It happens every now and then wherever trails intersect. Hikers take a wrong turn and get turned around. They’re lost, and it’s a scary feeling.
We were reminded of that in mid June at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area east of Rogers. I was hanging out at the Historic Van Winkle trailhead in the heart of the park waiting to shoot some photos of kiddos and their leader on a creek hike along Little Clifty Creek.
One of the park maintenance guys was there taking a short break from mowing. While we chatted, I noticed a man and woman walking east along Arkansas 12, headed downhill into the steep valley that is Van Winkle Hollow.
Odd that they’d take a walk along the highway when there are so many trails, both dirt and concrete, for a stroll. The couple turned our way and the man asked if we might help them.
Turns out the couple, from Chicago, set out to hike the 3-mile Dutton Hollow Loop that is part of the park’s 17-mile Hidden Diversity Multiuse Trail for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
It’s also way to heck and gone far west of the Historic Van Winkle trailhead. My park worker friend, nor I, could figure out how in blazes the pair ended up walking east down Arkansas 12. The couple sure didn’t know either. One thing they did know is their phone or some other gadget told them they’d walked 6 miles and they had no idea where in the world they were.
What they did know is that they parked at the Piney Road trailhead of the multiuse trail. We hopped in my car and I drove them to the Piney Road trailhead. They jumped for joy at being reunited with their vehicle.
Back at Van Winkle, I kept scratching my head how they could have become so lost. “It happens more than you’d think,” my park friend said.
At Hobbs or any trail network, people read directional signs wrong, arrows point in confusing directions or signs aren’t as clear as they could be.
It’s terrifying being lost. I know because once I got lost on my own property.
This was back in the day when my pal Hog Ears and I shared our backwoods bachelor cabin out in the boons at the edge of a 1,000-acre spread. It was 4 miles of bad road from the pavement to our place and that vast thousand acres. Our landlord who lived in town owned it. Rent for our paradise cabin was steep when I lived there alone — 50 bucks a month, utilities paid. When I recruited Hog Ears to move in, that cut it to $25.
One winter afternoon I set out to bag the main ingredient for a dinner of squirrel and dumplings. Shotgun in hand, I crossed the clear creek that flowed past the cabin’s front porch, walked a two-track lane through a meadow and veered off into the woods.
I zigged and zagged through the oaks and pines and managed to shoot a couple of gray squirrels, enough for dinner. I headed down a hill to follow the creek back to the cabin. When I got to the bottom, no creek. Same result hiking up then down another hill. I was lost. It’d be dark in a couple of hours.
Anyone who’s been lost will testify that a feeling of panic sets in. Long story short, I hike up yet another hill that had a little clearing. Our nearest neighbor lived a mile away and I could see his house from this hilltop. I got my bearings and was soon cleaning squirrels at the cabin.
Did I let on to Hog Ears I’d gotten lost? Heck no. That squirrel and dumplings were so good I somehow forgot to mention it.