My sister texted me yesterday and reminded me I should blog about a big adventure my ex and I had about 5 years ago. I totally had put it behind me but I agreed with her that it was definitely blog fodder. Keep in mind that my second husband was a city slicker from Chicago. He loved hiking and mountain biking. Several years after we were married, I asked him how long he’d been doing outdoor things and how he’d gotten started. “I didn’t do it until I met you,” he said. Oh, my. I had no idea. I thought somewhere along the line he’d discovered the outdoors and loved it.
We’d spend most weekends trying to find a new state park or trail to hike or bike. We’d take off on a Saturday morning and sometimes not return until Sunday night. Those trips and our weekends were one of the reasons that it was so hard for me to think of leaving him. We just had a blast and shared so many common interests.
One weekend, about 6 months after we moved to Memphis, we took off to find a mountain bike trail. We kept running into obstacles. Deer hunting season was going on in one park, and we had on white shirts. The ranger laughed when we told him we wanted to ride our bikes in the woods. “What do you think a deer’s white tail looks like when he runs through the woods,” he laughed. Off we drove to find a better spot. It started getting fairly late in the day, and this was the first weekend of the end of Daylight Savings Time. It would be getting dark early. We stumbled upon Village Creek State Park near Wynne AR on Crowley’s Ridge. We hiked on one of the short trails and then decided to get out our bikes and go mountain biking. We talked to the ranger about where to go. “Be careful, now. We just developed those trails, and there are no signs. Try to keep an eye on the time and where you are,” he instructed. He showed us the trailhead and we took off.
It was a beautiful park. Part of it followed the Trail of Tears, the trail that the Indians who were ousted followed to move West. It was fall, and it was beautiful with the falling leaves and spectacular oranges, reds and yellows. Plus, the trail was soft. It was just cut, so it was really fun to ride up and down the rolling hills without having to worry about hitting hard soil if you wrecked. We had a wild riding time. It started to get dark, so we turned around to head back. We had seen one sign, and we found it. It pointed back to the Visitor’s Center. So, we took off to beat the darkness. We rode for a little while, and we couldn’t tell how far we were getting. It was starting to get dark. Just in the nick of time, we saw another sign. Oh, shit….it’s the same sign. We just went in a circle.
My heart sank when I saw that sign again. We turned around and went the other direction, but it started to get really dark. If you’ve ever been in the woods in Arkansas at night, there are no lights. It’s dark. And, in the woods, it was even darker. I finally had to get off my bike because I couldn’t chance hitting a tree or something that I couldn’t see. My husband kept saying he knew the way back, but I wasn’t so sure.
I was starting to get mad. Thankfully, I’d had a little therapy, and I knew that when I got mad, there was something else going on that I didn’t want to feel. What I felt was afraid. It was getting colder. I had some experience in the woods….much more than my city slicker husband. I knew that people could get hypothermia and die from that if left too long. I felt really vulnerable because we literally were helpless. We only had a couple of bottles of water. We had brought no food, no flashlight and no compass. We were dressed in active clothing acceptable for the daylight’s 60ish temps. We had only intended to be out in a little state park for a few hours. I felt myself getting really mad……at my husband.
Because I knew what I knew, I knew that I was only getting mad at him because I was afraid. But, in order for me not to feel afraid, I distracted myself by blaming the only other person around…him. Thank goodness I knew this, or I may have let him have it, and it would have only made matters worse. My only ally would become angry and defensive with me. I knew he was doing the best he could in the situation. He was out of his element. He was probably more scared than I was but would never admit it. He just kept saying, “I know this is the way. We just have to keep going.”
We kept going, pushing our bikes, feeling our way to find the trail opening. We couldn’t see a thing. You know how it gets so dark that your eyes are searching for something to see? That’s the way it was. I didn’t know if we were really seeing trees and leaves or if our minds were making it up. But, we kept walking. I had little faith, but I tried to pretend. At one point, we kept going downhill. We went down and down and down in elevation. I knew when we got to the lowest level, because we were in a swamp-like area. I could tell because it got really cold and damp. That’s when I really got scared. This is where we would freeze to death. I just knew it. I could see the headlines now – Idiots from Memphis Freeze to Death in Arkansas Swamp. I told my husband we needed to find a higher elevation or we could be in danger here. He advised we should keep walking. Who else could I trust?
In the meantime, back at the Visitor’s Center, the park ranger saw we had not returned to our car. They broke into it and located my cell phone. In it, they found a listing for Momma. They called my parents in Louisiana. This is how the conversation was related to me:
Ranger: Do you know a Rick and Sharon K***p?
Ranger: Their car has been located West of the Mississippi River. They apparently went biking and have not returned.
Well, good heavens. We live in Memphis. In my parents mind, we’d been abducted by some criminal from Memphis that had dragged us into the woods and dismembered our bodies. They were worried to death. Daddy called my brothers and sister to inform them of the tragedy. My brother Terry agreed to meet Daddy, and they would drive to Arkansas to help with the search or to identify the bodies – you know, whichever was the outcome. So, they began speeding toward each other to rendezvous for the trip to Arkansas at about 9 PM.
Well, I’m really tired just thinking about this, so I’m going to take a break. Stay tuned tomorrow……for the rest of the story….. 🙂