I almost died yesterday.
Well... that's not precisely true but it's a much better beginning to a story than, "I went for a walk yesterday" which is the precise truth. The part where I almost died was in my imagination.
The weather was glorious, with bluesome skies, shiny sun, and the merest hint of chill in the air. Irresistible, wouldn't you say? So I took myself off to a local woody spot with marked trails (by marked trails I mean that occasionally a tree would have an arrow pointing vaguely leftish-but-maybe-it's-really-straight-aheadish). There was a 'map' that, with dotted lines showed the various trails. This 'map' was as accurate as a subway map is in representing actual direction and scale. (This detail will be important very soon.) One of the little dotted loops suggested a gentle, bucolic stroll that would have me back at my car in plenty of time for an afternoon appointment, so that was the path I took.
Really, they need to make important signs much bigger, such as the one that said people should stay away - for their own safety and well-being - in wet conditions. We've had rain lately, plus, under the trees snow and ice is still melting - both of which qualify for wet conditions. (This detail will also be important soon.)
Within a very few steps, I was ever so glad to have been clever enough to wear boots. And roll my pants up. High. At first it was quite fun, squishing along in ankle-deep mud while around me birds chirped and beams of warm sun drifted down through the trees. And then the trail began to descend, and the squishing turned into sliding. As I moved deeper under the trees, snow patches expanded into, well, snow and ice with intermittent mud leading me further down hill. Now and then I could step off the trail and walk on last Fall's leaves, but for the most part there was nothing but steep slope to one side, scary drop to the other, and treacherous snow and ice underfoot. I'd slip and slide my way forward clinging to fragile branches whenever I could and madly flapping my arms for balance when I couldn't. By this point I realized I'd probably gone too far forward to go back but I couldn't be sure because the 'map' hadn't shown this trail sweeping so far right, so I couldn't be sure how much trail still lay ahead. Or how much of it was going ever further downhill. Or if the uphill bits would be as life-threatening. This was when I began to think I might die there, spattered in mud to my knees, fingers stained green from clutching branches, sprawled on a patch of ice with a message scrawled in the snow beside my body: Dear Parks People: important signs must be bigger. And maps should tell the truth! ~ Tess. (I'd sign my name so they could identify my body.)
Onward I slipped and careened, to find myself, unexpectedly at a road. Huh. There hadn't been a road on the trail map, so where on earth was I now? Had I wondered onto a different map and was now following someone else's dotted lines? If only there were helpful trail markings, or even, you know, a map or sign with words saying, "Scary Trail continues this way" with an arrow.
I figured there'd been enough of travelling right, so took the unexpected road to the left, which, while ascending sharply uphill, was wonderfully free of either mud or ice and snow. Hoorah! And sure enough, after huffing and puffing my way upwards and leftwards, there in the distance was my car. I've never been so happy to find myself in a gravel parking lot. I made it! I survived the Scary Trail; escaped near death; defied vague and unhelpful signage; overcame deceiving maps with deceptively friendly dotted loops. If I was a marine, I would have yelled huah! in that moment.
And I was on time for my appointment.