “terrain navigate” your way back to the pickup if you remember that. Yesterday, there were lots of those waterways, which is mainly what led to the lovely screwup: we underestimated God’s great riverine capacity. Ridges separate the creeks, they’re all mainly bare and similarly undulating with the same kinds of plants and rocks, so it’s easy to get lost. Isn’t that good?
p.s. The big photo of my big butt at the beginning of this post is a posture I’ve added to my hiking repertoire, which resets the sciatica pain so I can continue. Small price to pay, although Leslie took this without my permission (which is why it’s the header photo).